From Jersey to the Armadillo: Bruce Springsteen hits Austin, 1974
Blogkeepers’ Note: This is a repost from a piece we originally ran in 2008. It caught the eye of the Austin Chronicle, and they interviewed us for their big SXSW 2012 preview issue. Read the Chronicle story here.
March 16, 1974: Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, Texas
In 1974, my college buddy Cindy came back from a spring weekend raving about this singer-songwriter she caught in concert at Liberty Hall in Houston. “The guy’s incredible,” she said, “he moves all the time … he must be on speed.” I’d heard of this guy before, so I gamely agreed to go with Cindy and some other folks to catch a show the next weekend in Austin.
Back then, Austin’s top music venue was the Armadillo World Headquarters, an old National Guard armory converted into a music shed. There weren’t many chairs; the floor had seating for 2,000 or so hippies and of course you could lean against the wall. So anyway, we head over for a show by this speed guy: Bruce Springsteen.
A buck and a half for admission and we were in for the second show on his Friday-Saturday stand. It was Springsteen’s first Austin gig, and they were apparently worried how his Jersey-poet schtick would go over with the Texas crowd. It didn’t help that the opening act was this country-rock outfit, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys.
No worries, though: the packed crowd loved the show, everyone was dancing everywhere. “Spirit In The Night” was a highlight, it had gotten some radio airplay. Then the band ripped into “Rosalita,” still too fresh to be an FM radio staple and maybe a bit much for this crowd. The E Street Band’s big showstopper was instead “Thundercrack,” which — like the singer — was every place at once.
And of course “The Fever” made an impression. We loved the band, which seemed more like a dangerous Boardwalk kick-ass gang than a bunch of musicians. I was also impressed with Bruce’s fashion sense — he favored the classic black-and-white Chuck Taylor Converse basketball shoes, low tops. And I wore my own Chucks (high tops, though) throughout college. In fact, I haven’t been without a pair since 1974.
What we saw that night was an incredibly talented performer still working out who he was going to become. That came the next year, when he exploded nationwide with the stone classic Born To Run. I honestly don’t recall hearing anything from that album that night at the Armadillo.
Springsteen played for a while, might have been a couple of hours, and when it was over everyone was drenched in sweat. It was a fine introduction to a guy who would put on some incredible shows in later years.