"Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, percussion; Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass; Tom Constanten - keyboards; Bill Kreutzmann - drums; Mickey Hart - percussion
Throughout their monumental career, the Grateful Dead established a tradition of ringing in the New Year by performing in San Francisco, with only one exception. The 1969/70 New Year concerts were on the East coast, with New Year's eve at Boston's famed Tea Party, followed by a run of four shows at the Fillmore East on January 2 and 3, 1970, with Cold Blood and Lighthouse.
This was a particularly interesting time, as the band still had one foot firmly planted in the heavy psychedelic explorations of the 1969 era but were taking the early steps toward a new song-based sound. Garcia and Hunter were experiencing their first truly prolific phase, writing many of the songs that would be featured on Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, albums which would eventually come to define the group for a new, much larger fan base in the 1970s. These would be some of the last Grateful Dead shows to feature classically trained avant-garde keyboardist, Tom Constanten, who would soon depart the band.
This recording starts 30 seconds into the show, missing the first verse of a perfunctory performance of "Casey Jones." A standard version of "Mama Tried" follows. Although it picks up when Pigpen sings "Big Boss Man," the song is marred by stage monitor problems. Things improve as they begin "China Cat Sunflower," which grooves along nicely with Constanten adding keyboard flourishes, something that would soon disappear from the arrangement. The transition jam into "I Know You Rider" is beginning to develop into the familiar pattern of later years but still has the rawness of the early years.
Next up is a great version of the rarely played "Mason's Children," an unreleased Garcia/Hunter song that the band recorded during the Workingman's Dead sessions, but chose not to release. They continue by beginning the song cycle of "That's It For The Other One." The opening sequence of "Cryptical Envelopment" is a bit awkward, followed by a few minutes of drum battling by Kreutzmann and Hart, and then they rip into "The Other One" when the sparks begin flying. Garcia is spitting out riffs at an incredible rate and Lesh is on fire. During the next 10 minutes and through much of the "Cryptical" reprise, it is Lesh's bass that is the lead instrument, propelling everyone else along, including Garcia, in his wake of sound waves. They end the set by segueing directly into "Cosmic Charlie," which keeps the trippy vibe going and leaves high expectations for the second set.