Here's some documentary footage that more or less sums it up:



If you want to hear some of the results, check out the Grateful Dead archive on archive.org:


The same philosophy behind GD and tapers was adopted by many "Jam Bands" that came after them. Taping improvisational bands like the Dead has a special importance due to the way each show varies and is completely removed from the studio experience. I'd go so far as to say many folks just dislike most studio Dead albums but can rattle off a list of shows with the favorite versions of their favorite songs.

One of the greatest things about the Dead, IMO, was the relationship between the band members. Jerry wasn't the typical lead guitarist and band leader. He was more than happy to share that role and the structure of the band was more or less flat. This jazzier style where anyone was free to lead is something I try to execute in my day to day work life. It's funny though... Just like in playing music, you'll find that there are folks that revel in improvisation, and there are some people who, despite phenomenal talent, can't function without sheet music, rules, a plan, etc.

It's sad to me that the Dead is more or less 'boomer music' these days. There was a time when there was a significant overlap between the tech community and Deadheads. I think the Dead's culture was a geek-friendly form of socialization that was accommodating to non-neurotypical folks and gave many of us weirdo nerds a chance to learn some social skills. The Dead scene was crazy but it was... communal and provided a 'safe space' for all kinds of folks when the world was much less friendly to divergence.

Here's one of the best audio "pictures" of the grateful dead's mammoth PA system, The Wall of Sound, designed by engineer and chemist Owsley Stanley for the 73 and 74 tours. This is a famously good audience recording and one that 'AUD' purists often point to. There's some deadheads that prefer audience recordings, and others (probably most) that prefer soundboard pulls or 'SBD'.


'MOTB' stands for 'mouth of the beast' which is one step up from the 'FOB' or 'front of board' mentioned in the article, and was a term used by a handful of tapers including Rob Bertrando.

Here's a little interview with Rob and a couple other prolific tapers:


The overlap between early nerd culture and The Grateful Dead was very significant.

Taping and sharing culture and its benefits were very apparent in many net forums.

As were democratisation of the new tools, public terminals with BBS access and the Deadheads community spirit exemplified on Usenet and Arpanet.

Look no further than John Perry Barlow, EFF co-founder and his Manifesto of Cyberspace - he was a Grateful Dead Lyricist !


Barlow's paradigm seems cheeky without awareness of the Net's public roots, how it came up through BBS and Fidonet culture, is forgotten by those who only saw the view of the Net as a gift from the ivory towers of academia and the military rather than bedroom z80 & 6502 modem culture.

q.v. Fidonet BBS documentary


There’s a great interview with Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia on Letterman: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4skH27r5dLc

At some point Dave asks them why they let people tape their shows, and Bob replies with “if we ever make a good album people would probably go out and buy it anyway”

They were open source before it was cool. Also check out https://relisten.net/ for a great index of their shows from the Internet Archive.

Every time I see an article about scientists using sound waves to map a 3d image of something - around a wall, or just in general - I think of these tapers and how there's numerous tapes of one concert from different angles. I know that the tapers were in one area, but could they be far enough apart to map out a 3d model of the concert?

What if you also had a few 2d photos of the concert - could a program be written to put it all together - how realistic can you get it? You could have the rest "made up" to fill in the blanks.

My father was at Bickershaw festival. It rained for 2 days. They where cold a d hungry, and up to their necks in mud. One guy was electrocuted, and another jumped to his death, but they carried on. My father wasn't a dead head, so waiting an hour for the band to tune-up was an unwelcome experience. Apparently, there are very few recordings from the Bickershaw festival, so when I introduced my dad to the selection of 4 hour recordings of the Dead's set from that day, well, he's found a new appreciation for the band. https://relisten.net/grateful-dead/1972/05/07/intro?source=3...

My dad used to tell me how they where all starving, and some local shopkeeper took pity on them, and sold him a wheel of cheese for tuppence. This is that shopkeeper. And the wheel of cheese. https://youtube.com/watch?v=TCEPizIV2xc

I also love Garcia's interview from that weekend. Interviewer: "Do you think there should be limitations on open air festivals, like this?" Garcia: "Well, that presupposes that I think there should be festivals". Man, that guy cracks me up. https://youtube.com/watch?v=m0vAqnq1vW0

For myself, the March 72 gig at Baltimore Civic Centre is my favourite, and the recording quality is amazing. https://relisten.net/grateful-dead/1973/03/26

Never was a big fan of the Dead, but I did have an opportunity to see them in concert once.

The Dead encouraged taping, and the last few row of the floor seats were reserved for it.

It was an interesting thing to see. The back few rows was a forest of microphone stands and microphones. This was no casual thing.

The other interesting thing was that the band did not talk to the audience. They walked on stage, started playing. Played a bit, paused, said "We'll be back" and took a break for intermission.

Then they returned, started playing and then walked off. I honestly can't say if they said "Thanks" to the crowd, or waved, or anything.

It was just their familiarity with their audience, and vice-a-versa. I guess none of that was really necessary.

It’s very cool to have so many moments that normally evaporate captured in audio recordings. Anyone know a compilation of good recordings? I’ve gone down the dead live videos youtube algo rabbit hole but I’d love a guide.
Not only were they an incredible community, they were early internet pioneers too. rec.music.gdead was a very busy usenet community.