It’s hard to review shows from 1969 because the Grateful Dead were performing at a very high level and their setlists were often very similar from night to night. If you pull a random 1969 show off the Archive, you’re likely to get something good. There are obviously outliers, like last month’s show at Woodstock, but, in general, 1969 is a great year for the Dead. This show, at the first New Orleans Pop Festival, with the Dead sharing the bill with several other Woodstock artists like Santana and Jefferson Airplane, is typical of the era and shows what an anomaly Woodstock really was. (It’s also pretty short, given the festival’s time constraints).
The boys lead off their performance with Casey Jones. The song has not yet developed its “proper” beginning, so we’re treated to a nice introduction that draws you in before the typical Casey Jones riff begins. This is followed by a screaming, mighty Morning Dew. Things cool off a little with Mama Tried and High Time before the band ignites for Easy Wind. This song is deceptively cool, since the lyrical portion features an intentional but annoying tempo change and the words are nothing to speak of. But the jam that follows is awesome and shows where the band is heading with this song in 1970.
Dark Star>St. Stephen>The Eleven is usually a show highlight and today’s show is no exception. The middle portion of Dark Star is very loose and features some trippy organ work from Tom Constanten, the Dead’s unheralded 2nd keyboardist during this era. It’s a slightly different version of a classic ’69 tune. St. Stephen is nothing special, but The Eleven really blasts off today, running on for almost eleven minutes of bliss. There’s nothing in particular to highlight about this version – it’s just nice to hear everyone churning out the tune together, in sync and burning down the road. The Dead close their set, like they did at Woodstock, with Turn on Your Lovelight, but at this show they’ve shaved twenty-two minutes off the tune (it’s still a whopping twenty-five minutes long) and we’re all better for it.
Another 1969 show almost always means another good show. Check this one out here: https://archive.org/details/gd69-09-01.sbd.vernon.19963.sbeok.shnf