Oct 7, 2017

February 23, 1970: Municipal Auditorium, Austin


Country Joe and his Fish walked off with a sparse but fairly responsive audience Monday night at Municipal Auditorium. A less-than-capacity crowd braved the wet weather to see Country Joe and his crew save a near-disaster effort by JAM Productions.
Grateful Dead, supposedly half of the program, opened the show with a weak version of "Good Morning, Schoolgirl" and followed through with a set that neither impressed nor depressed the seemingly apathetic crowd.
Overcoming such annoying obstacles as wavering public address system levels and several broken strings, the Dead performed selections from their albums in a manner which established little if any communication with their listeners.
In keeping with the current pop trend, the Dead took a try at doing a portion of their set with acoustic guitars and a pair of voices. Unfortunately, the songs were not very strong and the members of the group played barely adequate acoustic styles.
After intermission, Country Joe and his people walked out from the flowers and flags included on and about their equipment and touched the audience with professionalism and sincerity, something obviously missing in the previous set.
Starting out with blues numbers which are standard in progression but delightfully unpredictable in timing, the Fish came on as considerate musicians and individual people.
Country Joe and the Fish sang Woody Guthrie's "Roll On, Columbia," a poem by Robert Service, and brought the suddenly-alert crowd to their feet with a driving number called "Rocking, All Around the World," old rock rhythm behind non-mathematical lead guitar work and lyrics for today.
Simply stated, the Grateful Dead did nothing wrong, and Country Joe and the Fish did a lot of things right.

(by F. Catherwood, from the Daily Texan, Austin, 24 February 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.



  1. A new city, a wet Monday night, a sparse audience...and the Dead fail to work their magic.

    This is the only tape we have of the short February '70 Texas tour. It's the first tour that Bear didn't go on after the New Orleans arrest, so it's at this point that SBD tapes of the Dead start getting scarce, with many shows either not taped or lost. The Dead did not have their own sound crew at this show, and on the tape they complain repeatedly to the venue soundmen about the technical delays and feedback.
    (Lesh: "Don't mess around with it! It was okay til you started messing with it!" Garcia: "Yeah, you idiot." Weir: "Somebody get that guy away from the microphone." Garcia: "Hey, come on you PA guys, get on the ball man, good grief, we're gonna call the union if you don't hurry up.")

    Since the Dead were the opening band, under these conditions they wrap up the show quickly, and it's one of the least interesting shows of the year.
    The tape is missing the first few songs of the show, including Schoolgirl.
    According to this reviewer, the audience was bored and apathetic, and the show was saved by Country Joe's set. The Dead's troubles are listed (weak songs, wavering PA levels, broken strings, lack of contact with the audience), and Country Joe is said to be more considerate and professional. This reviewer also did not like the Dead's acoustic set, calling the playing "barely adequate" but noting that it's "in keeping with the current pop trend."

    Country Joe had insisted on opening for the Dead back in Sept '69 at the Fillmore East, after finding that much of the audience didn't stick around for his set when the Dead opened, so why did the Dead open here? As it turns out, there's a story, which McNally tells: "[Barry] Melton was approached by Ram Rod, who announced that the police had been following them - there seemed to be some marijuana issues - over the past few shows, and could the Dead please open... The Dead went on, played forty minutes, and split. Just as Country Joe and the Fish went on, police blanketed the entire backstage, thinking that CJ & the Fish were the Dead." (McNally p.285)

  2. The Houston/New Orleans comment also puts my in mind of the JA bust in New Orleans. I have the date somewhere, but it was in '69. So the Houston gigs might also have been too close to NO chronologically as well as geographically -- too soon, and all that. Probably not, but thought just crossed my mind.