The Grateful Dead are a band so mercurial and mystical that they are as much a bonafide mythical musical movement as some guys who get up on stage to play music for an audience. Their live shows were legendary not only for their off-stage antics and mind-altering, dimensionally transportation performances but their on-stage ability to make the rigid realm of reality melt away, if only for a few hours.
It’s a feeling of beautiful bewilderment that would see fans literally hitchhike thousands of miles to attend their tours, staying on the tour along with the band, travelling to each stop, setting up camp and ready to boogie down. The band, and their Deadheads, always promoted a sense of freedom that has always found favour with people looking to break free form the doldrums of real life. That’s the allure of The Grateful Dead.
If you ever wanted to take a trip back in time to feel The Grateful Dead back in action then you can send your special thanks to Spotify user Steven Doc, who has compiled a mammoth 346-hour chronological playlist of every recorded live performance The Dead ever did. Sit back kids, it’s about to get real trippy and we’re not sure exactly when the ride will end.
The playlist details the band’s career onstage from it’s wild and windswept beginnings in 1966 in the bustling counter-culture movement of San Francisco, up until the sad end of the group with the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. Now, with a band like The Grateful Dead, there are sure to be thousands of fans screaming at the different variations of members which facilitate something officially being recognised as a Dead recording. But this is probably the most trusted assumption of the band’s authentic live timeline—simply put; with Jerry.
In the playlist is a stunning amount of peaks and troughs. They arrive more often than any other artist because when you went to a Dead concert you went for the ‘experience, man’ not necessarily the expert level of musicianship of the group, as high as it was. A portion of that experience may well have been what was consumed just before arriving at the venue but where sometimes that pastime may lead to the odd dud, it was the experience on stage that always beguiled and engrossed audiences across the country.
The group were never a set-in-stone formation on stage, something their fans would love. They would meander through the noodling setlist adding swathes of new licks to songs or changing chord patterns or just generally moving the song into a brand new direction. Nothing was off-limits. The Grateful Dead challenged their audiences to grasp the concept and go on the ride with them.
Sometimes that could become a bumpy ride. Singer and bandleader Jerry Garcia was usually the conduit for a good or bad performance. If Garcia was on good form, then you could trust the rest of the band would provide all the horsepower the guitarist needed. But if Garcia, with the help of the previously mentioned pre-show snacks, had vacated the wheel, then all bets were off.
With every off night or out-of-tune twang, there were countless moments of crescendoing beauty to outweigh it and leave it at worst meaningless but at best, a perfect shadow to help accentuate the light. Those crashing moments would culminate in a live career that continually experimented and expanded, moving with the band as they matured.
Below you can experience it all, all 346 hours of it.