Bob Weiss: Remembering the Monterey Pop Festival
June 23, 2017
Fifty years ago last weekend, I watched Jimi Hendrix douse his guitar with lighter fluid, light it on fire and smash it into the stage, sending flaming pieces flying into the air. My friends and I were ushers at the three-day 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, put on more than two years prior to Woodstock.
Because I had ushered at the Monterey Jazz Festival, I had priority and snagged a choice position just feet from the stage. Twenty-four hours earlier, I had received my high school diploma on the football field at Monterey High. For young adults, this was a period of rapid cultural change, and the music defined that change.
Held at the local fair grounds with a seating capacity of around 7,000, Monterey was a seminal event of the 1967 Summer of Love. Billed under the slogan "music, love and flowers," the festival hosted performances that would become legendary kicking off the international fame of Janice Joplin (then lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company) and Hendrix and featuring many of the rock and rollers who would ultimately define the music of baby boom generation — Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Eric Burden and the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead, Otis Redding and the Mamas and Papas.
The Hendrix, Joplin and Otis Redding performances were particularly memorable and later made famous by the DA Pennebaker film, “Monterey Pop,” which does a good job of conveying the essence of this extraordinary event and which is still available on Amazon and Netflix.
You never know when a convergence of events shared with others will result in some of the most cherished memories of a lifetime.
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They say if you can remember the ’60s you definitely weren't there. That's not the case for me.
Although the promise and excitement of the 1960s counterculture soon faded for me, I did learn something important during the period culminating on that festival weekend — that you never know when a convergence of events shared with others will result in some of the most cherished memories of a lifetime.
Bob Weiss is long-time local attorney who first came to Steamboat Springs in 1971 to work as summer camp counselor at the Perry-Mansfield Boys Camp.