11,215 Free Grateful Dead Concert Recordings in the Internet Archive

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Even res­olute non-Dead­heads have been pass­ing around “Dead­head,” Nick Paum­garten’s recent New York­er piece on “the vast record­ed lega­cy of the Grate­ful Dead.” Like much of the most inter­est­ing mag­a­zine jour­nal­ism, the arti­cle digs deep into and pro­vides a primer on a sub­cul­ture that goes deep. Casu­al Dead lis­ten­ers know there exists a large and ded­i­cat­ed body of fer­vent­ly un-casu­al Dead lis­ten­ers, the fans who may have fol­lowed the band around on its tour­ing days but now col­lect every last one of its record­ed per­for­mances, offi­cial, unof­fi­cial, or oth­er­wise. “It was denser, fever­ish, oth­er­world­ly,” Paum­garten describes his first expe­ri­ence hear­ing a Dead boot­leg. “If you took an inter­est, you’d copy a few tapes, lis­ten to those over and over, until they began to make sense, and then copy some more. Before long, you might have a scat­ter­shot col­lec­tion, with a cou­ple of tapes from each year. It was all Grate­ful Dead, but because of the vari­abil­i­ty in son­ic fideli­ty, and because the band had been at it for twen­ty years, there were many dif­fer­ent fla­vors and moods. Even the com­pro­mised sound qual­i­ty became a per­verse part of the appeal. Each tape seemed to have its own par­tic­u­lar note of decay, like the taste of the barn­yard in a wine or a cheese.”

Do you aspire to join those Paum­garten calls “the tape­heads, the geeks, the throngs of worka­day Phil Schaaps, who approach the band’s body of work with the inten­si­ty and the atten­tion to detail that one might bring to bird­ing, base­ball, or the Tal­mud”? If so, the inter­net, and specif­i­cal­ly the Inter­net Archive’s Grate­ful Dead col­lec­tion, has cranked the bar­ri­er to entry way down. Its 11,215 free Grate­ful Dead record­ings should keep you busy for some time. “You can browse the record­ings by year, so if you click on, say, 1973 you will see links to two hun­dred and nine­ty-four record­ings, begin­ning with four ver­sions of a Feb­ru­ary 9th con­cert at Stan­ford and end­ing with sev­er­al ver­sions of Decem­ber 19th in Tam­pa,” writes Paum­garten. “Most users mere­ly stream the music; it’s a hun­dred cas­sette trays, in the Cloud.” If you need a break from these con­certs, in all their vari­able-fideli­ty glo­ry, lis­ten to Paum­garten talk mat­ters Dead with music crit­ic Sasha Frere-Jones on the New York­er Out Loud pod­cast (lis­ten here). And if you find the Dead not quite to your taste — gui­tarist Jer­ry Gar­cia famous­ly com­pared their ded­i­cat­ed niche audi­ence to “peo­ple who like licorice” — why not move on to the Fugazi archive?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bob Dylan and The Grate­ful Dead Rehearse Togeth­er in Sum­mer 1987. Lis­ten to 74 Tracks.

NASA & Grate­ful Dead Drum­mer Mick­ey Hart Record Cos­mic Sounds of the Uni­verse on New Album

UC San­ta Cruz Opens a Deadhead’s Delight: The Grate­ful Dead Archive is Now Online

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (6)
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  • Richard Poggi says:

    I’m look­ing for good grate­ful dead music. back in 1983 i start­ed going to shows and was hooked for ever

  • tommy lipka says:

    prov­i­dence R.I. feb(?) 1971–any record­ings?

  • Libby Bryant says:

    I knew them as my neigh­bors in the ear­ly sev­en­ties… Have a lot of real­ly great mem­o­ries on a per­son­al note and of course I love the music…

  • Tony says:

    Check out the sta­tion archived shows and tune in to Dal­las’s KNON for the longest run­ning Dead show in the free World at 35-ish years unin­ter­rupt­ed.. have heard RI shows there on Fri­days for sure! Check it & Share it like a good danc­ing Bear, it’s pret­ty awe­some and the vol­un­teer DJ has been on it for like, 20 years or so.

  • Stu Brown says:

    What am I sup­posed to write ???

  • olly says:

    Live at Red Rocks is Grate­ful Dead at their stag­ger­ing­ly best.

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