Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, organ, percussion; Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Bill Kruetzman - drums; Mickey Hart - percussion
Early 1970 was a particularly interesting transitional time for the Grateful Dead. The band still had one foot firmly planted in the heavy psychedelic explorations of the 1969 era, but was now taking 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 and that would eventually come to define the group for a new, much larger fan base in the 1970's. The classically trained avant-garde keyboardist, Tom Constanten, would depart following the first night of this legendary New Orleans run, returning the keyboard seat to Pigpen, further reducing the overall density of the band's sound. Bob Weir would begin taking a more prominent role and his rhythm guitar playing dramatically improved during the course of the year, propelling Garcia and Lesh into some of their most incendiary performances to date.
This run of shows at New Orleans' Warehouse, performing on a bill that also featured the Flock and Fleetwood Mac, would soon be immortalized by lyricist Robert Hunter. As in the classic song, "Truckin'," this was the engagement where members of the Dead and crew were "busted down in New Orleans"—on the previous day, in fact. Originally the run was scheduled for the previous two evenings only, but Fleetwood Mac agreed to hang out for another day and a last minute third performance was added on the afternoon of February 1st to help defray the legal costs related to the Dead's bust. Regardless of the legal hassles and technical issues that plagued the previous night, the band remain in fine spirits and display the professionalism and enthusiasm for playing that they always did. The circumstances also inspire some irreverently humorous stage banter.
The recording begins with the Warehouse MC announcing upcoming shows. He then begins to introduce the band with "and here's the group that made this afternoon all possible," with Phil Lesh interrupting with "the New Orleans police department!" before he concludes with "The Grateful Dead." Like the previous night, they begin with a selection from their first album; a playful up-tempo reading of "Beat It On Down The Line." A strong pairing of "China Cat Sunflower" into "I Know You Rider" follows. This is well played, with Garcia, Weir, and Lesh beginning to develop the fluid jam that would forever cement these two songs together. The "Black Peter" and "Cumberland Blues" that follow are the first glimpses of the material soon destined for the Workingman's Dead album. These songs lead the way out of the highly improvisational material that dominated the previous year into a more traditionally structured song form. Often performed acoustically during 1970, both songs feature electric instrumentation here and are a clear sign of where the band is headed. Unfortunately, the "Good Lovin'" that concludes the recording is incomplete, but cooks while it lasts. Pigpen belts it out with the band providing propulsive support. Mickey Hart and Bill Kruetzman take an impressive eight limbed drum solo leading into an improvisational jam before the tape stock ran out.