Experience Every Grateful Dead Show Ever with the ReListen App

It's 2016 and our world is in a tumultuous state. Same old story some would say; wars, famine, human strife, and suffering. Particularly here in America, it seems like society in general is on edge and dealing with serious issues of justice, intolerance, and discord. For me, one of my greatest solaces over the decades has been and still is the good ol' Grateful Dead. The experience of their music, live shows, and the collective optimism and enthusiasm of the "Deadhead" scene has been an anchor for me in the storm of life ever since I was in my late teens, which is when I first started seeing shows, back when de facto band leader, Jerry Garcia was still alive.

Experience Every Grateful Dead, and Dead-Related Show Ever, with the ReListen iOS App.

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I asked what music from our childhood actually held up well these days. He scrolled down the list on his iPad and called up the Grateful Dead’s 1969 song “Uncle John’s Band.” He nodded along with the lyrics: “When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.” For a moment we were back at that tumultuous time when the mellowness of the sixties was ending in discord. “Whoa, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?”

-From Steve Jobs - A Biography. By Walter Isaacson

One of the things that sets the Grateful Dead apart from other popular bands has been their tradition—from their earliest days on the San Francisco beatnik scene—of letting folks record their shows, with the stipulation that the recordings only be traded, never sold. The Grateful Dead even had a dedicated "Taper's Section", devoted exclusively to people who followed the band around recording every song of every set that was ever played. Back in the pre-internet days, collecting tapes was a hobby that required great effort and hustle. Nowadays hearing your favorite live show is as simple as going online. And the best mobile service for doing that on an iDevice is the ReListen app (free). In fact, the only rule that the members of the Grateful Dead had in terms of people taping shows and trading shows was that a Dead show could never be traded for monetary gain.

I recently had the chance to chat with the designer of the ReListen, Alec Gorge, who also happens to be the designer of the Apple TV apps for Nugs.net as well as LivePhish.com. It's always great to connect with another Head. There's an instant connection, an immediate familiarity. Even though the music of the Grateful Dead is anything but preachy or dogmatic, there is a culture that has firmly established itself around the band and their music that tends to adhere to an unspoken code of peace, love, tolerance, acceptance, and mind expansion. As a tenured Deadhead, (a diverse group of people that even Steve Jobs considered himself a part of) I can assert that when you meet another Head, you can for the most part assume that you've met family.

I asked Alec about his inspiration for forming the ReListen app. He explained to me that he initially came upon the idea after building the PhishOD and through that process, found the website listentothedead.com. "I thought it would be cool to have a second app for the Grateful Dead as well," he said. "As I built the app, I realized that all the music came from archive.org and the whole process could be generalized and expanded to include so many other artists."

As a veteran of the Garcia-era Grateful Dead, I had to ask Alec if he'd ever been to a Grateful Dead concert or offshoot thereof, such as Further, Phil & Friends or Dead & Company. He had not, but as he explained, not from a lack of trying. "I have constantly been in the wrong place at the wrong time," he elaborated, "or I already had a commitment when one of those bands were in town. However, I have been to eight Phish shows, two Trey Anastasio Band shows, a Mike Gordon show, a Sound Tribe Sector 9 show, and an Umphrey's McGee show." I encouraged him to put a Dead show on his bucket list, knowing that if he appreciated all of those post-80's jam band groups, he'd also love the Dead scene and the show that goes along with it.

Experience Every Grateful Dead, and Dead-Related Show Ever, with the ReListen iOS App.

With over 10,000 recorded shows, the Grateful Dead far outnumber any other groups in terms of the availability of the live-recorded shows on ReListen, in large part as a result of their seniority as jam band ambassadors from the 60's Haight hippie scene, and in part because of their unending tradition of allowing people to record and distribute every live show. We got around to discussing which of the Grateful Dead's shows is the most popular show that folks download or listen to.

"The most popular Grateful Dead show streamed on iOS," said Alec, "is by far the classic, and my personal favorite, Cornell 5/8/77 show. 5/7/77 and 5/9/77 are the next two most popular shows but they are way behind. It is clear that 1977 is unequivocally the most popular year of classic Dead. The Chicago Fare Thee Well shows are also quite popular, but nothing holds a candle next to 5/8/77." I had to agree on the epicness of 5/8/77. It was a coveted collector's tape, essentially a "must-hear" for any fan. That said, and maybe I am partial, but my favorite years of the Grateful Dead were undoubtedly the mid-Brent years, when Brent Mydland was wailing on the keys and the band had hit a groove that was staggering and monstrous. Back in those days, it felt like they would come to a town, and the reverberations of their visit would linger in the community of local Heads for months until they came back around on the next season's tour. And they toured a lot during the mid-80s, which was a special time to see them, when they were popular, but not too popular for their own good. I felt fortunate that I "got on the bus" when I did, because just a few short years later, the Dead had what would become their second top 10 hit song, "Touch of Grey", which thrust them into the spotlight and brought such crowds of people to the shows that the parking lot scene, affectionately known as Shakedown Street, became more of a motley spectacle than an oasis of love and positivity held over from 1968. We didn't know it at the time, but "Touch of Grey" signaled what turned out to be the beginning of the end to the Grateful Dead as we all knew it. It was relatively shortly thereafter that Jerry Garcia died during a stay at a drug withdrawal treatment center.
Experience Every Grateful Dead, and Dead-Related Show Ever, with the ReListen iOS App.
Its now been over 20 years since Jerry Garcia died. I asked Alec how it felt to be a modern day archivist of the entire body of Grateful Dead music? "I'm not sure if I'm an archivist per se," he began to explain, "the true heroes and archivists are the tapers, uploaders, and good people at archive.org and so many other music sites. My goal is to make all their hard work more accessible and usable, and to introduce new audiences to some of the best music ever played. Without their tireless and unyielding effort over the last 50-plus years Relisten would be boring and devoid of content. In fact, for anyone who wants to ensure the continued preservation of the music, tell your friends about the app and donate to archive.org."

Relisten offers live recordings of many more performers that just the Dead. As Alec described, there are currently 99 artists on Relisten. Grateful Dead is far and away the most popular by number of track plays, accounting for about 51 percent of content played on Relisten. Dead and Company and Phish both sit at about 14 percent. There is no other artist above 2.5 percent, but rounding out the top five are String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and Joe Russo's Almost Dead.

Experience Every Grateful Dead, and Dead-Related Show Ever, with the ReListen iOS App.

If you are looking for a new type of musical experience with an emphasis on live improvisation, extended jams, broadening perspectives, and expanding the listener's consciousness, then the Relisten app is certainly worth checking out. And of course, if you are any kind of fan of the Grateful Dead, or Dead-related, jam band music, then the Relisten iOS app should have an easily accessible spot on your iPhone, because you're definitely going to be using it a lot!


Photo credits:

Jay Blakesburg

Ting Vogel

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Author Details

Dig Om's picture

Author Details

Dig Om

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech