Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Grate Debate

I invite you, Enthusiasts, to weigh in on a very important topic. Perhaps you have work to do, or children to raise, or ethnicities to cleanse: take five and set your mind to this question:

What was the BEST EVAR date in Grateful Dead history?

Now, I don’t mean day (as in midnight to midnight on May the 8th, 1977) and I don’t mean show (as in 5/8/77): I mean date. Allow me to continue using Cornell to demonstrate what I mean.

A quick trip to the invaluable gives us every show the Dead played on May 8th, regardless of year:

  • 05/08/68- Electric Circus – New York City, NY
  • 05/08/68- Electric Circus – New York City, NY
  • 05/08/69- Unknown Venue – Unknown City, CA
  • 05/08/70- Farrell Hall, S.U.C.N.Y. – Delhi, NY
  • 05/08/77- Barton Hall (Cornell University) – Ithaca, NY
  • 05/08/79- Rec Hall (Penn State University) – State College, PA
  • 05/08/80- Glenns Falls Civic Center – Glens Falls, NY
  • 05/08/81- Nassau Coliseum – Uniondale, NY
  • 05/08/84- Silva Hall (Hult Center) – Eugene, OR

Obviously, there’s Barton Hall, but the ’68 and ’70 shows have only partial recordings, and the ’69 show looks like a job for Lost Live Dead. The ’81 is the only show I know offhand, and it’s very good, plus the ’84 features Kesey coming out to rant during Space. If you average out May 8th’s shows, then the date scores highly, but if you take the median, then it does not do as well.

Let’s try a different date. I’m currently listening to 3/23/74 from the Cow Palace; let’s plug that in to the ol’ setlistomizer:

  • 03/23/68- State Fair Coliseum – Detroit, MI
  • 03/23/72- Academy Of Music – New York City, NY
  • 03/23/74- Cow Palace – Daly City, CA
  • 03/23/75- Kezar Stadium – San Francisco, CA
  • 03/23/81- Rainbow Theater – London, England
  • 03/23/86- The Spectrum – Philadelphia, PA
  • 03/23/87- Hampton Coliseum – Hampton, VA
  • 03/23/91- Knickerbocker Arena – Albany, NY
  • 03/23/92- The Palace – Auburn Hills, MI
  • 03/23/94- Nassau Coliseum – Uniondale, NY
  • 03/23/95- Charlotte Coliseum – Charlotte, NC

At least four great shows in this list–two of which have been officially released–as opposed to just one on 5/8’s, and I’m sure someone could make a case for the ’87. (The ’68 doesn’t exist.)

This is the question set to you, Enthusiasts. Make your case in the Comment Section. (I will you save you one search, though: New Year’s Eve is not the winner. There were several great shows–musically–but most of them were just parties the Dead happened to be playing at.)


  1. For reference here’s a recent Reddit discussion on this topic

    3.23.87 was wonderful in the room and has its merits, especially if in context of the year. Althea is pretty fiery. Iko is really fun with engaged vocals, Stranger is really fast and fun…Box was fresh back in the mix and very welcome…even Truckin’ is kind of exceptional…Other One pretty good for the era, and a real stunner beauty of a Stella

    Like all of Spring ’87 it was a very magical experience in terms of the crowd energy & interaction. I like this AUD tape better than the goofed-up Healy sourced matrix SBDs

    it’s clear and clean and has just the right amount of audience
    there’s an Oade tape too I think?

    I wouldn’t say it’s among the best of the year but a much better show than the setlist makes it look

  2. “awaiting moderation” WTF bro

  3. Gotta nominate 4/26

    4 of the first 5 have something officially released. The 71 show features Duane Allman, the 72 show is Hundred Year Hall. 77 show is a good one. Throw in the 1970 Poynette show that lives in infamy in this part of the world and it’s up there, at the very least.

  4. Ken Whiffey Sr.

    June 17, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    This is a difficult question and for a second I was going to derail my friday night looking for the right answer – 11/11 no 5/21 eh…but you got it, it’s 3/23 – It’s missing a 77/78 but other than that it has a notable if not exemplar show from every era.

    Well played, you save my Friday night. Now back to my plan of going somewhere to stare at beautiful women I won’t have the courage to speak to.

  5. Oh I thought about this a lot when the Reddit thread was live – because I like Jerry projects I’m going with May 21st

    5.21.75 my pick for best ever Legion of Mary show
    5.21.76 def the best JGB show of that year
    5.21.77 somehow a bit of an underrated May 77 Dead show

    Plus the Seattle ’74 show with the super long, boring Playin’ that is otherwise a good wall of sound show

    anyway 3 super heaters in consecutive years is pretty cool

    6.9 is pretty good too

    • Ken Whiffey Sr.

      June 17, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      6/9 is the Ichiro of dead dates. Not a ton of power but consistent till the end. If you had to pick one day to go to a dead show in the 90s – it would definitely be the day

  6. I’ve always partial to 5/26. The 1972 & 73 are long, jammy, all-time greats, 77 is full of slow but solid May 77-ness, and 1993 is a rare treat: a listenable 1993 show (with no stupid Vince songs) and their last good Playing In The Band.

  7. 10/20 is a pretty good one, not sold on BEST EVAR quite yet though…

  8. Lonnie Schlickting

    June 18, 2016 at 2:07 am

    Here’s a long shot….10/16. Bobby’s birthday. In terms of late GD, it’s tops. that 89 show is as good as they could sound post – coma.

    The 74 show has my favorite Bobby McGee and the rest of the show sounds like the band in 1974.

    I haven’t heard the 77 show but it looks as good as a good 77 show from the setlist

    The 81 show is tight. It would have been better if they’d played Getaway but still a good 81 set.

    Ok it’s not worthy of this list but still a nice date in GD history,

  9. 10/17
    11 Shows Found

    10/17/69- Unknown Venue - San Jose, CA
    10/17/70- Cleveland Music Hall - Cleveland, OH
    10/17/72- Fox Theater - St. Louis, MO
    10/17/74- Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
    10/17/78- Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
    10/17/81- The Hippodrome - Paris, France
    10/17/82- Santa Fe Downs - Santa Fe, NM
    10/17/83- Olympic Center - Lake Placid, NY
    10/17/84- Brendan Byrne Arena - East Rutherford, NJ
    10/17/90- Gruga Halle - Essen, Germany
    10/17/94- Madison Square Garden - New York City, NY

    and I chose 10/17/83- Olympic Center – Lake Placid, NY

    01 – Sugaree >
    02 – Little Red Rooster
    03 – Friend of the Devil
    04 – Brother ESAU
    05 – Bird Song
    06 – Hell in a Bucket >
    07 – Deal

    2nd Set

    01 – Touch of Grey >
    02 – Samson and Delilah
    03 – To Lay Me Down >
    04 – Man Smart Women Smarter >
    05 – Terrapin Station >
    06 – Drums…….

    Disc 3

    01 – …Space >
    02 – The Wheel >
    03 – Miracle >
    04 – Goin’ Down the Road >
    05 – Good Lovin’

    if you were there. Sugaree melted my face and the show just escalated from there. LRR was electric while FOTD was slow and snaky.
    how about the double wheel in the audience during wheel?
    I was in one of the circles around the arena. Follow me to Lake Acid

  10. Mean, Green, Devil Eating Machine

    June 18, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I don’t recall the GD ever doing an EVAR (endovascular aortic repair). At least not stage. Maybe in the studio? But not at a show.

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