Friday, June 16, 2017

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today...

My oh my. How time flies.

Monterey International Pop Festival Poster
June 16, 17,18, 1967
I actually don't remember how we got there or exactly when we left the Central Valley for the Coast, but I do remember arriving in Monterey in the late afternoon and checking into a motel (the name of which I don't recall) a short distance from the fairgrounds where the festival would be held. There were four of us, I think: myself and soon-to-be Ms. Ché and Rick and Jackie. That's my memory, but Rick and Jackie may have had their own room. Rick (changed the spelling to Ric ) became one of the more notorious members of the Cockettes (performing as ?? Maxine??) in San Francisco. I don't know what happened with Jackie.

We had tickets for some of the performances, either afternoon or evening. Friday was evening only; Saturday and Sunday were afternoon and evening shows.

The line up was stunning.

Faulty though my memory has become, I think we had tickets for Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday evening, but we didn't go to the Saturday afternoon show, or possibly we didn't have tickets for Saturday afternoon but listened to it outside the venue.

I recall we spent quite a lot of time on the fairgrounds in the daytime enjoying the people and the booths, and the smells of incense and patchouli and marijuana, and it was probably Saturday afternoon because I don't remember seeing Country Joe and the Fish, Canned Heat, Steve Miller, Quicksilver and the other performers (including Janis and Big Brother) that afternoon. I remember hearing them, though.

Of course when the movie came out, memories got even more confused. Because I remember the movie performance of Big Brother in the afternoon, but my memory of seeing them perform was in the evening. Janis and a whole lot more.

We had box seats for some shows, seats on the flat arena floor for others. The venue was the Monterey County Fairgrounds rodeo arena, also used for the Monterey Jazz Festival and other events throughout the year.

I remember it was cold outside most of the time, and foggy much of the time. Drippy. There wasn't anywhere to escape the wet. So you just went with it.

About 25,000 attended over the three days of the festival. It was a lot of people but it wasn't too many, not even close to too many. We never felt too crowded, and everybody was mellow including the sheriff's deputies manning the fairgrounds and directing traffic and so on. In fact, they were so mellow we wondered if they were enjoying certain substances with much of the crowd.

I don't remember acid, though Rick may have had some. Marijuana, however, was pervasive, and it may have been there that I first indulged. I'm not sure. Marijuana has never agreed with me -- raging headaches and puts me to sleep -- so I rarely indulged back then, and haven't at all for decades.

Rick was tripping most of the time so I imagine he had dropped acid, but I didn't know him well, so I couldn't tell for sure, and we rarely saw him during performances. I think he was backstage for a while, but he was with us during Jimmy Hendrix and The Who. Jackie was with us pretty much the whole time, but I didn't know her well either. They were friends of Ms Ché's but I'm not sure how they and she had hooked up.

Ms. Ché had long been involved with teen bands in the Valley, so I assume that's how they and she got together.

At the time, I looked something like one of the members of a British duo, tall, thin, longish reddish hair, glasses, vaguely hippie-ish garb, mostly castoffs and thrift-store finds thrown together. I remember I had a navy pea coat and a green woolen Eisenhower jacket. Suede boots. Flowered shirt and a bright blue one. A cream-colored knitted turtleneck.

We had no money at all. How we afforded this adventure, I have no idea. At the time, we didn't have a car, so I think we must have ridden with Rick and Jackie, and it may have been Jackie's car, come to think of it. I don't think it was a GTO but it may have been a Pontiac Le Mans, 1964? Maybe. I don't remember.

But we had a motel room for all three days, and the fairgrounds were within walking distance. I think we ate at a nearby Sambo's a time or two. Again, where we got the money, I don't know. But we had enough for food and gas and lodging; we'd bought the tickets well in advance.

When we left on Monday morning, we went to San Francisco and dropped Rick off in the Haight and then headed back to the Valley. We'd go to San Francisco as often as we could and even took to flying down to Los Angeles now and then on the $19 PSA flights to see shows or visit with friends.

This pattern went on throughout the Summer of Love, and though I don't think we were hippies or wanted to be, we were definitely counterculture in that we were living far less materialistically than we'd been brought up to be, and we were living simply compared to most of those we knew and our families. Focus was on music and people and finding new answers to old problems.

Through various steps and travels it led us eventually to New Mexico -- where we might have gone long before, but we didn't -- where a remnant of the counterculture remains, much as it does in enclaves all over the country. Some of it is very stupid and stupefying. Yet some of it is deeply rooted and fundamental. There is a tendency to want to throw it all out and start over. But you know what? There always was.


[Pennebaker has blocked most of the clips from his film of Monterey Pop from YouTube and the other video sites, but a restored version of the film will be shown in Santa Fe next month. We'll probably go -- if our health permits.

Highlights  of the Festival for us included Janis Joplin with Big Brother, The Who, the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Mamas and Papas, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Hugh Masakela, and some I don't remember. Eg: I barely remember the Dead at all... so it goes...]

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