Image by Herb Greene, via Wikimedia Commons
“Once we’re done with it, the audience can have it.” — Jerry Garcia
It so happens that one of the greatest things about the Internet is also one of the not-so-greatest things: you hardly ever have to leave the house anymore. Of course, for traders and collectors of bootlegs, this has been a major boon. Obscure tapes a fan might spend years tracking down in previous times can now be searched, found, and downloaded with ease. And — as a special added bonus — their quality won’t degrade with every copy.
For Deadheads, especially, such easy online access has been critically important in maintaining a community of people who love the Grateful Dead, when there hasn’t been a Grateful Dead show in years. That’s enough time for new generations of Deadheads to emerge, and to discover and grow up with a resource their elders could only dream about: the Internet Archive’s Grateful Dead collection, which currently features over 15,000 recordings (mostly complete concerts) and continues to expand as more are added.
Sure, it’s not quite compensation for never getting to see, and tape, the band in person, but these days, such a thing would probably be impossible in any case, even if Jerry Garcia hadn’t died in 1995. (Last year, to keep fans’ spirits up, band members Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, and Donna Jean Godchaux welcomed famous special guests on YouTube and broadcast unreleased filmed concerts in the weekly “Shakedown Stream.”) For those raised on Dead tapes, the archive must feel like coming home. For others, it can be a bewildering collection of dates, venues, and locations.
How to navigate the thousands of recordings of the estimated 2,200 concerts captured on tape by the band and their fans over the course of decades? A few years back, one fan made a list of the “10 Essential/Best Grateful Dead Shows,” all of which you can download and/or stream and pore over to your heart’s content.
“I am not an old Dead Head, or a member of the 4-decade club,” he admits. “In fact, I never saw a show, seeing as I was born in 2001.” It’s not his fault, but he’s entered an arena where fundamental disagreement about such things is a matter of course.
1. 09-21-72, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
2. 05-08-77, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
3. 02-27-69, Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA
4. 05-02-70, Harpur College, Binghamton, NY
5. 08-27-72, Veneta, OR
6. 07-07-89, JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA
7. 05-26-72, The Strand Lyceum, London, England
8. 12-31-78, Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA
9. 11-08-69, Fillmore Theater, San Francisco, CA
10. 12-06-73, Cleveland Public Hall, Cleveland, OH
11. 06-26-74, Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
See the top ten list above (including links to shows), find honorable mentions here, a shorter list by Mike Mineo here, and add your own picks in the comments. And consider the fact that a band who devoted more time to touring than anything else “had just one Top Forty hit in thirty years,” Nick Paumgarten writes at The New Yorker (though “not for lack of trying”). They more than their share of terrible nights onstage (by their own admission) but still inspire people who will never see them play.
“Each tape seemed to have its own particular note of decay, like the taste of the barnyard in a wine or a cheese,” writes Paumgarten of learning to savor these concerts: “You came to love each one, as you might a three-legged dog.” For Deadheads, it can be hard to pick favorites, especially if you haven’t heard them all yet. Immerse yourself in live Dead now at the Internet Archive’s Grateful Dead Collection here. Browse by the year of the recordings here.
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
The GD collection on the Internet Archive is one of the oldest treasures on the internet. Not sure how this is news seeing as it’s been around since before facebook. Such a an amazing thing to have access to though. I’ve listened to hundreds of shows!!!
sadly it seems there are far fewer shows on Archive.org than there used to be. plenty of recordings but many years only focus on a handful of shows. Maybe several have come down as they’ve been officially released or maybe I set a filter that I’m not aware of. Perhaps I might even be thinking of another site online but I sure wish that we could access all shows including some horrendous ones like the Ohio show just before Jerry’s 1986 coma. Dylan joined them onstage at one point but I believe it was later that Jerry left during Desolation Row and except for missing Jerry parts the song was much better than other parts of the show. Those type are nice to have access to because when they are soaring on other nights you realize not just how amazing they were but how infrequent actual terrible shows were.
Old news, my (new) fellow head. I totally love the enthusiasm this younger generation has found upon discovering The Greatest Band of All Time! I’ve found you all to be respectful of the elders and eager to listen. 30 years ago when I got on the bus, the old school heads taught me a lot — and that can keep ya out of trouble (whatever kind of trouble that may be). We have each other’s back.
Welcome to the family. (~):-}
Born in 85 and never saw Jerry. Ten of my personal faves (longer WIP list linked below):
06-22-74, Jai-Alai Fronton, Miami
03-01-69, Filmore West, San Fran
08-06-71, Hollywood Pladium, LA
05-23-72, Strand Lyceum, London
06-22-73, PNE Coliseum, Vancouver
12-02-73, Boston Music Hall
05-11-77, St Paul Civic Center
08-13-75, Great American Music hall
02-03-78, Dane County Coliseum, Madison
Longer living list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1QzQ8JHJcqXwubJiq-aj_JN7KQdfoa-L2b7rrM6uCa3Y/edit?usp=sharing
Archive does some other great stuff too, throw them a few bucks!
It doesn’t look like you can download. Only stream.
What did one Grateful Dead fan say to the other when the pot ran out?
“Man this music sucks!”
Want to know if there is videos out there from mid eighties to early ninties of Dead playing DesMoines Iowa Civic Center.Would love to see it.My late husband and I were there along with friends.Thank you