santa clara valley water district grateful dead

4 Concerts to Stream as the Grateful Dead Turns 50

The Grateful Dead At the Family Dog
Robert Altman—Getty ImagesFrom left: Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead perform onstage at The Family Dog in 1970 in San Francisco, Calif.

Some of the band’s best shows can easily be heard online

You’re gonna have to trust me on this, kids.

Once upon a time, Rock ‘n’ Roll was exciting. Not Mumford and Sons-tries-to-sound-like-Coldplay exciting. Not new-U2-tries-to-sound-like-the-old-U2 exciting. Not some-Swedish-producer-found-a-way-to-get-better-sonics-from-an-acoustic-strum exciting. But really, shockingly, I have-no-idea-what-happens-next, can-you-really-do-that-with-an-electric-guitar exciting. Buddy Holly exciting. Velvet Underground exciting. Grateful Dead exciting. Exciting like a new Kanye track is today.

Those days are gone. Holly is history. Lou Reed passed to the wild side. And the Dead have been dead for years, though the surviving members, some now in their 70s, plan a resurrection this summer in Soldier Field, a final set of shows for an act that ended, depending on your point of view, when Jerry Garcia died in 1995 or at some point before, when he fell into his heroin addiction, or relapsed back into it, over a blur of tours. triumphs and burnouts during the preceding two decades.

But as the Dead hit their 50th anniversary, it is worth remembering them nonetheless. The band—which first played together on May 5, 1965, under the name The Warlocks—developed a strand of rock that will never be matched, because the ground cannot be broken again. By grafting the discipline of backwoods American roots music to the improvisation of Charlie Parker, Art Tatum and Django Reinhardt, they tied together two great eras of 20th-century American white-kid rebellion—the Beats and the Hippies—and then took it as far as their minds could stretch, with the early help of wide-eyed, West Coast LSD.

This was a band that suffered writing songs, struggled in the studio, but shot the moon on the stage. On any given night, they could be terrible or terrific, or both, and no single member of the band controlled the outcome. For at its core, it was an improv band, with each member of the group playing around his part in each song, stretching for something he had not achieved before. For years, they went on stage without set lists. For decades, they surprised even themselves.

So as a service to those who will never see a show, and who may now mistake the Grateful Dead for a parking lot scene of dread-locked dullards huffing nitrous balloons and seeking other chemical escapes from suburban malaise, here are a few of their better shows over the years, which are now archived online and available to stream for free.

Aug. 8, 1972 at the Olde Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, Ore.

Listen:

June 9, 1973 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. (Also the following night June 10, 1973.)

Listen:

Aug. 13, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, Calif.

Listen:

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ENTERTAINMENT MUSIC
4 Concerts to Stream as the Grateful Dead Turns 50
Michael Scherer @michaelscherer 3:26 PM ET
The Grateful Dead At the Family Dog
Robert Altman—Getty Images
From left: Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead perform onstage at The Family Dog in 1970 in San Francisco, Calif.
Some of the band’s best shows can easily be heard online

at Beacon Theatre on December 11, 2014 in New York City.
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You’re gonna have to trust me on this, kids.

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Once upon a time, Rock ‘n’ Roll was exciting. Not Mumford and Sons-tries-to-sound-like-Coldplay exciting. Not new-U2-tries-to-sound-like-the-old-U2 exciting. Not some-Swedish-producer-found-a-way-to-get-better-sonics-from-an-acoustic-strum exciting. But really, shockingly, I have-no-idea-what-happens-next, can-you-really-do-that-with-an-electric-guitar exciting. Buddy Holly exciting. Velvet Underground exciting. Grateful Dead exciting. Exciting like a new Kanye track is today.

Those days are gone. Holly is history. Lou Reed passed to the wild side. And the Dead have been dead for years, though the surviving members, some now in their 70s, plan a resurrection this summer in Soldier Field, a final set of shows for an act that ended, depending on your point of view, when Jerry Garcia died in 1995 or at some point before, when he fell into his heroin addiction, or relapsed back into it, over a blur of tours. triumphs and burnouts during the preceding two decades.

But as the Dead hit their 50th anniversary, it is worth remembering them nonetheless. The band—which first played together on May 5, 1965, under the name The Warlocks—developed a strand of rock that will never be matched, because the ground cannot be broken again. By grafting the discipline of backwoods American roots music to the improvisation of Charlie Parker, Art Tatum and Django Reinhardt, they tied together two great eras of 20th-century American white-kid rebellion—the Beats and the Hippies—and then took it as far as their minds could stretch, with the early help of wide-eyed, West Coast LSD.

This was a band that suffered writing songs, struggled in the studio, but shot the moon on the stage. On any given night, they could be terrible or terrific, or both, and no single member of the band controlled the outcome. For at its core, it was an improv band, with each member of the group playing around his part in each song, stretching for something he had not achieved before. For years, they went on stage without set lists. For decades, they surprised even themselves.

So as a service to those who will never see a show, and who may now mistake the Grateful Dead for a parking lot scene of dread-locked dullards huffing nitrous balloons and seeking other chemical escapes from suburban malaise, here are a few of their better shows over the years, which are now archived online and available to stream for free.

Aug. 8, 1972 at the Olde Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, Ore.

Listen:

June 9, 1973 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. (Also the following night June 10, 1973.)

Listen:

Aug. 13, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, Calif.

Listen:
THE ENDURING LEGACY OF JERRY GARCIA
<strong>The Long, Strange Trip</strong> Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead forged a completely unique musical identity, playing thousands of concerts over a 30-year period. Though Garcia’s death in August 1995 effectively ended the band’s touring days, the Dead’s music and cultural influence have continued to grow. Digital copies of the band’s concerts continue to sell briskly via iTunes and fan sites, while a Hollywood biopic about Garcia is in the works, and a pair of Deadhead marketing experts have just released a book that posits the band as an ideal model for marketing in the Internet age. Oh, if that’s not enough, Cherry Garcia remains Ben and Jerry’s No. 1–selling flavor.
<strong> Dead to the Core</strong> The crux of the Grateful Dead’s musical identity was the band’s willingness to constantly experiment. No song was ever played the same way twice, and no two concerts are remotely alike. This jam-band approach has been successfully co-opted by a number of contemporary groups like Phish and the Dave Matthews Band.
<strong>The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test</strong> The Dead gained its early audience by performing as the house band at the many LSD parties, known as “acid tests,” that were organized widely in the Bay Area in the mid-1960s. The scene, centered on the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, was later memorialized in a best-selling work by Tom Wolfe, who stands with Garcia and Dead manager Rock Sculley in this 1966 photo.
<strong>The Music Never Stopped</strong> The free-flowing approach to music that the band perfected over three decades of playing together was possible because of the extraordinary abilities of the musicians Garcia partnered with. After his death, guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh formed a series of bands — the current incarnation is called Furthur — while drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart (not visible in this photo) lead the group the Rhythm Devils. In 1970, when this photo was taken, the group included Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, rear left, who sang and played keyboards and harmonica. He died in 1973.
RB/Redferns/Getty Images
The Long, Strange Trip Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead forged a completely unique musical identity, playing thousands of concerts over a 30-year period. Though Garcia’s death in August 1995 effectively ended the band’s touring days, the Dead’s music and cultural influence have continued to grow…MORE
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