Saturday, July 26, 2008

History Of Festivals Part 4: Free Gillan, Purps and Dire Straits

History Of Festivals Part 4:

The Human Be-In Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, January 14th 1967

Festivals had been held for many years in the jazz world but the rock festival as we would come to know it had its seeds in the Trips Festivals put on by Fillmore impresario Bill Graham in January 1966 at the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco. The house band for these events was the Grateful Dead and they were billed as an attempt to achieve the psychedelic experience without drugs, though acid, still legal at the time was available.

Big Brother And The holding Company played along with other local bands and the events were a big success. No surprise there; great bands trippy light shows and plenty of acid from Owsley’s lab is a recipe for success.

That spring of 1966, various writers, poets, musicians and the San Francisco Mime Troupe (such things always attract a mime troupe and jugglers too for some reason – why is juggling part of the alternative lifestyle?) formed the Artists’ Liberation Front. One of many things they did was to produce the Free Faire an outdoor, free version of the Trips Festivals with rock bands and poets all getting their groove on.

The most important of these was The Human Be-In( even hippies love a pun) Labeled as A Gathering of the Tribes it attracted 20,000 people from the sprawling hippy, alternative, drop-put biker, drug and free love community. The Dead played along with Quicksilver Messenger Service, Airplane and even Dizzy Gillespie. Allen Ginsburg the poet got up and chanted some hindu mantras – as you do – all in an attempt to usher in a new era and spirit.

Timothy Leary got up and asked the crowd to ‘turn on to the scene, tune in to what is happening and drop out of high school, college, grad school, junior executive, senior executive and follow me the hard way.’ Who could resist?

Local communal group The Diggers gave away fruit and vegetable stew, the air was filled with the smell of incense and dope and the sound of those little tinkling bells.
It sounds like a nice afternoon in the park really doesn’t it. It’s effect was to put on national display the burgeoning hippy scene (ooh groovy yeah baby) and as such as an inspiration to people not just in the rest of America but all across the western world. The counter-culture was cool and people wanted to be part of it. It’s easy to see why people thought it was the dawn of a new era and as na├»ve as it may have proved to be, we’ve never need an optimistic vision more than we do now, so there’s much inspiration to be taken from this little piece of rock n roll history.

Gary Duncan, guitarist, Quicksilver Messenger Service, ''By the time we got there, there were, like, 20,000 people. Word got out, and all the news crews arrived, and it became a social movement.''

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist, the Doors ''We were in San Francisco to play our first gig at the legendary Fillmore. The four of us all looked at each other and said, We're gonna change the world! Of course, we didn't, but that's another story.''

Sam Andrew, guitarist, Big Brother and the Holding Company, ''I've never been able to decide if we were there or not. I thought for years that we were in NYC having meetings. But every third gig someone will come up and say, 'I saw you at the Human Be-In!'''

Pamela Des Barres, self-proclaimed groupie and author, I'm With the Band,'' I went to that, and soon [the love-ins] started in Los Angeles. It was the most free-floating, exquisite experience every time. My girlfriends and I would make cupcakes and put flowers in everybody's hair. The communes were spreading, everybody living together — this was brand-new stuff!''

And lets face it, nothing says revolution like cup-cakes does it?

It was clear that such gatherings had a future in popular (counter) culture.

The Fantasy Faire And Magic Mountain Festival June 10&11 1967. Mount Tamalpais, Marin Count, California.

This is the first authentic rock festival held 6 months after the Be-In. In historical terms its overshadowed by the moterey Pop Festival which happened a week but it was nonetheless an historic event held on top of mount Tamalpais just over the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was produced and sponsored by Tom Rounds and his partner Ed Mitchell. Rounds was program director at KRFC, a Bay Area radio station.
It was a community project profits from which would do to the Economic Opportunity Council which operated in the black ghetto area of Hunter’s Point.
It was two events at once – an arts and craftfaire for local arty types and artisans. The music happened in an adjoining amphitheatre.
These are the bands that played

Saturday, June 10
The Fifth Dimension
Dionne Warwick
Canned Heat
Jim Kweskin Jug Band
Moby Grape
13th Floor Elevators
Spanky and Our Gang
Roger Collins
Blackburn & Snow
The Sparrow
Every Mother's Son
Kaleidoscope (US band)
The Chocolate Watchband
The Mojo Men
The Merry-Go-Round
The Doors

Sunday, June 11
Jefferson Airplane
The Byrds
P.F. Sloan
The Seeds
The Grass Roots
The Loading Zone
Tim Buckley
Every Mother's Son
Hugh Masekela
Steve Miller Blues Band
Country Joe & the Fish
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
The Sons of Champlin
The Lamp of Childhood
The Mystery Trend
Penny Nichols
The Merry-Go-Round
New Salvation Army Band

It’s thought this was actually the Doors first big show as Light My Fire was burning up the charts. And it looks like an incredible bill on both days. Doesn’t it? And all for just $2.00!!

There was an attempt to appeal to local rock fans and top 40 pop-pickers as well. By all accounts it was a groovy day out in the sun for everyone. It passed off peacefully and all litter was picked up and binned at the end of it all, leaving the lovely Mount Tamalpais as they found it. This was a trend sadly not followed in the next years.

Both these events set the precedents for what could be achieved which Monterey, a week later set into legend.

Next week we move on to look at some of the early UK festivals where it inevtiably rained a lot.

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