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The Grateful Dead was a psychedelic rock band that all but defined the Haight-Ashbury scene in 1960’s San Francisco. The band ricocheted into the “turn on, tune in drop out” limelight through an association with Ken Kesey and his infamous acid test and the singular charisma of band leader Jerry Garcia.
Garcia, who would have turned 70 on August 1, passed away 17 years ago this week (August 9, 1995). The classic rock icon was actually into a lot more than the groovy sounds of the era; he was deeply influenced by early blues, folk and down-home bluegrass music. He was an acoustic and electric guitarist whose picking style earned him the esteem of the music world, despite the loss of a finger in childhood.
From the early ’60s to the mid-’90s, the band’s signature improvisational catalog of songs became quasi-sacred to legions of fans, known as Dead Heads, who clamoured to hear them perform live. Grateful Dead shows were always sell-outs with thousands of non-ticket holders camping in parking lots, hoping for miracles and selling crafts, food and sundries to finance their travelling caravan summer tour after summer tour.
The week “in between” his birthday and the anniversary of his death is now a holiday of sorts for Jerry Garcia lovers around the world. Special concerts, tributes, movie screenings and gatherings have been, and continue to be held in his honour. To help you celebrate The Days Between, we’ve compiled the best apps for deadheads on iOS for you here.
YouTube and other video discovery apps
One of the best apps for seeing Jerry Garcia perform live with the Grateful Dead and his other cohorts comes (at least for the next few weeks) preinstalled on your iOS device. Apple confirmed this week that YouTube will not be preinstalled on iOS 6. However, Google is working on a standalone app users can download from the App Store, and you can always access YouTube online via Safari, Chrome and other browsers. YouTube is a veritable cornucopia of complete sets dating back to the ’60s and individual performances as recent as the last Futher show. There are also interviews with Garcia and the surviving band members, clips from Late Night TV appearances and individual tribute videos that put trippy backdrops behind the even trippier sounds.
Of course, if you don’t have time to sort through the thousands and thousands of Garcia and Grateful Dead-related videos on YouTube, there are also plenty of socially-driven video sharing applications that will source killer clips recommended by your friends and members of your social graph. The best video discovery apps include Showyou, Squrl, and Frequency. Note that YouTube and the independent discovery apps are all optimized for AirPlay Mirroring, meaning you can watch video clips in full on an Apple TV if you have an iPad 2, new iPad, iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S.
Here is an example of a full show you can now watch via YouTube on your iDevice (and make sure to read on afterwards for several other app nuggets).
Whether you use the new Podcasts app, or just subscribe the old fashioned way, podcasts are another great source of Grateful Dead videos and music, along with fan commentary. It only takes a minute or two to create a playlist that will ensure your cup be full again… and again. A favourite Appolicious podcast associated with the Grateful Dead is the mvradio Shakedown Stream, a weekly program that weaves an entire show and multiple extra tracks and commentary within a four-hour or so session.
Once upon a time, Relix was all about The Grateful Dead and the tape sharing that was encouraged by the band. Yes, the Grateful Dead were early pioneers of “how to let fans have your music for free and still make a profit”. They even let fans plug right into their soundboards. The scope of the magazine has grown, but it still pays a lot of attention to all things Jerry and will turn you on to other bands with similar vibes.
For fans of all the band members, Dead Heads+ is a nice pick-up. The app has a solid selection of videos, a photo gallery, and a special section dedicated to Jerry Garcia. There is also info on Furthur, Ratdog and Phil and Friends.
The on-demand music service has its own app from Warner Music that is focusing this week on the Grateful Dead and the band’s influences. Spotify playlists can be accessed from iOS devices if you save them ahead of time. And, on top of the entire studio recordings, Spotify has tons of live Dead from Dick’s Picks and other series that showcase the best concerts. Spotify can also create a radio station based on The Grateful Dead to introduce you to similar bands like the String Cheese Incident, Hot Tuna, Phish, Widespread Panic, Moe and many more.
Have you ever wanted to play some Grateful Dead tunes on your own? This app teaches you how to play tracks from the titular live tour album. You need an acoustic or electric ax, and ideally a guitar adapter like iRig. There are four difficulty levels, the original master recordings, and you can slow recordings down to help you master harder licks. The app even provides feedback on your progress. Jack Straw, Ramble on Rose and Sugar Mag are included in the initial cost and other tracks can be purchased in-app.
Both of these apps give you access to an almost exhaustive supply of live recordings and concert videos at no cost. These apps are a Jam Band lover’s dream and have tons of Grateful Dead shows on offer. Wolfgang’s Concert Vault has video, Archivist has over 8,000 Grateful Dead live audio tracks.
Fancy yourself an expert on all things Grateful Dead? This app will put your knowledge of Dead-lore and dead sets to the test with a simple but very entertaining trivia quiz. Don’t try this one unless you really know your GD.
While this almanac claims to keep Dead Heads up to date on the Dead scene and community it hasn’t been updated since 2011. It will bring back heady Head memories of everyone’s halcyon days on tour with photos, videos, a round up of Dead facts, a community section and a shopping portal for Grateful Dead music, clothing and accessories.