Road Trips Vol. 3 No. 2

Austin 11/15/71

Released: 2010

Tracks

Truckin' [9:21]
Bertha [6:03]
Playing In the Band [6:34]
Deal [5:13]
Jack Straw [5:32]
Loser [6:41]
Beat It On Down the Line [3:41]
Dark Star > [12:49]
El Paso > [4:55]
Dark Star [7:45]
Casey Jones [5:52]
One More Saturday Night [5:01]

Me and My Uncle [3:35]
Ramble On Rose [6:42]
Mexicali Blues [3:42]
Brokedown Palace [5:51]
Me and Bobby McGee [6:27]
Cumberland Blues [6:35]
Sugar Magnolia [7:37]
You Win Again [2:43]
Not Fade Away > [5:56]
Jam > [6:34]
Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad > [8:28]
Not Fade Away [3:38]
Johnny B. Goode [4:26]


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Liner Notes:

The Engine Just Gleams...

The Grateful Dead didn't play in Texas for the first time until December 26, 1969, when they dropped by Southern Methodist University for a show on their way to the Miami Pop Festival. At that time, the band hadn't sold any records to speak of in the Lone Star State, and let's face it, Texas was not exactly friendly to hippies, by and large. Except, maybe, for Austin. As Joe Nick Patoski writes in his definitive biography, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, Austin "was a whole lot less looser and more tolerant than the rest of Texas, where kicking a hippie's ass was considered entertainment. Austin had more places than the rest of Texas combined that welcomed or at least tolerated hippies, which embellished the city's reputation as an oasis of peace and love in a desert of angry assholes spoiling for a fight."

Just two months after that SMU show, the band returned for a more serious Texas swing--this time with Quicksilver Messenger Service in tow--playing Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston and, yes, Austin--which true to its reputation as the hippest city in Texas did embrace the Dead and QMS.

Built along the Colorado River on the edge of what's known as the Hill Country of central Texas, Austin has generally been more progressive culturally than the rest of the state mostly because it is home to the main campus of the University of Texas--between the intellectual-types who teach there and the large and relatively diverse student body, is it any wonder that a bohemian scene flourished there in the '60s? Austin is where Janis Joplin--a free thinking outcast from Port Arthur, hundreds of miles east--first spread her wings musically at local coffeehouses and folks clubs. And it's where she met another future pillar of the San Francisco rock scene, Chet Helms. Together they hitchhiked to San Francisco in January 1963; Janis stayed for a couple of years and played the folk circuit before returning to Texas for a spell (she moved to the Bay Area for good in June '66), and Chet stuck around SF and became an integral part of the city's underground renaissance. (It was Chet, too, who brought Janis back to SF to audition for Big Brother & the Holding Company, whom he managed.)

Meanwhile, Austin developed its own psychedelic music scene, spawning numerous (mostly short-lived) clubs and bands. The most famous of the former was a place on Congress Avenue that opened in 1967 called the Vulcan Gas Company (named after the Family Dog-like group that had sponsored a few psychedelic dances around town before opening its own venue); and the most popular band was the 13th Floor Elevators (who also successfully played the San Francisco ballrooms). The Vulcan hosted shows by everyone from SF stalwarts Moby Grape and the Steve Miller Band to the Velvet Underground and Muddy Waters over the course of its three-year history. It boasted San Francisco-style light shows and produced close to four dozen trippy posters by Texas artists such as Gilbert Shelton and Jim Franklin. Into the void created by the Vulcan's closing in mid-'70 came the most famous Austin club of them all--Armadillo World Headquarters, which thrived for a decade and featured shows by just about everybody, it seems.

The place where the Dead played in Austin during their first two trips in 1970 and '71 was the broad-domed Municipal Auditorium, which opened in January 1959, and had hosted all sorts of civic events and concerts (Dylan '65, Led Zep '69, etc.). The Dead's February '70 shows no doubt surprised some of the local "heads," with its folky acoustic set sandwiched between two electric sets, which themselves had more country flavorings than what someone might have expected from hearing the Dead's most recent record--the seriously psychedelic Live Dead.

By the time the Dead returned to Austin on November 15, 1971--this time bringing the New Riders of the Purple Sage along as their opening act--the group's turn towards country and Americana shadings had been confirmed by two hit studio albums--Workingman's Dead and American Beauty--and the just-released double-live album Grateful Dead (aka "Skull & Roses" or "Skullfuck"). However, true to their ever-evolving chameleon natures, the Dead that hit Austin that fall had changed yet again. Less than a month earlier, at the beginning of their tour, the band had introduced its latest secret weapon--taciturn but supremely talented pianist Keith Godchaux who, Dead Heads would quickly learn, was the perfect accompanist for the group's latest songs, as well as a willing and capable partner in their ongoing explorations of infinity and beyond! There was also a slew of great new unrecorded songs that made their debut that autumn: "Tennessee Jed," "Jack Straw," "One More Saturday Night," "Mexicali Blues," "Comes A Time," "Ramble On Rose"; those on top of summer '71 additions most folks in Texas probably hadn't heard yet, either, such as "El Paso," "Sugaree," and "Brown-Eyed Women." The only downer of the tour: health issues forced Pigpen to stay home, so the song lists didn't have their usual infusion of down 'n' dirty Pigalicious soul.

On the second leg of the tour before Austin, the Dead had already played in Atlanta, San Antonio and, the night before, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. As they had in a number of other cities that fall, the Dead broadcast their Austin concert live on a local FM radio station, no doubt bringing thousands of new fans into their orbit in the process. The show the band played that night--presented in its entirely here--shows the full range of the Dead's powers, from exquisite song-craft to churning rock 'n' roll to magical jams. As fate would have it, too, a lot of the songs the Dead were performing on that tour were perfectly suited for young Texas audiences raised on a steady diet of both country music and rock 'n' roll. A few of the songs the Dead played in Austin even mentioned Texas by name--"El Paso," of course; "Jack Straw" ("Leaving Texas, fourth day of July..."); "Me & My Uncle" ("West Texas cowboys, they's all around..."); "Loser" ("I could arm a town the size of Abilene..."--though that's more likely about the better-known Abilene, Kansas, not the Texas one). Did this make the band play any better? Hard to say, but I know that as an audience member, I always felt that locally relevant references always seemed to crank up the symbiotic band-crowd energy machine a notch or two.

In the fall of '71 nearly every Dead show opened with either "Truckin'" or "Bertha"; Austin opens with the former... followed by the latter; both are solid, rockin' versions. "Playing in the Band" had matured and elongated since the short early '71 versions--as represented on "Skull & Roses"--though it was still a couple of tours away from becoming the true jam-fest we all love. After that, it's three newish tunes with Old West imagery--"Deal," "Jack Straw" and "Loser"--followed by a spirited trip back to the first Dead album and "Beat It On Down the Line." Then as if they've just flipped a switch, the band rolls confidently into "Dark Star"--a relative rarity in 1971, with just 12 versions in 82 shows--and all of a sudden the Space Band Supreme is revealed. It's on the seven minutes of jamming before the first verse that Keith--who's sounded great on everything up to this point--really starts to assert himself and shine, as he lays down some trippy lines that Phil and Jerry weave around like mating snakes. After Garcia sings the first verse, the jam moves in more dissonant directions for a few minutes--again, Keith is right there in the thick of it--until, riding in from some distant nebula, Bob steers the group into "El Paso"! Think that transition blew a mind or two at the Austin Municipal Auditorium? And then, without missing a beat, from our hero's last kiss in "El Paso" we move back into deep space again for a varied jam that goes from frightening discord to a rollicking, rhythmic section around the four-minute mark that sounds like it might morph into a song at any moment, before dissembling and drifting into quieter "Dark Star"-like realms again, ultimately ending up at--what the...?--"Casey Jones"! (We've gone from rocket to horseback to rocket to train in 25 minutes!) This first set then ends with a song the band has been playing at every stop on the tour--Weir's "One More Saturday Night," sounding jus' fine on a Monday night in Austin.

After a break to relax, refuel and recharge those overloaded synapses, the crowd settles back in and the band launches into a rare set-opening "Me & My Uncle," short and punchy, and then a couple of new songs--the early versions of "Ramble On Rose" are faster than later ones, and uniformly good, and "Mexicali Blues" no doubt sounded somewhat familiar to locals who had heard some Tex-Mex music. A sweet "Brokedown Palace" is greeted with a roar and is the rare ballad in a show dominated by rockers. Though the Dead totally made "Me & Bobby McGee" their own, it was hard in those days to hear it without immediately thinking of Janis Joplin, the Texas native whose hit single version was still fresh in people's minds. Smokin' versions of "Cumberland Blues" and "Sugar Magnolia" both bring the crowd to a fever-pitch, then comes only the second "You Win Again" (the first was played the previous night in Fort Worth), with Keith adding superb honky-tonk punctuation to what is otherwise a ragged take on the Hank Williams classic. The heart of this second set, though comes with the concluding medley of "Not Fade Away" > "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" > "Not Fade Away." Now, this sequence of tunes was played at nearly every show in 1971, but this one is truly special, as the jamming between tunes hits so many fascinating and unpredictable spaces, from the main "China Cat" riff to another hint of the "Dark Star" vibe, and varying passages that speed up, churn forward or glide along effortlessly, but always in "Search" mode. This has long been one of my very favorite Grateful Dead performances, so I'm delighted that it's finally getting a formal commercial release. Lastly, a show this explosive has to end with primal rock 'n' roll--"Johnny B. Goode" it is; another perfect choice. What a night!

--Blair Jackson

 

Credits:

Grateful Dead:
JERRY GARCIA: Lead Guitar, Vocals
KEITH GODCHAUX: Piano
BILL KREUTZMANN: Drums
PHIL LESH: Electric Bass, Vocals
BOB WEIR: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Produced by GRATEFUL DEAD
Produced for Release by DAVID LEMIEUX & BLAIR JACKSON
Recording by REX JACKSON
CD Mastering by JEFFREY NORMAN at MOCKINGBIRD MASTERING, Petaluma, CA
Cover Art: SCOTT McDOUGALL
Package Design: STEVE VANCE

 

 



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This album was released in March 2010.



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