History Of Festivals part 3
Mar-y-Sol: April 1-3 1972, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
In 1972 promoter Alex Cooley, who had two year previously produced the second Atlanta Pop Festival, came up with a novel idea. With local authorities, the cops and just about everyone else making it harder and harder to put festivals on, why not go somewhere where the man wasn't going to bum you out, like, dude. Somewhere where legal hassles would be minimal. Hey, how about Puerto Rico? Cool idea, yeah? Well, actually no.
The venue Veja Baja is on the north coast of the island on 420 acres of countryside righ by sandy beaches. Cooley rented it for the Mar-Y-Sol - (sea and sun) festival.
Special package deals were put on from major East Coast cities. But at $152 for a round trip from New York, it wasn't cheap for rock fans used to gatecrashing for free. Cooley expected 25-50,000 to make the effort and spend the money and in the final reckoning just 30,000 turned up.
The site was constructed by commune The Family in between bouts of being groovy and doubtless smoking the good stuff. It was a kind of paradise; sun, sea, surf and rock n roll.
Natually, things, as they tend to do, went wrong.
A week beforehand the local court slapped an injunction on the festival because of the possible sale and consumption of drugs. No shit Batman! Well they got that right. Some fans decided not to make the jounrey on hearing this news. Others just travelled anyway figuring hey, its a festival, things always go screwy.
It was as late as Thursday when the injunction was over-turned just as people were arriving for the Friday show.
Free buses were set to take people from the airport to the site, except none turned up. The bus people thinking the gig was called off, didn't show. Ooops. So fleets of cabs were dispatched to pick people up instead. This took a long time because it was a 3 hour journey so the Friday night music was delayed while people arrived.
It was hot and wells drilled for water began to run dry. Locals started selling water for up to a buck a glass. Bad vibes man.
Then the locals found that people were showering in an open area and there were like chicks man, in the nude dude, like wow, so there was some leering, jeering and whistling. relations between the rock n roll festivalers and the locals deteriorated.
No one was surprised when a some Puerto Ricans got wasted on drink and tore down a couple of American flags putting up their own flag instead. Fights broke out. Things were uncool.
A 16 year old coke dealer from a neighbouring island was murdered with a machette in the night presumably by local dealers. A couple of others drowned while swimming and a third was killed when he hit his head on a rock. The grim reaper, it seemed, also liked to rock.
Apparantly there was a marijuana shortage and so people got loaded on tranq's, barbs and psychedelics Pot was selling for $50 an ounce instead of the more usual 15-20. But more suffered from sunburn than bad drugs. Presumably, if more widely stoned, the vibe would have been much more mellow. It's hard to get involved in a fight when you're lying on your back wondering what the colour blue tastes like.
Music finally got going on Saturday afternoon and things chilled out a bit. Nitzinger, Brownsville Station and folkie Jonathan Edwards all did good sets but it was BB King and then the Allmans who really put some energy into proceedings. Despite the death of Duane they were still the kings of festival, playing for hours, right through till dawn.
Sunday opened with jazzy Dave Brubeck and the excellent Herbie Mann - check out his Notes From The Underground album on which Duane Allman plays. it's marvelous. Savoy Brown did their boogie and ELP did their neo-lcassical noodlings. At some point Mahavishnu Orchestra did a set. Alice Cooper played till the sun rose.
However, reports suggest that of the 30,000 there, many didn't see the music for fear of having tents and such ripped off and so hung around the camp area.
As Friday had been a write-off, the music continued into Monday with J. Geils Band, Cactus, Dr John, Bloodrock and The Faces amongst others. Several bands including Black Sabbath were booked to play but didn't perform. for a full list of the bands that did and didn't play go here
People began to drift away though as rumours of there no transporation to get back to the airport circulated. This was actually true. Bummer. Bad vibes pervaded. Get me off this island seemed to be the general feeling. But with no way of getting to the airport many started walking hoping to thumb a ride - rmeember when people did that witohut worrying they'd be picked up by a homicidal maniac?
And so a refugee line of hairy people trudged up the highway, some paying for rides from locals - $20 was the going rate. Everyone felt very bitter at this turn of events but it wasn't over yet.
The airpot was in chaos with planes over booked with other tourists returning to America. The Red Cross even turned up and tents were erected to accomodate all the people waiting to leave.
It took some 3 days to get a flight out. Cooley reckoned he'd lost $200,000. The Puerto Rican government wanted the promoters for tax evasion but didn't bother to try and extradite them.
It was the only festival to be held there. Everyone had had their fingers and everything else burned.
There's a double album on Atco of the event - details here expect to pay around $20(£10) for it. It spent 7 wqeeks on the Billboard chart peaking at 186. Best track? The Allman's 'Aint Wastin' Time No More' and Mahavishnu Orchestra's 'Noonward Race' i'm not sure if it got a Uk release. It's not in the Record Collector bible so I'm guessing it didn't.
Cactus released some tracks recorded live at the fest on 'Ot 'n' Sweaty. and in 2006 Greg Lake found a 16 track recording of ELP's performance which is on From The Beginning on disc 5. I think J. Geils and a couple of others also released their sets.
This web site has loads of pictures and more info about it all. Very good it is too.
Next week: back to where it all started; The Human Be-In and the Fantasy Faire and Magic Mountain Music Festival 1967. Far out, cosmic and solid maaaaan. Oh yes. Bring your chakras baby.
This Weeks Free Stuff: Genesis.
This week is a Genesis special.
DVDS: We've got 3 pairs of these to give away.
The Genesis Songbook
This is a cracking and comprehensive 100 minutes with loads of interveiws with everyone who has been in the band all put together with archive footage. Songs include The Musical Box, Supper's Ready, The Lamb Lies Down, Turn It On Again and loads more. I've got 3 to give away.
Genesis: Total Rock Review
This is a cheapo 'history of' with some old clips linked together by interviews with journalists and DJ's. However, if you're a Genesis fan you need this DVD for the live tracks - performed for a TV show around '73. They are absolutely remarkable. You get The Fountain Of Salmacis, Twilight, Musical Box, Return Of The Giant Hogwood.
Everyone is on top form but for me its Phil Collins who steals the show with an incredible performance on drums. And the music is incredible - a unique sounding hybrid of pastoral folk and progressive rock; so creative and wonderfully original. So feel free to ignore the documentary, go straight to the Live Tracks.
Genesis Live: Volume One: The Shorts & Volume Two: The Longs CDs
These 1993 live CDs do exactly what they say on the cover. You win both and I'll throw in a copy of Phil Collin's No Jacket Required as well because I feel a bit sorry for Phil really. One of the best drummers ever to come out of this country who went on to do a great job singing and fronting the band, who then has a massive solo career in parallel, played in brilliant jazz-rock band Brand X and yet somehow in his native lands is somehow a by-word for mediocrity. I just don't understand really. Ok, you don't have to like all his music but hey, he's achieved so much, he deserves our respect.
To win just email me firstname.lastname@example.org and put Genesis CDs and/or Genesis DVDs in the subject line.
Last weeks Cream and Yardbirds draws have been made and winners will be contacted. It was our most popular yet with other 1,100 entering! Sorry you can't all win!. Keep on trying. Remember, I give away free CDs and DVDs every single week so do come back every week to find out what's new.