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PigpensHypeMan

An Old Canoe

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Alligator
Feb. 14, 1968
Carousel Ballroom

This the "Live/Dead Darkstar" of Alligator > Cautions, and despite the low volume of the Pigpen vocals absolutely delivers. It's the Platonic ideal of Alligators for its mix of melody and hard core jam. Love it and you can see why it was used on Anthem, but the uncut version is so much more sweet. :)
China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider
Aug. 27, 1972
Old Renaissance Faire Grounds

Certainly a top 10 candidate among a sea of great China Riders the band played, particularly during this era. As far as the legendary Veneta show this comes from goes, I'd say that this is neck-and-neck with Playin' in the Band for peak moment of the entire show.
Playin' In The Band
Nov. 30, 1973
Boston Music Hall

While I definitely prefer 12/2/73, these two Playin's are really different beasts and this one should be appreciated as the best of its own category. This is a more "traditional" Playin' in the Band from a period when the Dead were seriously at their (post-71) best. This one follows the form but gets absolutely lost in gorgeous jazzy exploration. DP 14 is one of my favorite picks, and having both this and the 12/2 Playin' on it are fantastic bookends of each other. This version is just another reason of multitudes to love late '73 Dead.
Playin' In The Band
Aug. 27, 1972
Old Renaissance Faire Grounds

This is one of the performances from Veneta that really lives up to the hype and is - in my mind - the best ever version. There are SO many playins' from this era, and they can be very hit or miss, but when they hit they effing hit. And this one hits so hard. It is musical perfection and is possibly the best example of what the Dead could achieve when they were jamming well in 1972, simply put.
Dark Star
Jan. 2, 1970
Fillmore East (Late Show)

I think what I love most about this is that it's a DP4 style "Dark Star", which was very much a 1970 thing, but it's still attached to the psychedelic Live/Dead suite of St. Stephen, The Eleven and Turn on Your Lovelight. The whole sequence is very nice: old school Dead with a sophisticated bend that foreshadows the 70s. Ironic that they kick off this decade that would see so much change with a reliable stalwart sequence of the 60s (Eleven would soon be retired, within the spring I think). The Star itself is, as I intimated above, akin to 2-13-70 and has a bit of a "formula" in the music to sparse noise to pleasant rebuild to second verse thing, but it's done incredibly well here and sustains for 30 minutes, which always makes for a good time. A great "Dark Star" from the era when they were at their best.