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 1970s. 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 featured the Dead headlining a triple bill also featuring the Flock and Fleetwood Mac. This run would soon be immortalized by lyricist Robert Hunter in the classic song "Truckin'," as this was the engagement where members of the Dead and crew were "busted down in New Orleans." In fact, it was this very day that the bust incident occurred, prompting some appropriately humorous stage banter. Regardless of the legal hassles, the group seems to be in fine spirits and display the professionalism and enthusiasm for playing that they always did.
The Dead's set kicks off by venturing back to their first album with "Cold Rain And Snow." With Garcia on lead vocals, this is a loose slower tempo arrangement to warm things up. Bob Weir steps up for some cowboy music flavorings on Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," followed by complaints from the band that they are experiencing electrical problems on stage ("fried alive" as per Weir and "shocked silly" as per Garcia). Despite the technical issues, they soldier on with "Dire Wolf," one of the new compositions, which Garcia invites the audience to sing along with and introduces as a "paranoid fantasy song."
The energy level increases over the remainder of this recording, beginning with a bluesy take on "Big Boss Man," featuring Pigpen on lead vocals and harmonica. However, the highlight follows, as they venture into another classic track from their debut album, "Morning Dew." This post-apocalyptic folk song by Bonnie Dobson captures the wide dynamic abilities of the band, vacillating between the haunting quieter passages and full-force pummeling and contains their most focused playing, particularly near the end where Garcia gets an opportunity to truly wail.
A fine rarity follows with "Mason's Children." This song was recorded during the Workingman's Dead sessions, but was not included on the album, most likely do to it's unusual Hunter lyric and more psychedelic sound, which harkened back to the 1969 era and didn't quite fit the earthy vibe of the other new material. Only performed live for a brief time, this is a rather concise reading of the song that is primarily notable for Phil Lesh, whose vocal and instrumental energy is strong throughout and for a brief smoking jam toward the end. Bob Weir next returns things to cowboy mode on John Phillips "Me And My Uncle," a song that would soon become a permanent staple of the group's live repertoire.
The recording ends with Pigpen again fronting the band for the deep groove of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle," which cooks along nicely despite the fact that Phil Lesh's bass amp is experiencing severe problems, causing the group to unexpectedly break to sort out the technical issues on stage.