Today’s show was the first night of the Big Rock Pow Wow, a three-day festival that also featured Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters and Sweetwater, just to name a few of the other bands. The show has been officially released as Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 1. According to the Dead’s official website, “‘Orange sunshine’ acid was everywhere.”
This disclaimer is important, because parts of the Dead’s festival set (not a very truncated one, either) are uneven, probably due to the “relaxed” atmosphere. There are also some issues with Jerry’s guitar strings, which leads to some interesting passages. Still, this is a 1969 show, so the overall quality of the playing is high.
Morning Dew is one of the clear winners today – a scorching attack on the song following a tricky Hard to Handle opener. The best part of Dark Star lies in the middle. After the band works out some sound issues and distractions, they settle into a nice fluid pace, anchored by Tom Constanten, that winds out into a pretty nice space and some great Jerry runs before returning back to earth for St. Stephen>The Eleven. This combination is almost always worth listening to, and today’s version is no exception. While the playing does not reach the heights it sometimes does, we’re still in above-average territory.
The show ends with a thirty minute Lovelight. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – listening to a thirty minute Lovelight is brutal. While it probably worked really well live, on tape, it’s problematic. If you chopped this in half, you’d still have fifteen minutes, out of which maybe ten are exceptional. In my opinion things really start to heat up around the twenty, twenty-two minute mark, so feel free to skip ahead. That being said, it’s great that the Dead were able to stretch out at a festival, which they would do again the next night when they opened the show with a twenty-seven minute Lovelight. Keep giving the people what they want.
This recording isn’t wonderful – shell out the money for the official release if this is your thing. If you want to be cheap about it, listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd69-05-23.sbd.kaplan.12223.sbeok.shnf