If anyone is downloading and listening to these shortlists, I'd love to hear what you think. I've made these mixes for my own listening pleasure, but if people are enjoying them and want more, I'll keep posting them.
Now that you can listen to a quality SBD of nearly any show on archive.net, I've long since stopped worrying about preserving unreleased shows in their entirety for myself. And The Dead have released SO many shows that I have no shortage of complete shows that sound great, all mediocrity and repetition intact.
My goal is to avoid listening to a bad-to-average performance of any song more than once or twice, and to listen to very good-to-great performances of songs over and over again. Life is too short.
They played "Row Jimmy" something like 70 times in 1973 and 1974; I want to find and memorize the best 10, which would probably be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, since I'd also have 10 or more great versions of every other song too - and that's just from 1972-1974.
Ultimately, I think the tyranny of "the show" has limited a demonstration of The Dead's oeuvre, excellence, and achievement since Garcia's death. It's rare that The Dead curate a live release, rather than releasing the entire show – but when they do curate, the result is typically great. At the same time, many Heads (and I was once one of them) still don't want to hear live Dead for the first time, except in the context of the complete show. They wouldn't want to have anything to do with my shortlists, because they deform the show and won't be identical to those parts of the show that they would have chosen as outstanding.
True, "there's nothing like a Grateful Dead concert." However, there are also eight bajillion recorded Grateful Dead concerts, and there hasn't been an actual Grateful Dead show since 1995 - 21 years ago. There's absolutely no reason to keep treating concerts as though they are inviolable holy ceremonies, especially when you can stream them complete anytime you want. There's no reason to always stack their tunes in ways that mimic their typical placement in set lists. You don't have to alternate Jerry and Bobby songs. You don't have to bury a monumental "Wharf Rat" at the end of three hours of everything that came before it. You can choose your own adventure.
It's good to shake things up and to shave things down; it makes everything fresher to set it in a new context that doesn't follow the same old pattern. There's no right way to look at The Grateful Dead.
Step back from your screen and this swirl will become a 1972 Garcia:
(Image from a fan t-shirt I bought at a show in the 1980s.)