Why not start off with one of the Dead's most legendary runs?
A few weeks ago, germain started posting his '71 collection on etree (see the link at the bottom of his comments on etree for details). He has Betty-boards of the whole Port Chester run, and since I had never heard them, I though I should. The first night is a matrix and the others are (I guess) tinkered Bettys. The main problem with these shows was a high-pitch whine throughout most of the tape, which was painstakingly removed. I should note that the second night comprises "Three from the Vault," in case anyone wants to hear it in "HDCD", whatever the hell that is. Archive also has all the shows.
The first night of the run, February 18th, is Mickey's last night with the band until after the hiatus (although he did play the second set of the farewell show at Winterland). They open with Bertha and it's a disaster; way too fast, ragged and out of tune. In all fairness, it was the first time they ever played it, and since they played it every night of the run, they had a chance to sort it out. It gets slower and tighter over the next week. The show also has the breakouts of Loser, Playin', Wharf Rat and Greatest Story Ever Told. You can hear them talking about what to call that last song on the tape. Mickey's last act as a band member is to dub it Pump Man, "for reasons of his own." I don't know when it lost the name.
The words would evolve a bit: in first line of "Greatest," Moses came riding "up on a guitar". In the next few nights Weir changed it to "up into my car." "Quasar" must have come later. In these early versions of Loser, the gambler only needed one gold dollar instead of ten. Worth noting Garcia also updated Jack-A-Roe in later years: "... if she heard my dollars (instead of guineas) clink." I prefer guineas. More old-timey.
Before the second set is a few minutes of banter and giggling and fooling around, which is a lot of fun, with Weir trying to get the lighting guy to turn on the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling, for ambiance. Personally, I love the on-stage shenanigans.
Overall that first night was a bit rough, although it does feature the only Dark Star and the only St. Stephen of the run - even if the crowd screams for it every night thereafter - and there's a very nice "beautiful jam" between Wharf Rat and Dark Star V2.
That's it for just now; I'll get into the rest of the run in my next post.