Saturday Dead: Zimmer's Pick Five

Words By Andy Zimmer

This week we are throwing the spotlight on the Grateful Dead here at MusicMarauders. In the spirit of the occasion, I thought that I would spice things up a little for this week’s pick. Today I am pleased to offer up a 5-pack of some of my favorite Dead shows. To keep things interesting, I’ve picked one show from each of the four major eras in the Dead’s past (the Pigpen years, the Donna and Keith days, the Mydland years, and the later years with Hornsby/Welnick) and then topped things off with a bonus pick for the fifth show. Clearly, there were plenty of superb shows to choose from in each era, and I don’t claim that my selections a perfect. But I think that they are pretty damn good. Hopefully, you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoy compiling them.

We start off during the Pigpen years with a 1971 show from New York City, the Dead’s home away from home. This show smokes the entire way through, and features some excellent bust outs from the late Mr. McKernan as well as some classic Dead segues (make sure to listen to the NFA>GDTRFB>NFA>Lovelight).

Grateful Dead Live at Manhattan Center on April 5, 1971.

Moving into the Donna and Keith Godchaux years of the Dead, we head down the east coast to the campus of Duke University. Even though I consistently find myself rooting against Duke whenever I see their basketball team on the court, this 1978 show from the Cameron Indoor Stadium makes me wish I was around to join the party. The first set is full of superb Garcia ballads... ”Dire Wolf”,”Peggy-O” and”Row Jimmy” are standout tracks. The second set is classic late-70’s Dead; full of innovative, exploratory jamming and intense energy.

Grateful Dead Live at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke U on April 12, 1978.

For the Brent Mydland era, we move back up the coast to... you guessed it, New York City. The Dead never failed to disappoint when playing Madison Square Garden, as illustrated by this show from 1987. The first set is on the short side and, although good, is nothing spectacular. Obviously, the boys were saving their energy for set two. Any time a set opens with “Shakedown Street” you pretty much know that it’s going to be something special. This show is no exception. The second set is monstrous in every way possible and the “Morning Dew” may be on par with anything from the late 60’s.

Grateful Dead Live at Madison Square Garden on September 18, 1987.

The final era for the Grateful Dead takes us across the country back to the left coast, where we find the Dead celebrating Halloween 1991 in the city by the bay. Played just days after the untimely passing of the legendary Bill Graham, this show has a certain feeling to it that is hard to describe. The boys were certainly playing with heavy hearts, but seemed to channel their sorrow into the music... creating an exceptionally inspired night. Gary Duncan sits in on guitar for most of the second set, and Ken Kesey makes an appearance during the “Dark Star” jam to eulogize Graham’s passing.

Grateful Dead Live at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 31, 1991.

The final choice in this week’s 5-pack of Dead picks is a show that gets heavy rotation on my stereo. For me to pick a favorite Dead show is absolutely impossible, but this one is right up there. It’s not a special show, a sexy pick, or one that fills up space on the internet discussion boards; but it’s one that has always been a go-to show for me. I speak of the 11-01-77 show from my home town, Detroit. 1977 shows, in general, get a lot of love in the Dead community. And there is a good reason for it……they band was simply playing out of their minds. It’s hard to find a sub-par, let alone bad, show from this period. Pick any ’77 show and you’re likely to be rewarded with a stellar concert. However, there has always been something that stands out about the 11-01 show for me. Maybe I’m biased because it’s a “home town show”... but I think it’s damn good. The seamless second set is up there with anything I’ve heard from the Dead. Make sure to set some time aside to listen to “Estimated Prophet”>”The Other One”... you can thank me later.

Grateful Dead Live at Cobo Arena on November 1, 1977.


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