April 20, 2014

Sunday Break II: Steiner’s First Summer Concert

On the 5th of September, 1976, the few early residents of Steiner Ranch were dealing with the usual tremendous heat of our summer. Little did they know that just a few months later, in November of 1976, Austin would experience record lows of barely 20 degrees. Without a cloud in the sky, the heat hovered around 94 on that fall Sunday in the hills. As folks returned from church to their homes, 45,000 people descended on Steiner Ranch for Sunday Break II.

Sunday Break II?

Santana in 1976: Live at Hammersmith OdeonLet’s back up a bit. May 2nd, 1976, at the NE corner of the 35 and 290, witnessed an Austin music festival featuring many of the hottest acts of the time. It was called The Sunday Break.

Performing were America, Peter Frampton, Santana (yes Gen y-ers, that Santana), and Gary Wright. As is our impression of the era today, though they had 56,000 spectators, the concert was peaceful and welcoming. Medical assistance provided by Austin’s Middle Earth Drug Crisis Center out of the YWCA and police, while present, were not allowed inside the gates.

There is painfully little information, online, about the Sunday Break concert. You can find references to it in and amusing read of the April, Austin City Council meeting minutes.

The event was first scheduled for Saturday, May 1, 1976, and would not have required any Council action. The event was moved to Sunday to avoid a conflict with the primary election, and Council approval was required to amend the sound amplification ordinance.

Using the internet archive’s Way Back Machine (a web service that let you view snapshots of websites in the former life), I found a site that discussed the concert as early as 2008 before shutting down.

“The Concert was at intersection of I-35 and 290 (NE corner) which was vacant land at the time. Very hot but you could bring coolers (filled with beverages) inside the fenced off area. Frampton’s arrival by helicopter was fun and that performance was amazing,” shared lillylab.

Added clex, “The concert itself was good but CROWDED and HOT. Went away with sunburn but saw Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, and (I think) Blue Oyster Cult.”

And in reference to the concert on our very grounds, “I worked on the medical staff for that concert,” shared kobossy. “Don’t believe that BOC or Fleetwood Mac were there, but I do remember Gary Wright and Peter Frampton. Several other bands that escape my memory, as I only had time to catch those two. Lots of heat/alcohol/drug problems. Side note: Fleetwood Mac played a similar concert at what was then the Steiner Ranch later in the year.”

Woodstock at Steiner Ranch

Sunday Break II PosterThe success of The Sunday Break, the first rock festival held by Mayday Productions $532,000, encouraged another as quickly as possible. The plot of land at the 35 and 290, not far from Highland Mall, was no longer available; under development, for which the bulldozing of the land offered the great venue in the first place. Their attention turned to the beautiful and as of yet undeveloped Steiner Ranch.

The Band, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, the Steve Miller Band, England Dan & John Ford Coley, flown in by helicopter to accompany local artists, provided over 12 hours of live entertainment. 45,000 people made it up to the hill country, roughly the size of an average U2 concert (attendance for the most well known of the Woodstock events is claimed to be around 600,000). Unfortunately, 75,000 held tickets while promoters had hoped for 100,000.

Many will recall that access to Steiner Ranch a few dozen years ago was severely limited. Development on the Steiner Ranch community didn’t really begin until the 80′s, so, unlike at the previous location, traffic was unbearably congested.

“Cars inched toward the ranch with constant nudging by state troopers. Parking lot overflow stretched down the road for 15 miles, and the drivers lined the street on foot, armed with ice chests and blankets as they migrated toward the music in 95 degree-plus heat,” shares the UT Class of ’77 Cactus Yearbook. Once inside, Middle Earth again provided medical services; distributing and salt tablets to control the growing heat stroke epidemic.

Babies, Sunburn, and Underground Art

Jack Jackson's Comanche MoonMedical emergencies and frustrated fans weren’t alone in their notable experience. Summer Break II is well known as one of the creative outlets of one of America’s greatest cartoonists. Jaxon (Jack Jackson: May 15, 1941–June 8, 2006), widely considered the first underground comix artist (Underground comix are small or self-published comic books usually socially relevant or satirical in nature – perhaps the best known artist is Robert Crumb), was tapped to create the map of then Steiner Ranch and the Sunday Break II festival. Jack Jackson was born in Pandora, Texas and majored in accounting at the University of Texas.

Two babies were born on Steiner Ranch that day while 2,030 sun-burned festival goers were treated. I’m sure if you ask the great majority of those who were there, they’d remark at the exceptional experience and memorable music. “Relief from the roasting sun finally came,” remarks the Cactus Yearbook, “just in time for the appearance of Fleetwood Mac and the wind-up of the day-long festival.”

While an amazing event, the Yearbook’s use of the word relief is perhaps very apropos…

The biggest surprise of all came the next day when the concert’s promoter, Mayday Productions, claimed that they were the victims of the concert tragedy. Gate receipts showed a $700,000 shortage and Mayday’s president, Win Anderson, blamed the loss on a massive ticket fraud. Suddenly Austin’s “goodbye to summer” celebration turned into a major issue. Mayday was faced with four lawsuits, including one from angry ticket holders who were denied entrance due to traffic congestion. Unpaid Mayday employees also filed suit as did Steiner Ranch area residents who claimed their security had been threatened by the concert crowd. The court responded with a temporary restraining order against future concerts at Steiner Ranch.

Rick Danko and The Band at Steiner Ranch (taken by Watt Casey)My experience discovering this rich history of Steiner Ranch has been amazing and yet, empty. While the few sources of information were enjoyable, I feel like we’re missing so much.

For one, I can find very few photos from the day save a few (one of which is here to the left) taken by Watt Casey of the concert. How great would it be to see more of Steiner Ranch then? More, I’d love to see Jaxon’s map of the venue; while his comix are well known and revered, I can’t find his work on behalf of Sunday Break II.

Were you lucky enough to spend the day in Steiner Ranch on September 5th, 1976? I’d love to hear your story and share with the community your experience, any photos, and your memories. Feel free to share them below or get in touch with me here. As for music in Steiner Ranch, luckily, the restraining order was only temporary; we have a summer concert again to which to look forward! See you there.

Comments

  1. Steve Matthews says:

    Hello,
    I was at the concert that weekend and as I recall we arrived on Sat. afternoon the 4th. I was 22 years old at the time. One of my friends rented a large white van and we all pitched in to help pay for it. We threw a full sized mattress in the back and 9 of us jumped in to head to Austin. We stopped on the way to get some dry ice to keep the 9 cases of beer we had cold. I knew the guys that owned Southwest Carbonic here in Fort Worth which was a dry ice manufacturer at the time. They gave us all we wanted and we iced the beer down. We iced it so good it was all frozen solid by the time we got to Austin. As stated in the main article, the traffic was really bad but we were able to get in and park in a field with grass and scrub trees all around. Everyone was selling drugs and walking around talking. People had their car stereos blasting all different kinds of songs. It was really loud and the people and cars just kept coming. We managed to bed down but didn’t really get much sleep. I’m thinking there were some bands playing on Sat. night but I’m not sure.
    The next morning the headliners started playing and everyone was walking down to the concert area. They had tall 7 or 8 foot fences completely around the concert area and infield where everyone was sitting and gathering. The people at the gate made you dip some part of your body (usually a finger) in this purple permanent dye. It would NOT come off, to mark that you had a ticket and you could go in and out the gate at will. It was very hot and getting hotter by the hour. People were going down to the river that was fairly close by and swimming to cool off. There were lots of people at the river also. I remember seeing Chicago, Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac, and the Band once we went back from swimming.
    We decided to go back to our campsite at one point and when we got to our van, the last of our group had forgotten to put out our campfire. The fire had jumped to the grass and was burning everything around our van. Motorcycles, cars, all kinds of things. We quickly packed up and drove the van down to the concert site and parked outside the tall fence and continued to watch the concert from the top of the van. Some of the beer had thawed out by then so we were able to enjoy the cans that had not exploded from freezing.
    The concert ended and we couldn’t find several of the people that had come with us. We sat in line for hours to get back to the main road to head back to Fort Worth.
    The kid that was driving fell asleep and drove off the highway at one point but woke up in time to not crash the van. At that point I told him I would drive the rest of the way and for him to get in the back and go to sleep. We made it back to town about 4:30am and all were safe and sound. The people that we left in Austin actually hitched rides and beat us back to Fort Worth. I currently work at the same company he does and see him from time to time on the job. I still kid him about getting left 36 years later…LOL.
    What a weekend!!!

  2. Steve, you rock! Thanks for this

  3. Karen Laine says:

    Oh, my. What memories. I was 16 at the time, and actually attended BOTH of the Sunday Break concerts. I remember having to park what seemed a million miles away on 620. As my then-boyfriend and I walked down 620, a truck hauling a trailer of hay let us hop on the back and ride (very slowly) the rest of the way.

    Fortunately (or un), all I remember of the concert is the extreme heat, blankets, and a LOT of ‘herb- or chemically-altered’ people.

    Then again, not all that uncommon in the age of the Armadillo!!

  4. dana spinks says:

    You were asking about more information about Sunday Break II. My now husband and I along with 2 other friends jumped in my 71 Pontiac GT-37 and headed to the concert. We got a hotel nearby the night before the concert and set out to the concert, forgetting that you can’t buy beer until after 12 on Sunday, well, went on with what little beer and ice was in the cooler, found us a nice area under one of only 2 or 3 trees (small trees) in the natural ampitheater. We were able to buy ice and beer while there, I believe that ice was $3.00 a bag for just a couple of pounds but what were you going to do. The memory that comes to mind most when I think of that day was IT WAS HOT but then Steve Miller hit the stage with the opening strains of Fly Like an Eagle and one lone cloud covered the sun, the crowd jumpted to their feet yelling and grateful for a moments repreive. Hot or not, it was one of the best concerts I’ve had the opportunity to attend. Parking was a problem but anticipated and not unforeseen by concert goers like my old man and I. Thank you for the information you have posted, it brought back a flood of wonderful memories.

    Dana

    • Dana and Karen
      Thank you for your memories of the experience! I hate that we don’t have more photos with which to mark the appearance of Steiner Ranch so many years ago

      • My wife (girlfriend at the time) drove down (in my 1969 SS Camaro) the night before, even though our other friends were coming the next day. I was, and still am, a huge Chicago fan. We got down there and parked. People were walking around drinking, doing drugs, and it was crazy. We were not the partying types. They were sitting on my car and bouncing it, then people were burning fires, putting lighter fluid on them, walking around with torches. It was really dry. With the chaos going on, we got scared for our lives. I was really scared someone was going to do something to my girlfriend, or the place was going to go up in flames. We left and didn’t go back. Spent the day at Lake Travis. I hated that we missed the show. I still have the tickets!

      • Good times in the hot summer sun as we arrived Sat and hiked down to Lake Austin to tree jump and swim. Craziness Sat night as we all camped out to music playing and campfires burning. Sunday was hot as I recall drinking beer all day listening to The Band, Chicago, and Steve Miller, until I ended up walking into the medical tent to lay down. They had several plastic 32 GAL trash cans filled to top with water spaced among numerous cots and were passing out cups of water to everyone else overheated. They gave me 2 salt tablets and water then 30 minutes later I headed out into the crowd in time for Fleetwood Mac taking the stage. Between the salt tablets and seeing Stevie Nicks on stage in that black dress flowing back in the breeze I was right back on my feet dancing. Medical staff did a fantastic job that day as I had also heard about the baby being born. Check out the old Super 8mm footage I just posted on youtube of festival at link below or search “russbartley sunday break II”. Relive your own moments and pass it on to the other 45K that made into Steiner Ranch that Sunday in 1976!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lCMn_O_M6Y

  5. That was a great day…such a long time ago. My g/f at the time got so loaded,..me too. Wolfman Jack was MC and was really having a hell of a time. Framptons show rocked,and Santana was top flight. What a great day it was…such a long time ago.

  6. I attended both SUNDAY BREAKS and I live in San Antonio. Great concerts both of ‘em. It surprises me that no one else mentioned FIREFALL as it was the best performance by them that I ever saw. We drove up the night before and slept in our car in the field. Getting out of SB 2 was a night mare. I slept on the hood of my car until almost daybreak the next day to get out. Incredible! All the bands were really good at both shows. FRAMPTON and SANTANA were excellent at SB1. The BAND was rare form. You should have been there. Those were the great years in Austin. In 1976 I was 23 for SB1 but had turned 24 for SB2. The people of Austin are wonderful (I was born there) and it was a magical day at the Steiner Ranch. Great memories. GOD BLESS TEXAS !!

  7. LakeAustinRider says:

    Can you imagine how Steiner Ranch residents would react to a show like this happening nearby in 2012? I think that heads would explode!!!

  8. I have been trying to find info on this concert, I went with some of my friends from Fort Worth. We ended up on someone’s private land near Travis Lake, some where around hippy hollow. I had no ideal what hippy hollow was all about. I went with a bunch of my male friends I was the only female in the group, we were sitting around in a circle smoking our favorite herb, when a police officer came up and said we had to move because we were on private land, wow we were just happy he didn’t arrest us for the smoke, he just told us we had to move. Well we finally made it to the concert grounds of course the guys were drunk and walking around I was a little scared of all the craziness that was around me. They had stages set up all around with different small bands playing all night we had arrived two nights before I was in charged of the ice chests while the guys went walking around. I do remember alot of drugs being sold around they had like tents set up and selling was abundant what ever you wanted acid, weed, hash, beer, wow anything you wanted. The law knew what was going on but I think chose not to do anything pretty much out number just watched so things would not get out of hand. I myself jumped into some stranger’s car that was nearby locked the door to keep the naked guy from getting in he was harmless just flying way too high for me. I don’t know how my group ended up together in the morning after the wild night we had but there we were at the front of the line to get in. The gates opened and we all went running to the stage we were like 20 yards away from the stage, so awesome. I remember some band from Japan I believe OXO I believe was the band, I think they had like one or two hits. America was awesome, but Peter Frampton was amazing!!! One of the guys I went with was there especially there for Santana, the irony of it all was that he passed out just before they came on. I was 20 at the time young and growing up fast here in Austin. But I do have to say Santana was great and I will never forget what ended up a three day weekend of great music and meeting new friends!!!! That weekend I fell in love with Austin it was so magical!!!

  9. Went with a friend who met up with his brother who went to UT

    Got there maybe an hour into the show
    couldnt care less about any of the bands

    that was until Chicago was great and then The Mac made a believer out of me , at least for that night

    Mainly remember couldnt get out of “parking lot” until maybe 5 am the next day

    A great time overall

    To my good buddy John M if you are out there hope life went good for you

  10. Hi Paul – Just found this. I was part of the inner circle of Mayday Staff from the very beginning. Was at both Sunday Breaks. Head of just about everything in the first, coordinated security, medical, and promotional for the second. If you want to know more about the inner workings, email me.

  11. Fred Rogers says:

    Greetings
    I was in the Army back in the day and this was one of many shows I went to back in the 70′s.I was 19 at the
    time and I went with a army buddy and I remember the long walk we had to make to get to the festival grounds.
    It was a huge mob of people complaing about the walk the heat how heavy their coolers were,I was pretty excited
    as this was the first big concert I had every been too and there was so much going on, dope women,more dope
    and music! During the walk there was alot of rumors about who was going to be there and I worried about who we’d miss from the long walk.When we did get to the gates and into the grounds it did seem pretty wild with all the partying
    What I rember the most is Fleetwood Mac’s set and being camped out my the Medical tent.
    I have had the very vivid memory of a girl becoming very disstressded (unhinged) when her boyfriend/man seemed to
    take a turn for the worse ( did he die?) I remeber the amblance trying to get there,it was all very intence
    Sadly like alot of the 70′s I forgetting more than I remembering.

  12. Wow,

    I finally found info on this concert. Five of us packed into my friend Larry’s VW bug along with an ice chest of beer and balogna sandwiches to party down! It took us forever to get in and we ended up parking on the side of the road about 3 miles from the concert site. This was my first rock concert and my eyes were bugged out checking out everything that was going on. I remember buying a bag of pot for $10 and getting plastered. It was extremely hot, and everyone was shedding clothes and getting sunburned. I remember Chicago being pretty good, but the crowd got really pumped as Fleetwood Mac opened up with “Say you love me”. I was starting to enjoy myself, when someone asked if the guy next to me was dead. I looked down and my friend Larry had passed out cold. After a few moments of panic, we managed to get him on his feet and start the 3 mile trek back to the car. By the time we got there, Larry was sober enough to drive home. It was a wild experience I’ll remember all my life.

  13. Wow, can’t believe I found something on this concert. I had looked years ago and couldn’t find anything, but watching VH-1 yesterday, inspired me to look again. I went to both Sunday Break’s in Austin. The first with my oldest brother, we drove from San Angelo to Austin and had a blast getting withing 10 feet of the fence protecting the stage. Remember some of the bands and Wolfman Jack getting flashed by girls, and America asking the crowd if anyone was from San Angelo, we were like “WoW,” they know San Angelo, turns out 2 of them once lived there because of their Dad’s military background. After being up since before daylight, and standing most of the time in the heat and sun, we decided to leave, only to hear Peter Frampton playing from the outside of the fenced in concert.
    Again, I attended the 2nd Sunday Break, this time with another Brother and Cousin. Had a blast at that concert too. Traffic was hell, remember seeing cars abandoned on the side of the road leading to the concert, tons of people walking asking for a ride, offering money and drugs. Fleetwood Mac was great! I drove a pick-up, so it was full of people I didn’t know. To me, they’ll always be The Little Woodstocks of Texas.

  14. My little brother, a buddy from work and I headed down from Dallas for the concert and camping Friday afternoon of the Labor Day weekend. We were well provisioned with food and cold beer. Enough supplies to be able to share with the occasional freak who stumbled into our camp with propositions like, ” I’ll trade you some Oklahomie homegrown for a couple of slices of that bologna, man”.

    The concert was great. And hot. We ended up buying more beer at the show on Sunday. We came down with 9 cases of Coors bought at good old Skillern’s Drug before we left Dallas. The entrance to the event had us dip a finger in purple dye like we were voting in an Iraqi election. We remember that there was this one freak with a short cast on one leg and a crutch who ended up being a kind of running gag during the weekend. It was just his mouth that kept getting him in trouble. The gate folks had enough of his crap and dipped his arm up to the elbow in the dye.

    When Monday morning rolled around we had new friends from UT in Austin that we had agreed to take back to campus. The poor freak with the cast and purple arm went hop-running by, yelling for help, that they were going to kick his ass, followed by the dudes that looked like they had every intention of doing just that. I am sure that others remember this poor mouthy freak.

    A very relaxed weekend. We did not experience any of the traffic problems but we spent the whole weekend there in some pretty country. Thanks for that, Steiner family, for the hospitality. I was 19 then and at 55 now I apperciate it more.

    On the drive back to Dallas via the UT dorms, we dipped into the old Oklahomie homegrown not expecting much. After passing it around there developed in the car a silence of those too stoned to speak. Wow was that ever a surprise. A perfect end to a memeorable weekend.

  15. George Cortez says:

    My older brothers took me to Sunday Break II, from Dallas, I was 16 years old, I remember I got on trouble with them cause, they just wanted to see Santana, and leave after he played to beat traffic back home, Frampton was headliner,
    Well,, we got seperated I made my way to the front of the stage, or as close as I could get to the stage,
    Maan, It was HOT!! there I was, in an ocean of people, for hours looking up at the stage, I remember I was sunburn across my nose and forehead in the day’s following, I saw naked people, smashed a guy’s styrofoam ice chest, the roadies started throwing beer’s from the stage and I specifically remember this tall hippy next to me caught one, handed it to me and said , you look like you could use one of these,,, to this day I have NEVER tasted a beer as refreshing and satisfying,
    Then Santana took the stage, and that’s a whole different story, in brief, I’m the youngest of seven, up to this point my brothers had every Santana recording, so now, I have the ONLY, Santana Tribute Band in Dallas and in Texas for that matter,
    I remember staying and listening to Frampton from a distance, Hey, he had the number one album in the country, at the time
    After rambling around for what seen’d like forever, I found the car, needles to say I felt the wrath of my brothers all the way back to Dallas, It didn’t matter, I’v been to countless concerts since, I’m now 50 I remember that concert like it was yesterday.

  16. Monica Pena-Sleiman says:

    MY VERY FIRST CONCERT!

    I was 16, living in Houston & working @ McDonald’s, & a bunch of my co-workers suggested we go to this Sunday Break I concert in Austin! The only two bands that I knew were Santana & America ’cause I didn’t grow up in the States but overseas, so I was innocent & young! I don’t even remember how many of us packed into one of their big Oldsmobile cars & off we headed. Drove all night & got there Sat like 4 am. We got really close to the stage about 20 feet away & we could see everyone on stage clearly! I was amazed at the sea of people, the estimates back then were that there had been 150,000 people for Sunday Break I.
    I remember the lines for the J John’s & the row & rows of blue porta johns; I was so naive I didn’t even know what they were at first! LOL
    The most amazing thing was that there were naked people, topless & full nudity & people were throwing water into the crowd & people were smoking all around me & I didn’t know it was pot! I was just waiting for Santana to come on stage & America, obviously they were incredible but I was enthralled by Peter Frampton, (who!) & Gary Wright (who!), BUT ever since that Sunday I became a true follower!
    Even to this day I remember the wonderful music & the fabulous energy! Yeah, it was hot but somehow it didn’t matter & somehow the warm memories are all that remains!
    To this day each time I hear Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, & Santana I still see them in my minds eye on THAT STAGE!

  17. I was at both shows. What a great time. SBI was the better of the two. I think that Cheech & Chong was at one of them. At SBII we wnt to Armadillo World Headquarters on Saturday night then made our way to the ranch. Met up with some chicks and partied all night. Fleet wood Mac was great and so was the naked swimming in the lake on the ranch.

  18. Sunday Break II was my first weekend of college in San Antonio. I rode to Austin with some other kids from school on Friday. Somehow, a girl from NJ and I (from MO) got left there with $10. We stayed in an open dorm room in Dobie Mall for two nights and someone suggested we might find a ride back to San Antonio if we went to the concert on Sunday. So we went. HOT was the word of the day! Rationed water. Shade under trees. Hippies from Oklahoma. Great music!!!!!! Blisters on my bum from riding down into the ranch on the hood of an old car.

    Last week I came across my ticket stub! Many years ago I developed a role of film that I didn’t recognize. It’s from that concert. Someone asked me to hold it and I ended up with it. Happy to share if anyone is interested.

    Good Memories! As I send my last child off to college I requested he not do anything quite so adventurous or at least take more money with him! Lol!

Speak Your Mind

*

  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Subscribe
More in History (5 of 7 articles)
The Market at Steiner Ranch