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There was no way my first list could be anything else.
- 1.5/26/73: Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CAA sublime 3-set show from my favorite year for the Dead. By turns jazzy, psychedelic, and steeped in country-fried rock. Features a definitive "China > Rider" and the third set sequence ("He's Gone" > "Truckin'" > "The Other One" > "Eyes of the World" > "China Doll") is awe-inspiring.
- 2.8/27/72: Old Renaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta, ORSomething was in the water (actually) on this triple-digit scorcher in Oregon. The band headlined a benefit to save Ken Kesey's family creamery and brought their A-game, running through blistering psychedelia on an epochal "Dark Star" and a frenetic "Playing In the Band." But even the shorter cuts groove with unusual force, which is why this one – since released as a documentary – is canonical. Oh, and they were all out of their minds on LSD.
- 3.2/26/77: Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CAMay '77 gets all the love. One of the Dead's shows from that month is in the Library of Congress – and that period always amazes. But this show, which opens with the debut of "Terrapin Station," gives any of those subsequent concerts a run for their money. This is comfort-food Dead at its finest.