Road Trips Vol. 1 No. 1: Fall ’79

Mar 06, 2023
Web Exclusive

By Hays Davis

Within the first minute of Fall ’79, a detail jumps out: There’s Brent. As his unmistakable harmony voice joins Jerry Garcia’s, the keyboards of new member Brent Mydland are already prominent on this fourth-ever performance of “Alabama Getaway,” seven months into Mydland’s experience of performing live with Grateful Dead.

Following the departure keyboard player Keith Godchaux and his wife, singer Donna Godchaux, during the winter of 1979, Mydland’s ability as a quick study and comfortable improv player led to his transitioning from Bob Weir’s solo band into Keith’s seat. Also, Mydland’s shifting between playing electronic keyboards to a Hammond B-3 organ (heard in the band for the first time since Pigpen’s departure) brought new color and texture to the band after seven years of Keith’s piano, along with his new vocal presence, which even enabled Mydland to deftly take over Donna’s high harmonies on a rocking “Passenger.” This would form the Dead’s most stable lineup ever, lasting for 11 years.

As they were touring with material that would form their 1980 album Go to Heaven, this reissue of the first volume in the Road Trips series finds the Dead on an October/November swing through the eastern states before reaching the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the first time, audiences were met with “The Beast,” the percussion construct looming over drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. Built by Hart and his friends for use in a percussion underscore for Francis Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, the setup and its variety of hung instruments brought a new dimension to their “Drums” segment of the shows.

Newly dislodged from its longtime grouping with “Help On the Way” and “Slipknot!,” “Franklin’s Tower” finds one of its only three pairings with “Dancing in the Street” at the Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, NY over a rousing 25 minutes. And with an excellent “Terrapin Station” rolling right into “Playing in the Band” over the course of nearly 40 minutes, the crowd at the Spectrum in Philadelphia likely had trouble finding the right moment to leave their seats for a break. (

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