Nine years ago today, July 3, 2015, marked the first of three nights at Chicago’s Soldier Field for Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead. Relix/ created a program for each of these shows (President Obama contributed a welcome essay).

Here we look back by presenting an article that ran across all three days, spotlighting one show per year by the group and its members’ various projects from 1965-2014.

Here’s hoping that the following suggestions will provide a quality soundtrack over the coming holiday…


11/27/65 The Warlocks, Ken Babbs’ Place, Santa Cruz, Calif.

While it certainly would have been a treat to attend one of the Magoo’s Pizza Parlor shows, the Acid Tests were altogether essential to the development of the good ol’ Grateful Dead (before they called themselves by that name).

12/1/66 Grateful Dead, The Matrix, San Francisco, Calif.

“Welcome to another evening of confusion and high frequency stimulation,” greeted Jerry Garcia. Enough said.

11/10/67 Grateful Dead, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, Calif.

Current Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux asserts, “This has always been my go to show from ’67. It bridges the gap of that early Grateful Dead sound from late ’66/early ’67 and the newer Grateful Dead sound defined by Mickey being in the band. The energy is palpable.” It is part of the 30 Trips Around the Sun box set.

2/14/68 Grateful Dead, Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, Calif.

This show is a longtime tape-trading favorite, finally released in 2009 as Road Trips, Volume 2, No. 2 (and identified as a Phil Lesh top pick). Jerry dedicated the second set, which featured the Anthem of The Sun material played in the same order as the record, to the memory of Neal Cassady.

2/22/69 Grateful Dead, Dream Bowl, Vallejo, Calif.

Let’s assume you’ve have Live Dead (or if you’re digging a bit deeper, Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings which captured the band on 2/27-3/2/69). That being the case, your next stop is the Dream Bowl.

5/2/70 Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage, Harpur College, Binghamton, N.Y.

Not only do you get three sets of Grateful Dead (one acoustic, two electric, available for your listening pleasure on Dick’s Picks Volume 8) BUT there’s also a performance by New Riders of Purple Sage (alas, not on DP 8) with Garcia on pedal steel guitar and Bob Weir guesting on a few tunes.

2/18/71 Grateful Dead, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, N.Y.

A night of debuts (“Playing,” “Bertha,” “Wharf Rat,” “Loser,” “Greatest Story Ever Told”) with much more to offer. As a Fare Thee Well bonus, promoter Peter Shapiro now owns the Cap and has facilitated many more evenings of elevated music.

5/11/72 Grateful Dead, Grote Zaal, De Doelen, Rotterdam, Holland

It’s the Grateful Dead in 1972, how can you go wrong? With a nod to the epic Springfield Creamery benefit in the equally epic heat (8/27/72), how about a trip on the iconic Europe ‘72 tour? This night in Rotterdam was archivist Dick Latvala’s favorite show from the run with a “Dark Star” that exceeded 48 minutes.

10/8/73 Old and in the Way, The Boarding House, San Francisco, Calif.

Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, David Grisman, Peter Rowan and John Kahn picked their way through some traditional bluegrass tunes and originals. You can listen in via the live album recorded by Owsley “Bear” Stanley. What’s that, you’re feeling more Grateful Deady? Fine: 2/15/73, 7/28/93 (Watkins Glen) or 9/15/73 (with Martin Fierro and Joe Ellis).

6/18/74: Grateful Dead, Freedom Hall, Louisville, Ky.

A fan favorite from The Wall of Sound era, a portion of this show appeared on Road Trips Vol. 2, No.3.

5/21/75: Legion of Mary, Keystone, Berkeley, Calif.

During a period of limited performances by the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia focused some of his live energy on this wonderful combo, which also included Merl Saunders, Martin Fierro, John Kahn and Ron Tutt.

7/16/76: Grateful Dead, Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, Calif.

In June, the Grateful Dead resumed touring after a two year hiatus and delivered this gem that blended the band’s exploratory side with raw energy and some sterling material.

5/8/77: Grateful Dead, Barton Hall, Ithaca, N.Y.

It’s tough to quibble with a classic. Of course, plenty of Deadheads will make compelling cases for 2/26/77, 5/19/77 and 9/3/77.

12/31/78: Grateful Dead, Winterland Arena, San Francisco, Calif.

Until the passing of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham in 1991, New Year’s Eve was a tradition for the Dead, and this performance, which coincided with the closing of Graham’s Winterland, offered three stellar sets and two encores.

3/8/79: Reconstruction, Cabaret Cotati, Cotati, Calif.

While there are many Dead highlights from this year (some of which appear on Road Trips, Vol. 1 No. 1), 1979 also marked the debut of one of Garcia’s least-known side projects, the horn infused jazz-funk sextet Reconstruction, which would perform solely for eight months. Give it a listen if you haven’t as yet.

10/31/80: Grateful Dead, Radio City Music Hall, New York, N.Y. This Halloween show concluded the famed run of three-set acoustic/electric shows that were recorded for Reckoning and Dead Set. Senator Al Franken, who participated in the simulcast, speaks about this show in the Friday edition of the program (which it turns out is available in the Relix Marketplace).

5/6/81: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.

A favorite of Latvala (who released it as Dick’s Picks, Vol. 13), this show documented Brent Mydland’s coming into his own with the Dead.

4/10/82: Jerry Garcia, Capitol Theatre, Passaic, N.J.

This night featured two rare Jerry Garcia solo sets. He felt so uncomfortable that for the next “solo” gig, he tapped John Kahn to join him on bass.

2/4/83: Bobby and The Midnites, Hammersmith Odeon, London

The last night of a brief European tour was also the final show for this iteration of Bob Weir’s band, which featured two renowned fusion players, Alphonso Johnson and Billy Cobham.

7/13/84: Grateful Dead, Greek Theatre, Berkeley, Calif.

A fine show beneath a full moon on Friday the 13th became an epic evening, thanks to a “Dark Star” encore.

6/30/85: Grateful Dead, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Md.

Two gigs that originated from the same region battle for top honors as 6/30/85 from Merriweather Post and 11/1/85 from the Richmond Coliseum, vie for the year’s best.

12/15/86: Grateful Dead, Oakland, Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

The show was a poignant return to the stage for Garcia following his coma earlier in the year. The crowd reaction to the “Touch of Grey” opener (and its “I will survive” refrain) still brings chills.

7/12/87: Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

This was a historic pairing, preceded by two sets of the Dead proper, even if the most moving Tri-State Area Dead moment might be the “Morning Dew” at MSG on 9/18/87.

7/2/88: Grateful Dead, Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Me.

The following night is part of the 30 Trips Around the Sun box but July 2 has plenty of advocates as well.

10/9/89: Formerly The Warlocks, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, Va.

Some people left after the previous night’s “Help” > “Slip” > “Franklin’s” bustout, and missed the big ones: the first “Dark Star” in five years and the first “Attics of My Life” since 1972.

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