Most important part of the Festival was the style of instrumental work used by the blues-rock groups. Individualists are emerging with imaginative creations. Their music is just as much for listening as dancing, and under many circumstances would be called jazz, not rock. For instance, when Al Kooper’s band got into the blues, and the Grateful Dead (Pigpen McKernan on Hammond) went off into 20-minute blues medley-variations, there was nothing aurally to indicate that this was part of a rock & roll or pop concert at all. It was experimental music based on the blues, and that’s jazz...
Another recent big-label San Francisco recording group, the Grateful Dead, had ideal program billing (midway Sunday night) but partially blew it by playing too long. The Dead are among the most musically intriguing of any rock groups, but they seem to be straying from the typical dance format more quickly than any of the others....
(by Phillip Elwood, from Billboard, July 8 1967, page 26)
Accessible on Googlebooks: http://books.google.com/books?id=wycEAAAAMBAJ
(in full below)
ANATOMY OF A LOVE FESTIVAL [EXCERPT]
. . . . The trouble with San Francisco is that it isn't quite urbane enough. When it has to deal with uptight New York or plastic Los Angeles it loses its vaunted cool. There is a story that takes place at a jam session in Sausalito. Dewey Martin of The Buffalo Springfield, one of the least commercial L.A. groups, gets up to sing, and a guy in the back can't resist yelling, "Los Angeles pseudo-hippie, Los Angeles pseudo hippie." L.A. musicians have mixed feelings about San Francisco; most of them admire the music but distrust the mystique. San Franciscans respond with brickbats. "What Brian Wilson is doing is fine but it has no balls," one Jefferson Airplane told Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice. "Everything is prefabricated like the rest of that town. Bring them into the Fillmore and it just wouldn't work."
So, as June 16 approached, Chet Helms, chief of The Family Dog, which runs the Avalon Ballroom, and Dan Rifkin, wild-haired manager of The Grateful Dead, the band that developed such an underground reputation (and was so obviously indifferent to potential wealth) it could afford to dicker with three or four companies until Warner Brothers finally guaranteed absolute product control in a recording contract, were feuding with Adler. 'Are you gonna let the people on the Fairgrounds, Lou? What do you mean, for a buck? Music should be for everyone, Lou, those prices are ridiculous. These bands are all rich, why do you have to pay expenses? And everything first class, Lou. Is that movie Pennebaker's shooting for ABC gonna be distributed in theaters? The Dead have a booking Friday night in San Francisco, Lou, we can't make it Friday. Where are all those kids gonna crash, Lou?'
Despite their tendency to overrate their own importance, the San Franciscans were right this time--the Angelenos needed them badly. "Be happy, be free; wear flowers, bring bells," the brochure read. In other words, act like hippies--and mingle with hippies. With the exception of Canned Heat, a blues band, and The Group With No Name, a throw-in, the L.A. groups were all hit-makers-- The Seeds, Love were not invited. The Doors were in New York. But some of the San Francisco groups had never even recorded. The whole setup was an implied bow to the "rock underground," which apparently only existed only up north. If you don't make it in L.A., you're just a flop.
But San Francisco did not appreciate the compliment. Dan Rifkin envisioned an enormous, secluded campground at Fort Ord--yes, Fort Ord, so the M.P.'s could protect them from the Highway Patrol--where all of the real groups would hold an anti-Festival, everyone streaming to the anti-Festival, where the real music was at. The Grateful Dead perform free much of the time, and so do many of the other groups in the Bay Area. Rifkin saw no reason why other good bands shouldn't do the same. . . .
[On Sunday night] the task of following The Who fell to The Grateful Dead. Originally scheduled for Friday, seen lurking in the wings until Buddy Miles broke things up Saturday afternoon, The Dead finally made their appearance in a sunburst of San Francisco warm. "You know what foldin' chairs are for, don't you?" asked Bob Weir, his dirty blond hair hanging down past his shoulder blades and over his face. "They're for foldin' up and dancin' on." As the group drifted into "Viola Lee Blues," the hangers-on in the wings started to dance, slowly gravitating toward the center of the stage, and some of the audience got up as well. Adler's compulsive streak was really beginning to show. He was mad. Before too long he helped the stagehands hustle the dancers off, and the ushers did the same in the aisles. There was no resistance per se, but everyone was annoyed. The Dead looked as if they might leave the stage themselves. Then Peter Tork came on.
Tork, the ineffectual Monkee, had surprised everyone by emceeing part of Friday night and drawing a good many teeny shrieks. . . . The Monkees have inferiority problems. Ever since their first album appeared with someone else playing the instruments, most of the people in rock have snickered at everything about them except their music. In San Francisco they are regarded as the height of L.A. plastic. "I was rapping with that guy backstage before," a member of one San Francisco entourage said, handing me a joint as Tork waited for the audience to quiet. "His head is really nowhere."
Tork's mission was to quash a small riot. All weekend there had been Beatle rumors--their equipment was backstage, they were holed up in a motel, they were mingling incognito ("disguised as hippies," Derek Taylor said). The Beatles are kings of the love crowd, and everyone wanted desperately to catch a glimpse of them. Now some kids were trying to get in backstage and hunt. Who better than a second-hand Beatle to stop them?
"People," Tork said, "this is me again. I hate to cut things down like this, but, uh, there's a crowd of kids--and this is to whom I'm talking mostly, to whom, are you ready for that?--and, um, these kids are like crowding around over the walls and trying to break down doors and everything thinking The Beatles are here..."
Phil Lesh could no longer resist. Lesh, The Dead's bass player, is twenty-nine, classically trained, a Bay Area native, and there, right there, stood Los Angeles, this square, manufactured teen idol, the mouthpiece of safe and sane Adlerism, everything Lesh had hated all his life.
"This is the last concert, why not let them in anyway?"
"...and, um, last concert, all right, except that they're trying to break things down, crawling over ceilings and walls and like, they think The Beatles are here and they're not, you, those of you, they can come in if they want."
"The Beatles aren't here, come in anyway," Lesh said.
There were cheers. Tork laughed nervously, mumbled, "Uh, yeah, there's great things happening anyway. "
"If The Beatles were here they'd probably want you to come."
"Yeah, except that, uh, just don't, you know, bring down ceilings and walls and everything, and, uh, carry on."
The cheering was for Lesh, and Tork knew it. As he limped off, crowds of non-ticket holders pressed through the rear gates and filled the empty field behind the stadium. The "Seat Power, We Love You" college kids did not try to stop them, and The Dead did the carrying on, much enlivened. By the end of the set Weir and Jerry Garcia were riffing back and forth in the best guitar-playing of the Festival.
It becomes clearer and clearer that the so-called psychedelic sound is moving toward jazz. San Francisco rock is basically Chicago and Texas blues plus electronic music, and Chicago blues is primitive jazz. Also, the structure of jazz meshes with the whole bias of the San Francisco scene toward "freedom." The problem is that rock is much easier to play than blues and blues is much easier to play than jazz. Anyone can pick up an electric guitar and sound a few chords, but it takes real musicianship, not to mention a special kind of creative talent, to improvise melody. There was some good blues guitar at the Festival--Bloomfield and his replacement in Butterfield's band, Elvin Bishop, were excellent. Dennis Gerrard of The Paupers and Jim Gurley of Big Brother played some good electronic stuff. John Weider of The Animals contributed a fine violin solo with "Paint it Black." And that was it. Garcia and Weir were arresting, no more, but that was enough to make them the standout improvisers of the Festival.
But their performance was quickly obscured by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. . . .
(by Robert Christgau, from Esquire, January 1968)
Transcript taken from Christgau's site:
It is a long article reviewing the whole Festival and well worth reading in full.
THE MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL POP FESTIVAL [EXCERPT]
Saturday night, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead commented, "There's a lot of heavy stuff going on." Whether he meant music or acid or emotion or everything, he was right. . . .
The Grateful Dead were beautiful. They did at top volume what Shankar had done softly. They played pure music, some of the best music of the concert. I have never heard anything in music that could be said to be qualitatively better than the performance of the Dead Sunday night. The strangest of the San Francisco groups, the Dead live together in a big house on Ashbury Street, and living together seems to have made them totally together musically. Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist, and owner of the bushiest head at the festival, was the best guitarist of the whole show. The Dead's songs lasted twenty minutes and more, each a masterpiece of five-man improvisation. Beside Garcia there is Phil Lesh on bass, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan (who seldom talks) on organ. Each man's part was isolated, yet the sound was solid as a rock. It is impossible to remember what it was like. I wrote down at the time: "accumulated sound like wild honey on a moving plate in gobs...three guitars together, music, music, pure, high and fancy...in it all a meditation by Jerry on a melancholy theme...the total in all parts...loud quiets as they go on and on and on...sounds get there then hold while new ones float up, Jerry to Pig Pen, then to drums, then to Lesh, talking, playing, laughing, exulting."
That sounds crazy now, but that's how it seemed. The Dead built a driving, unshakable rhythm that acted not just as rhythm, but as a wall of noise on which the solos were etched. The solos were barely perceptible in the din, yet they were there like fine scrolls on granite. At moments Garcia and Weir played like one instrument, rocking toward each other. Garcia could do anything: one moment he hunched over, totally intent on his strings, and then he would pull away and prance with his fat ungainly body, then play directly to some face he picked out in the crowd straining up to the stage. Phil Lesh called to the audience as they began, "Anybody who wants to dance, dance. You're sitting on folding chairs, and folding chairs are for folding up and dancing on." But the crowds were restrained by ushers, and those who danced on stage were stopped by nervous stagehands. It was one of the few times that the loose reins of the festival were tightened. Was it necessary? Who knows? But without dancing, the Dead didn't know how well they had done. Lesh was dripping with sweat and nervous as he came off, but each word of praise from onlookers opened him up: "Man, it was impossible to know how we were doing without seeing people moving. We feed on that, we need it, but, oh, man, we did our thing, we did our thing."
They certainly did. The Dead on Sunday night were the definition of virtuoso performance. Could anybody come on after the Dead? Could anyone or anything top them? Yes, one man: Jimi Hendrix, introduced by Brian Jones as "the most exciting guitar player I've ever heard." . . .
(by Michael Lydon, written June 1967 & unpublished; excerpted from the 2003 book Flashbacks)
It's worth seeking out the book for his full description of the Monterey festival.
Since Philip Elwood's Billboard article is only available in a google scan, I'll also transcribe the full article here. It's an interesting contrast with Christgau's more cynical take (though neither of them liked Hendrix!) -
MONTEREY, Calif. - Last act on the Monterey International Pop Festival (June 16-18) was the Mamas and the Papas, and in Mama Cass' introduction of "California Dreamin'" she probably captured the spirit of the whole event: "the weekend is like a dream come true," she said. And the whistles and cheers of 7,500 fans emphasized their concurrence.
It was 12:30 a.m. Monday; the fading minutes of nearly 22 hours of stage performance spread over an exhausting three-night, two-afternoon schedule. Over 30,000 seats had been sold for the Monterey weekend and another 30,000 young people (by police estimates) had taken advantage of the Festival's extra-arena events and strolled under the oaks, through the booths and displays and gotten out to the Monterey Peninsula College athletic field where, most of the nights until dawn, various rock bands performed for the fog-chilled kids in their bed rolls and sleeping bags.
Significantly, it was not the performances on stage which made the greatest impression on most of the veteran observers of the concert and pop music scene: it was the festival concept itself, and the total capturing of the very best in today's younger generation and those willing to accept its philosophies as an alternative to extinction.
It was this spirit which made the Monterey Pop Festival a success and because of this feeling of gentleness, restraint and love, the audience behavior inside the crowded arena (and their enthusiasm) were strikingly significant.
When standing ovations occurred they had been earned; none of the automatic huzzahs from beered-up and demonstrative egocentrics.
More than 30 acts performed on stage, including an exquisite three-hour presentation by Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, who had all Sunday afternoon to himself.
It matters not what many people think about Indian palace music as part of a pop music program: what does matter is that over 5,000 young people sat in awe and spent those three hours contemplating the artistic contribution of Shankar.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, from Britain, making its American debut (altho Hendrix is from Seattle) proved to be more experience than music, pop or otherwise. Accompanied by overmodulated electronic feedback squeals and bombastic drumming, the Hendrix performance is quite a crowd rouser but its sensationalism is not music, and unlike Chuck Berry (who was doing some of this stuff 15 years ago), when Hendrix sings he has trouble with phrasing, and his modal-turned-chicken choke handling of the guitar doesn't indicate a strong talent, either.
The only other sensational performance at Monterey came from the Who, an excellent quartet with an out-of-sight drummer in Keith Moon. Their lyrics are fascinating, and clear; they ran through a noisy set (including a roaring "Summertime Blues") and ended with a guitar-smashing sequence of their own, quite similar to the Yardbirds' bit in "Blow Up."
The strongest performance by any of the relatively unheralded groups was that of singer Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, a San Francisco hard-rock blues group. She squeals, and groans, rocks and moans...and utterly tore Monterey apart. She was the queen of the Festival.
Saturday afternoon was devoted to various blues and hard-rock bands. Other than Big Brother, et al., Mike Bloomfield's new Electric Flag, Paul Butterfield's band and the Steve Miller Blues Band were the strongest, with Country Joe and the Fish (one of the few local groups to have kept an informal sense of humor in their presentations) and the Quicksilver Messenger Service also (at least occasionally) driving their stuff home.
Eric Burdon and the new Animals played on the opening Friday night show.
Most important part of the Festival was the style of instrumental work used by the blues-rock groups. Individualists are emerging with imaginative creations. Their music is just as much for listening as dancing, and under many circumstances would be called jazz, not rock. For instance, when Al Kooper’s band got into the blues, and the Grateful Dead (Pigpen McKernan on Hammond) went off into 20-minute blues medley-variations, there was nothing aurally to indicate that this was part of a rock & roll or pop concert at all. It was experimental music based on the blues, and that’s jazz.
The Blues Project has long worked in that area, using amplified flute and a jazz line on many tunes, and they were interesting in their short Monterey appearance.
On the other hand, when the Jefferson Airplane brought down the house on Saturday night, it was because of their creative work within the field of rock. The Airplane were the most finished and consistent group that played during the whole Festival.
Simon and Garfunkel ended the first evening's show with a delicate and immaculate set: "At the Zoo," a beautiful "Emily" (by Art Garfunkel), "Sounds of Silence," a few others, and then a 16th century Benedictus, done a cappella, and finally a sensitive "Punky's Dilemma."
For absolute contrast, Otis Redding ended the next night's show, well after 1 a.m. with a few minutes of his classic stuff. His appearance had been delayed by the long show, in which the least effective group of the whole Festival (Hugh Masekela) played the weekend's longest set (55 minutes).
But when Redding came on, it took him exactly four beats in two seconds to get 7,500 voices screaming and chanting with him. Booker T and the MG's supplied strong accompaniment.
Unfortunately Redding was the only representative of the Negro blues tradition and the only R&B entertainer in the Festival.
True, Lou Rawls put on a superb demonstration of his road show technique during the first evening's concert, but Rawls isn't R&B. Significantly, however, Rawls was the only performer to include what many Americans would call "popular music"; i.e., "Shadow of Your Smile," "Autumn Leaves," and his now dully stylized medley based on "It Was a Very Good Year."
Balancing the slick Rawls performance was that of Johnny Rivers, who presented virtually a vocal history of the earlier days of rock, from rockabilly through plain folk. Rivers did a fine job, but the Festival and crowd were too immediately hip, too sophisticated, to give him much response.
Because of this predominantly hard-blues-rock feeling in the crowd, some performers which would normally do quite well didn't seem in the right place.
The Association, Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield, and even the Mamas and Papas were, if anything, too popular in style for this Festival. And the Byrds, though they played well, felt it necessary for David Crosby to deliver a sophomoric political commentary prior to their playing of "He Was a Friend of Mine."
The Byrds were not nearly as close-knit as the Buffalo Springfield, who roamed along through a fine tight set, including "Pretty Baby Why" and "Bluebird."
The Grape was unstrung, it seemed: big smiles, lots of stage-hip, but nothing in the way of powerful and imaginative performance to compare with many of their San Francisco colleagues.
Another recent big-label San Francisco recording group, the Grateful Dead, had ideal program billing (midway Sunday night) but partially blew it by playing too long. The Dead are among the most musically intriguing of any rock groups, but they seem to be straying from the typical dance format more quickly than any of the others.
The performances of the Paupers, Canned Heat, the British singer Beverly, and Laura Nyro, didn't measure up, for one reason or another, and Hugh Masekela was a disappointment.
The Festival could have been better handled, but in retrospect, it seems irrelevant. The important thing is that a "warm, groovy and beautiful festival" (as Ralph Gleason had it in The San Francisco Chronicle) was held with all kinds of exciting stage incidents and no kinds of problems elsewhere. The San Francisco Examiner said of the Festival, "An unqualified success, speaking well not only of the musicians but of the beautifully behaved and attentive audience."
Co-directors John Phillips and Lou Adler and their fleet of aides and assistants somehow got it all done.
* * * *
Elwood had written a shorter review for the San Francisco Examiner the day after the festival, here transcribed in full:
DREAM CAME TRUE IN MONTEREY
Big Mama Cass summed up the Monterey International Pop Festival as she introduced the Mamas and Papas hit "California Dreamin'" at 12:30 this morning: "This whole weekend is like a dream come true," she said.
Monterey Police Chief Frank Marinello was even more ecstatic. "I'm beginning to like these hippies; when I go up to that Haight and Ashbury I'm going to see a lot of friends," he commented.
Marinello had sent 40 special officers home early on Saturday, and another 40 yesterday afternoon. There was no need for them, although the county fairgrounds often held 40,000 people, far more than on any previous event in history.
Because the festival feeling took hold of everyone, activities on stage and off passed quickly and eventfully. There were few weak performances, and no bad scenes off stage.
Emotional electronic explosions were plentiful after the relatively traditional presentations on Friday night. Most of the bands Saturday afternoon and evening were hard driving blues-rock groups...in fact, the festival became rock, not pop.
The kindest and most gentle, yet highly personal and emotional expressions were those of Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar. A nearly full arena was lost in thought while a music which pre-dates Columbus floated through the foggy air. Shankar asked that there be no smoking and there was none; no shutters clicking during his long solo, and there were none.
Shankar is a master teacher. His music itself is phonetic and his explanations are pertinent and respectfully presented.
There was no need, however, for most of the other performers to explain their work or request silence. The hard driving blues beat and monumental electronic sounds speak for themselves and, we must admit, also represent the culture from which they sprang.
For instance, Jimi Hendrix, decked out in a gold pleated shirt, fuchsia colored feather-ruff, flame red pants, and a quilted white tailcoat writhed and screamed through a few numbers and wound up by setting fire to his guitar after a sexually sensational sequence of dubious dancing.
Hendrix is an exciting performer (as Rolling Stone Brian Jones said in [his] introduction) but otherwise is only a poorly updated Chuck Berry, a guitar-burner from 'way back.
The Who, a most impressive British group, has an out-of-sight drummer in Keith Moon. Their lyrics are quite imaginary [sic] and they have a hard Beatles-Stones instrumental sound. They also ended by breaking up a guitar: by smashing it to bits on mikes, drums, and amplifiers (like the scene in "Blowup").
Although all the jazz-blues-rock bands (like Miller, Quicksilver, etc.) have something to say and are working things out, the two most impressive and solid groups I heard all weekend were the Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield.
The Saturday demonstration by the Airplane was musically and visually remarkable; in the nine months since they played the Monterey Jazz Festival they have developed the Balin-Slick vocal blend, instrumental ingenuity, and stage movements which are immediately captivating.
And the Head Lights visual show behind them at Monterey was even superior to the otherwise consistently brilliant display on all three nights.
The Buffalo Springfield has a classy variety of arrangements, outstanding vocal balance and depth, and play in a notably musical manner.
Other outstanding performances came from Mike Bloomfield (Saturday afternoon), old reliable Otis Redding (after 1 a.m. Sunday), and the real queen of the Festival, Janice Joplin, with Big Brother and the Holding Company. In an encore performance last night, Miss Joplin repeated her triumph of Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately the long Saturday show included 50 minutes of Hugh Masakela's nothing music by a jazz group (including trombonist Wayne Henderson and conga drummer Big Black) whom Masakela uses to support his awful vocal and tasteless trumpet.
The time wasted on Masakela could have given us more than a few minutes of Redding. As it was, though, Otis came out swinging and had the crowd cheering within five seconds. We, not he, were exhausted as the lights came on ending the five hour show.
The Byrds, after sophomoric political comments were out of the way, went into a good set which improved as it progressed.
The Grateful Dead had some of their fine experimental sounds going, and wonderfully rolling blues beat, but they went too long last night. Jerry Garcia seemed to me the best guitarist on stage all weekend.
(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 19 June 1967)
* * * *
Here is another article from the San Francisco paper Mojo Navigator R&R News, August 1967:
MONTEREY: A SPLENDID TIME FOR ALL
It’s too bad this article couldn’t have come out, for that matter, been written, about three weeks ago – because if you don’t put it down right away and read about it right away, you lose a lot of the feeling and spontaneity of the thing. Anyway, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about it and how great it was, which is really true. It was like for two days you were in this surrounding of music and color and being happy and people in your own scene. . . . And like nothing else in the world existed for awhile. It was really nice to forget everything and just hear all this music, look at all these things, and just dig it – a new world to live in for a couple of days. You could walk around the fairgrounds and see people like Paul Simon, looking so conservative and little, like a graduate student at some eastern college – and I can just imagine all these beautiful thoughts curlycuing out of his head – he looked happy. And Brian Jones, who looked just exquisite with a long, flowing, flowered cloak topped with a huge ermine collar – like Mae West in drag, he too looked happy. Oh, and Skip Spence of the Moby Grape looked happiest of all, in fact he was so happy that he was able to talk to me with his eyes closed and somehow still know who he was talking to.
Okay, and now to the music: I missed Friday night’s show in favor of seeing The Who at Fillmore, so I can’t say much about the opening program except that from what I heard, it wasn’t really that tough. When I got there Saturday afternoon, Frank Cook of Canned Heat was down on his knees on stage, rolling over, sloshing about, and yelling out, in his best pseudo-spade preaching technique, Bobby Marchan’s “There Is Something On Your Mind”; it seemed pretty shitty but the longer they were on the more I began to think that maybe they were into it to a degree that was much deeper than the average White Blues Group – I don’t know – but when their other singer did Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights”, it really came off.
Big Brother came on and Janis Joplin came off – very well in fact. The group itself really isn’t that good, as many people think – they still don’t know much at all about arranging a number – as their records show, nor do they seem to know much about changes other than variations on basic blues riffs – repetition seems to be one of their mainstays. And Jim Gurley seems to be almost wasting his great lead ability in favor of functioning as a competent rhythm guitarist.
Of the other San Francisco groups who played that afternoon, I think Steve Miller fared the best, although I still don’t think that much of them – there is more to music than being able to play the blues at three times their normal speed. Country Joe and the Fish were kind of a disappointment, although I liked their LP quite a bit, they just didn’t seem to come off here – I don’t know, maybe it was a bad day for them or something. And the Quicksilver – I really, and I’m sure everybody else does too, wish they would come up with some new material – I mean, they try but there just doesn’t seem to be much there, and the same songs over and over and over. At Monterey they really seemed kind of second-rate, just a cut below everybody else.
Both Butterfield and Bloomfield have now added two horns to their groups, trumpet and sax, and the added fullness worked pretty well for both, although I don’t think their parts (the horns) were worked in smoothly enough or to their full advantage in the context of the groups’ sound – in other words they seemed tacked on just for a bigger sound. Butterfield did a beautiful slow blues, that he prefaced by saying “This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard”, a Lowell Fulsom number called “Tollin’ Bells” that was really a gas: a death march-like thing that Elvin Bishop, who is now playing lead, would accentuate by striking a note to indicate the “tollin’ bells”, very moving. And it was really a gas when Butterfield introduced his new bass player: “Buggsey…(Something) from Omaha, Nebraska” (and that really sounded funny), and this little guy comes out, and in a high, falsetto blues voice starts wailing Chuck Berry’s “Wee, Wee Hours”, it broke everybody up – really great.
Bloomfield’s new group, the Electric Flag (at least at the time of the festival that was their name), as everybody knows by now, was one of the great successes of the festival. Fronting some of the best musicians in the business – Harvey Brooks on bass (he played in Dylan’s road band, I think); Barry Goldberg on organ; Nick Gravenitis on congas and vocals; the incredible Buddy Miles on drums and lead vocals; somebody (I think) whose name escapes me, on rhythm; and Bloomfield himself on lead, they just swung like hell – incredibly hard, heavy and full. And it was beautiful to see Mike Bloomfield’s face after they finished their set (their debut) – so happy and excited at the tremendous reception they received, a standing ovation and an encore.
Moby Grape opened up Saturday night’s show, and although looking like they come on very tight and professional, I think their music, basically and actually, is very thin – there’s just not that much there at all; and Skip Spence’s bit of jumping around a lot and looking really excited and turned on and trying to get this over to the audience, wears thin about the second or third time you’ve seen it.
The worst and only real drag of the festival (although Laura Nyro was too but hers was a shorter set) was Hugh Masakela, and man, he was really bad. But even worse than his music, which was a kind of second-rate pseudo-jazz (Ramsey Lewis with more instruments) was the fact that he was allowed to play for an incredible fifty-five minutes – horrible! I’ve no desire to draw a line between rock and jazz, but what was he doing up there anyway? Was it because he’s a friend of the Byrds or something? Whatever it was, it was terrible; and his singing – “Society’s Child” and “Here, There and Everywhere” – was atrocious.
The Byrds I have heard much better before, and Dave Crosby’s comments and little sermons about acid, and the fact that Paul McCartney now takes it, and the Kennedy assassination, came off sounding very sophomoric; and the STP sticker on his guitar didn’t make it either.
Laura Nyro came on with all the drama and flair that I suppose is well known to audiences at the Las Vegas supper club French extravaganza productions, the only trouble being that Monterey is not the Sands Hotel, and a pop festival isn’t the “Lido de Paris”, fortunately. With two spade chicks flanking her and singing some kind of fake spiritual: “Eli’s Comin’, woe, woe…” she looked, as Richard Goldstein in the Village Voice put it, “…like the third act of Medea”, a real bomb. . . .
Because I’ve been kind of down on their music for such a long time, I’ve just never really liked it that much, I don’t feel I could give much of a review to the Airplane, although I did like Jack Cassady’s bass work and Grace’s singing; overall I guess they came off pretty well.
Booker T. and the MG’s were really a gas, just playing their funky R&B instrumentals – drums, organ, lead and bass – very tight and down-home swinging. Otis Redding closed Saturday night’s show (Booker T. and the boys stayed to back him, plus the Mar-keys – two horn men), and Otis, bouncing out on stage, in about five seconds had the whole audience completely with him – he’s got some kind of incredible, dynamic magnetism that just reaches out and grabs you: dipping down, screaming, bouncing and trotting all over the stage, he socks it right to ya! So happy and turned on to what he’s doing – it’s really a gas to watch him.
The whole of Saturday afternoon was devoted to Ravi Shankar: incense, very soft, very gentle, explaining what he was doing, how his instrument worked, clapping and turning his hands in time to Alla Rakha on tabla, smiling serenely, nodding his head, concentrating, the soloing, the brilliant interwoven exchanges in a duet between the two, the mild and then very heavy and complex ragas, his exchanges of love and friendship with the audience – a brilliant, demanding, fascinating exhibition of virtuosity, marred only by the noise of jets overhead and the insistent clicking of the photographers’ cameras. Although I wonder if he would have been invited if George Harrison was not his pupil.
Sunday night’s show opened with the Blues Project, who didn’t impress me much with their jazz-rock orientation or their new organist, who seemed very affected, like he was trying to tell the audience that at last the group had a real soul brother.
The Buffalo Springfield came off very well – this was the first time I had seen them and they did some very nice, melodic ballads and also swung pretty well on their up-tempo numbers.
The Dead were really a gas – doing about four or five long numbers, the major part of each being a fantastically tight instrumental excursion with each guy just using his axe to cut in and out of and around and through what the other guys were doing – like watching the insides of a watch working.
With Pete Townshend looking like a twisted Merlin the Magician armed with a rubber guitar, the Who proceeded to attack a repertoire which included their current hit, “Happy Jack”; their album’s mini-opera, “A Quick One While He’s Away”; their new record, “Pictures of Lily”; and that old favorite, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”; which they completely demolished – like wringing out a wet towel, they extracted everything possible from the song and it lay there, wasted, when they had done with it. They closed, literally, as well as figuratively, with “My Generation” – Roger Daltrey stammering out the words, Keith Moon kicking away his double drum set, Pete setting off smoke bombs and smashing his guitar, while off to the side, John Entwhistle managed to keep some semblance of a beat going with his bass. Although they didn’t seem quite as turned on as they were at Fillmore and the audience didn’t seem to appreciate them as much, they were brilliant, which seems to be the rule for them. Somebody should have told the stage crew what to expect, though, because one of the technicians almost lost his head while trying to rescue a microphone in the vicinity of Pete Townshend, who was busy raising his guitar and hammering it into the stage.
Heard to remark backstage during the Who’s devastating finale: “What can I do for an encore to that?” Jimi Hendrix showed everybody that he could come up with something. In between playing some great guitar and some really heavy numbers, he also screwed his guitar, coming on it with lighter fluid, and set it afire, offering it, as he put it, as “a sacrifice of love…” for the audience of his first appearance back home in America. Oh, come on Jimi, that’s a big shuck, and you know it as well as I do – if there was any sacrifice it was offered for the sake of showmanship. It was kind of ironic and puzzling to see how excited the audience got over the violence and destruction of Hendrix and the Who - with the Who I can see it, because their music develops into this somewhat naturally, but with Hendrix the whole things comes off as just a jive he's putting on the audience, and a lot of people seemed to get really turned on by the routine.
In spite of all their slick professionalism, the Mamas and Papas still managed to come off pretty well, closing the festival Sunday night. They gave you that kind of feeling: gee, wasn't it a groovy thing... They are one of the few groups that could get away with that bullshit showbiz routine - you know: the little intros to each number, the rapping about each other between songs, and the obvious jokes about Cass' weight and her baby (is that was 'professionalism' is?). But like I've said before, with them it wasn't that offensive.
So...it was a huge success all around, including a great light show by Head Lights - the first one I've really dug - and a more than adequate sound system. And the people in charge of the whole thing. . . . [praise for the organizers]
At Sunday night's final press conference when Derek Taylor asked for one final question, an 'upper,' some chick really came through, just saying it all: "Why do we have to wait a whole year for another Festival?" Clap, clap.
(by Mike Daly, from the Mojo Navigator R&R News, vol.2 no.2, August 1967)
(by Mike Daly, from the Mojo Navigator R&R News, vol.2 no.2, August 1967)