Monday, May 4, 2009

The Bus Came By and Brent Got On!

Grateful Dead on 4/22/79 at Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California [copyright/photographer unknown]

Grateful Dead -- April 22, 1979
Spartan Stadium
San Jose, California

1st Set
Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Mama Tried-> Mexicali Blues,
Sugaree, New Minglewood Blues, Brown-Eyed Women,
Looks Like Rain, Stagger Lee, Passenger, Deal

2nd Set: I Need A Miracle-> Bertha-> Good Lovin',
Scarlet Begonias-> Fire On The Mountain,
Estimated Prophet-> He's Gone-> Jam-> Drums->
The Other One-> Wharf Rat-> Around & Around

Encore 1: U.S. Blues
E2: Shakedown Street

A few weeks ago I listened to and posted the incredibly interesting first (and only known recording of a) rehearsal with Brent Mydland before the Grateful Dead played their first show with him. He was no stranger to Bob, as he had played in the Bob Weir Band the year before, but how would he fit in here? Would he do well enough to stick around for awhile? Hmmm... maybe!

The first show wasn't the beginning of a tour or anything, just a one-off appearance in Spartan Stadium which is owned by (but I don't think it's on the campus of) San Jose State University for their football team to play in. Twasn't just a GD show as the Charlie Daniels Band and the Greg Kihn Band were also on the bill that day.

Brent Mydland, his first show with the Grateful Dead on 4/22/79 at Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California [copyright/photographer unknown]Under a bright afternoon sky but with passing showers, the boys, with their new keyboardist, took the stage and turned in quite a solid show. Sugaree is definitely a first set highlight as they build to a nice plateau, complete with a very forceful Phil helping lead the way.

The band is in a good mood as evidenced by some of the off-mic chatter you can hear a little of if you listen closely between tunes. How does Brent do? Well, he fits in so nicely. He lays low, for the most part, looking for his spots and filling in when appropriate. (I have a feeling he's going to work out just fine!)

Set 2 is, well, it doesn't leave me in awe but cruises nicely along with times of absolutely stellar playing by the band. The moment I heard the chanting during Drums I was taken back a decade or more to my old cassette copy of this show. There are also moments when Weir's rhythm guitar is so amazing next to Jerry or when Phil is thundering away and his solo, aside from what the drummers are doing, is the most prominent instrument in the song. Brent's piano and B-3 and synthesizer sounds meld right in as if they've always been there. It's a sweet show!

transcribed from:

The Deadhead's Taping Compendium Volume II, 1975-1985 [guide to Grateful Dead music]The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, Volume II:
An In-Depth Guide To The Music of the
Grateful Dead on Tape, 1975-1985

[out of print]

This is Brent Mydland's first showing playing keyboards with the Dead after having been plucked Weir's solo group, and the keyboards include such new sounds as Hammond organ and synthesizer. The band had been without the distinctive organ sound for seven years, and had never encountered synths, so some changes in the sound palette were to be expected. His voice also brought the Dead what I consider to be their best overall vocal blend. A much more subtle, though no less important, aspect of his impact upon the band was in the effect he had on galvanizing Garcia to greater heights of playing through what were to be the dark days of Garcia's heroin "vacation." Garcia was always inspired by great keyboard partners and his symbiotic relationship over the years with Tom Constanten, Merl Saunders, Keith Godchaux, and Bruce Hornsby was easily equaled by that of Brent. Brent was always a hotbed of energy and played the most aggressive and upfront keyboards the band would ever know. In this respect he was the perfect foil for Garcia. Brent would never miss the opportunity to improvise, and since one thing Garcia never lost before the very end was his musical pride, this dynamism always seemed to help drive him on to greater things. Sadly, for some time before he left the band, this could no longer be said of Keith Godchaux.

It's more often overlooked that this show also saw the introduction of "the Beast," the ring of giant drums and percussion originally put together by Mickey Hart for work on the soundtrack to the film Apocalypse Now, the music for which was recorded earlier in the month. This was to make the evolving "Drums"/"Space" segments of shows very much more interesting. Finally, this show is also of interest for being chronologically one of the, if not the, last Betty Boards to emerge from that famous storage locker into circulation in 1985.

The first set is a good one, yet fairly standard fare overall. Brent make's his first real appearance with Bob's announcement of "cowboy time." On "Minglewood" his characteristic raunchy organ break, which would become an essential part of the tune for me in the future, is there as if it had always been around. All through the band are chatting and having real fun--what a contrast with the last year or so of the Godchauxs! Weir gets a lot of ragging from them on either side of a great "Looks Like Rain," possibly connected with there being a brief rain shower during it! He lets loose his slide playing on Stagger Lee," after the ongoing joke about him gets resurrected, to roars from the crowd--unfortunately, it's difficult to work out exactly what it's all about.

Set 2 opens with a fairly mediocre "Miracle" > "Bertha" > "Good Lovin'." But next is "Scarlet" > "Fire," and anyone who has heard the tapes of Brent's rehearsals with the Dead six days before will know that the new lineup already had one burning version of this under their belts. As the heavens opened up, the band played on under the rain to prove that that was no one-shot. "Scarlet Begonias" itself is not startling, but the transition jam is long with gentle eddies from Garcia's guitar washing the band into "Fire on the Mountain." Even before the vocals start, a substantial jam is whipped up, and subsequently Garcia has Weir right alongside in a series of stellar excursions. A soon-to-be-familiar lilting undertow is given to the tune by Brent's Hammond playing, Phil rumbling away beneath it all. "Estimated Prophet" again features prominent and excellent bass, continuing through a first jam unexpected in its length and fervor. A great closing jam begins with the first substantial piece of electric piano work from Brent so far, over which Garcia begins to weave guitar lines that soon brim over with passionate improvisation. As Jerry slows down, there are a few perplexing toots from some new toy out of Mickey's newly enlarged percussion arsenal, sounding like a cross between a whistle and a birdsong, and the band drop smoothly into "He's Gone." The rainstorm passes over with the drift into "Drums," and after a few minutes things start getting really interesting with tribal chanting and every manner of ethnic percussion breaking loose a breathtaking and sustained flight of fancy. "Get around the Beast," cries Mickey as a razor-sharp drum roll announces yet another excursion up a previously unexplored tributar of rhythm. Overall, this is probably the most fully and perfectly explored "Drums" yet constructed by the two drummers and a fitting testament to Mickey's dedication to the amalgamation of world music into the Dead's sound. There is no "Space," merely a brief flurry of notes from Jerry alongside the drums, before the band plunges directly into "The Other One." What is probably a substantial cut makes overall assessment of this tune difficult, but the playing seems marred by lack of cohesion. "He's Gone" is pretty good, but the band is starting to sound a bit ramshackle by the end of what is admittedly one of their longest-ever shows. The double encore is nevertheless a treat, with unusually prominent slide guitar from Bob on "U.S. Blues." "Shakedown Street" is really quite fine considering its placing, benefitting greatly from Brent's electric piano, solidly underpinned by Phil and the drummers and containing some good jamming from Garcia.

This is a historic show for a number of reasons and with excellent high points, although it has to be said that these are rather sparsely spread.


(Keep in mind that that was written about the analog cassettes (there is no cut in TOO here) that had been in circulation before this new millennium a.k.a. before this era of digital Dead and newly discovered better recordings.)

Grateful Dead ticket for Brent's first show: 4/22/79 Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California [borrowed from]

********** INTERNET ARCHIVE HEADPHONES **********4/22/79 @ the Internet Archive:
the AUD for downloading the SBD for Listening Only
Audio Quality: AUD (shnid=91346)♦ SBD

It would be nice if better SBD lineage existed but oh well. It's not the crispest sound; there's super-minor hiss during quiet places but basically it's not bad.
The AUD surprised me. It absolutely must be a Front of Board as it sounds really nice. There are flaws such as loud crowd noise and here and there bumps to the mics... but instruments and vocals are pretty clear. You miss a lot of the off-mic chatter heard on the SBD but it gives you a sweet feel for being there.

Source: shnid=12001
Set 1 Lineage: SBD>?>C>C>WAV>SHN

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4
4-22-79 aka 04-22-79 aka 4/22/79 aka 04/22/79 aka 79-04-22 San Jose - 320 kbps mp3, not FLAC lossless


Anonymous said...

oh BRENT the man who gave the band new life in it's sound, this will be a joy to hear .keep the tunes coming our way!

the guy from INDY,IN.

Adam said...

Ah Zoooma, what a wonderful choice! I've been wanting a copy of the SBD for-freaking-ever. This is one of the few shows that I knew I needed to get from oh those many years ago but just missed in my haste to get as much of the "Primal Dead" as I could.
Thanks for sharing the goods (yet again),

kingpossum said...

4-11-87 Chicago UIC Pavilion (3rd night of the stand). Can you post it?


TheNWRA said...

Cheers for this...again! Listening to first part now, very promising.

Timmy said...

Dude, now I have to get a separate hard drive to pack all this sheet I don't have no more room for in my compoooter...
THANX, though...

Will said...

흑기러기는 남자이다. 나는 당신이 이것을 배치했다 때문에 이렇게 기쁘다. 뉴욕시에서 당신을 순전히 감사하십시오

나는 고맙게 여기는 사자를 사랑한다!

Zoooma!! said...

Everybody, as usual, is welcome! Enjoy the show!!!

Kingpossum -- I'll see what I can do. Could be a little while as I wanna catch up on some '85.

Timmy -- I know what you mean! I find myself buying blank discs like every other day to store some of this stuff on. One of these days I'll get my first external HD. I was looking at one a few weeks ago... it's got to happen because I'm only gonna have more music on my way to needing a 2nd HD! Crap!

Will -- it's funny that you'd say that because I was thinking that very thing this morning! I know exactly what you mean!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hte sweet music!

one says one number and the other another
but they were set at the same time. Hmmm...

Calvin and Hobbes in the snow -- animated