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. You came to love each one, as you might a three-legged dog. Or, having decided that it all sounded like one long meandering dirge, you went back to whatever normal people listened to. [Nick Paumgarten for The New Yorker]
As all Deadheads know, people taping live concerts and then people trading tapes with others was a way of life for Grateful Dead fandom, and because the Dead not only allowed tapers at their shows but set up a designated area for tapers, recordings exist of almost every concert they ever performed. (They've played roughly 2,350 shows and an estimated 2,200 of those were recorded.) When the internet took over as the dominant platform for music listening and discovery, Deadheads started digitizing their tapes and making them available for free online, and more and more of these have been added over the years.
You might already know about all the Dead recordings out there, but if you don't (or you need a reminder to check back in for new ones, especially during these quarantined times where we're all looking for more entertainment more than ever), we wanted to point you in the direction of over 14,500 Grateful Dead live concert recordings on archive.org that you can stream for free. (They're also available on relisten.net, which also provides a way for you to listen to them on Sonos.) You could spend a lifetime going through all of these, and they've got just about everything - the legendary 5/8/77 Cornell show (and other much-loved May '77 shows), plenty of recordings from the tour that led to their iconic Europe '72 album, the five-hour Closing of Winterland concert, the 1974 Winterland run that was filmed for The Grateful Dead Movie and recorded for Steal Your Face, the storied 1971 run at Port Chester, NY's Capitol Theater, 70 very early shows from 1966 and two from 1965, the only four shows they played in 1975, the beloved 1987 Madison Square Garden run, the 1970 Fillmore East run, the 1990 Nassau Coliseum run, the 1976 Beacon Theatre run... the list is truly endless. And it's not just live concerts -- there are also rehearsals, studio sessions, and more, and some of the recordings come with photos of old tapes, ticket stubs, or show flyers.
Again, you can really spend a lifetime going through this archive. You can filter by year, by taper, by type of recording, by date added, and more, and you can search for specific songs, albums, venues, recording studios, and so much more. And considering five new recordings were added this week alone, we suspect even more will be added if you keep checking back. So get to digging.
And if you want Grateful Dead studio material, check out our list of Grateful Dead Studio Albums Ranked Worst to Best.
Meanwhile, there's a lot of other Grateful Dead news as usual. They've got a new 8-album, 14-disc vinyl box set out now via Vinyl Me, Please's Anthology series that includes essays by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Avery Tare of Animal Collective, Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Margo Price, MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, Scott Devendorf of The National, John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists, and Hunter Brown of STS9. You can read John Darnielle's essay on Reckoning here, and Jim James' essay on American Beauty and Dave Longstreth's essay on Workingman's Dead here.
Workingman's Dead is also getting a 50th anniversary reissue that comes with a previously unreleased recording of their February 21, 1971 concert at Port Chester, NY's Capitol Theater. They recently released the newly-remastered "Casey Jones" from that Cap show, which you can hear below.
The Dead have also been doing their Shakedown Stream every Friday, where they release a full concert video from their archives alongside a pre-show Q&A. One of the recent ones was The Grateful Dead Movie, which you can stream below. Stay tuned for info on this week's.
Bob Weir also continues his Weir Wednesdays stream tonight (5/20) at 8 PM ET on nugs.tv. He'll be streaming a 2012 show featuring members of The National, The Walkmen, and Bonny Light Horseman. Here's a sneak peek: