Anatomy of a Love Festival
"This is the love crowd, right?" One A.M. Sunday, the apogee of the Monterey International Pop Festival, and Otis Redding surveyed his audience. They were free and white, but were they twenty-one? In any case, they were cheering again.
"We all love each other, right?"
There was a roar of assent. Redding grinned. He had them right there.
"Am I right?"
"Yeah!" the crowd yelled.
"Let me hear you say `Yeah,' then!"
"All right," Redding said. Then, on some unheard but nevertheless precise beat, Redding began to . . . well, emote, part-singing, part-talking, part-moaning: "I've been [Steve Cropper lightly on guitar] loving you [pause] too long [lone shout from press section] to stop now," and the Mar-Keys started to blow, and the arena was in an uproar again. Superspade was flying high.
Redding had come to Monterey with misgivings. The summer before, he had played San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium to appreciative but restrained applause. Redding, a veteran entertainer who is a demigod on the soul circuit, is used to better than that, and anyway, the festival was only paying expenses. But finally, between the honor, charity, and an untapped market, he came, the only mainstream black performer to do so, and his success was exemplary. Of demigods, at least, this audience demanded nothing--no build, no work, no show. All Otis had to do was trot his big self onto the stage and rock into his rather medium-sized hit, "Shake," and he had it made, wham bam thank-you-ma'am. The rest of his act--the dancing, the chuckling, the running around, the whole image of masculine ease on which his career is founded--was icing. They were just cheering him. The L.A. record exec in the velour turtleneck was up on his feet again, shouting "Heavy! Heavy!" Brian Jones felt the beginnings of tears in his eyes. The cheap seats were standing. The love crowd was screaming its head off.
When Redding said "love crowd," he of course meant "hippies," but there are no hippies--they have disappeared in an avalanche of copy. Most of the originals who were living in the Haight in 1966, when the journalists started nosing around, have fled from the bus tour and the LSD-Burgers and the panhandling flower children who will be back in school next semester. Those who remain do not conform to the stereotype any more than those who have left. They seem to have their share of ego, though on a more sophisticated level than, say, the average Reagan supporter, and they think a lot about "the movement." There really is a movement, administered by the media and inspired in a fairly direct way by those hard-core bohemian remnants who are still talking. "The love crowd" is as good a name for it as any.
The love crowd is America's affair with bohemia. Like the hippies, those shadow folk who will necessarily partake in what follows, the love crowd flourishes wherever the living is easy, and almost by definition, it is white. In California--affluent, suburban, temperate, and home of the fabled Haight--it dominates the adolescent imagination, but it is by no means confined to the lost kids who have migrated to the center for a season and their more conservative counterparts back home. The love crowd is everyone who is turned on by the hippies, in person or through the media, not only real dropouts but also a lot of youngish liberals. It is college instructors who wear their hair kind of long and lawyers whose wives like to show off their four years of dance in the flicker of a strobe and all the people who read the Los Angeles Free Press or the Berkeley Barb. It's everyone who smokes pot, and in California that's a lot of everyone.
Pot is one of the two adhesives that bind the truly disaffiliated to the teenyboppers with ironed hair and the aging-at-twenty-seven rebels. The other is music. The new pop is an avocational fascination of them all, from the graduate Beatlemaniacs to the mourners of John Hurt and John Coltrane. And so the Monterey International Pop Festival became the first powwow of the love crowd, the perfect pastorale, chocked with music and warm-hearted people. Its success was so unprecedented that it took everyone a little by surprise. You see, at the beginning nobody was really sure the love crowd was out there.
And by next summer it may have disappeared forever.
Appropriately enough, Monterey began with a man on the far fringes of the love crowd: Ben Shapiro, an enterprising young man about Hollywood who wishes there were a nicer word for packager. Last March, Shapiro and a well-heeled young scene-maker named Alan Pariser decided it would be nice to run a "music mart" for the serious creators and uncommitted experimenters in "mainstream" music. Because record manufacturers would back the event only in return for artistic control, Shapiro raised fifty thousand dollars seed money on his own. He started a profit corporation, obtained the state-owned Monterey Fairgrounds for June 16-18, and signed Ravi Shankar, who happened to be an old client. Shapiro and Pariser enlisted Derek Taylor, Los Angeles's hippest publicist, to help put the show together. Then Simon & Garfunkel hit town, it was time to firm things up, and representatives went to talk to John and Michelle Phillips, of the Mamas & the Papas.
A few years ago, John and Michelle were living on a slummy block in the East Village in New York City, making a decent living with a folk group called the Journeymen and thirsting for better things. Now they live in a Hollywood mansion once occupied by Jeanette MacDonald. Like all the supergroups, the Mamas & the Papas perform when they feel like it, an occasional concert or TV gig, and their price is in five figures. Shapiro offered five thousand dollars. Phillips was not impressed.
Phillips is a quasi-bohemian in a position any bohemian would envy: He can screw the "establishment" and get away with it. There is so much money in rock that its big names have almost unlimited power, like the top movie stars, but people in rock are not much like movie stars. They are more like, you guessed it, hippies: fond of money, perhaps, but not enslaved by it; more loyal to their generation than to their business; careless of publicity; and libertarian about everything. The Shapiro-Pariser scheme was just hip show business. When Phillips and Paul Simon suggested a nonprofit festival run and financed by artists, and Taylor backed them, the others had to agree. A board of governors, including many top names--Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson--was formed, but it was obvious that the major movers would be Phillips and his producer, Lou Adler. Soon, Shapiro quit in a clash with Adler, who is not noted for his humility. Shapiro suspected him, reasonably enough, of lust for contacts and prestige. He also claimed that Adler wanted to transform the festival from a "significant musical event" into a conglomeration of top-forty acts.
That may have been what Adler wanted--indeed, there is a sense in which a pop festival should be just that--but it wasn't what happened. Instead, the bias of the festival turned out to be Californian and avant-garde. Teeny acts were not invited, and many groups from England and the East were either excluded or felt that way--the Young Rascals, for instance, were later heard complaining about "a clique among music people." An even more serious limitation was the paucity of black acts. Rock is basically Afro-American music; until the Beatles changed the world, 80 percent of the good stuff was black. But Redding was the only soul singer at Monterey. Lou Rawls and Dionne Warwick, the two nightclubbiest singers in soul, both signed, but Warwick was later forced out by the hotel she was working in San Francisco. The Impressions agreed to come but didn't show. Chuck Berry refused, as always, to perform free. Smokey Robinson, of Motown Records, was on the board, but no Detroit artists appeared, Robinson's Miracles included. The rumor spread that this was "whitey's festival."
In a way, it was. The house band, made up of top studio musicians, was integrated, and so were ten of the thirty acts, a significant trend. But every attraction at Monterey appealed to the hip white audience--even Redding is without question the love crowd's favorite soul singer, far ahead of James Brown or Wilson Pickett. The festival was dominated by serious white rock music. Until recently, this music has been based in Los Angeles, where most of this country's good studio work is done. Now the excitement has moved to San Francisco, where there are hundreds of experimental bands, all geared to live performance. White rock performers seem uncomfortable with contemporary black music. Most of them like the best of it or think they do, but they don't want to imitate it, especially since they know how pallid their imitation is likely to be. So they hone their lyrics and develop their instrumental chops and experiment with their equipment and come to regard artists like Martha & the Vandellas, say, as some wondrous breed of porpoise, very talented, but somehow . . . different. And their audience concurs. This attitude is anything but condescending (sometimes it is almost reverent), but the black performer, who prefers his music to any other, is understandably disinclined to regard himself as a cultural oddity.
In any case the talent lineup was designed for the love crowd. Excitement began to grow, among the surfers on the Southland beaches and the lumpenhippies in the Haight and students and groupies and potheads everywhere. Rumors spread: Dylan and the Beatles would show; groups would jam together; proceeds would go to the sainted Diggers. Seats were not cheap ($3.00 to $6.50), but as long as the money was going back to the tribes, nobody cared.
Actually, it wasn't. Phillips was talking about drawing 100,000 kids, or 200,000. Ordinarily, events at the Fairgrounds are limited to arena ticket-holders--there are no grounds admissions. The arena holds 7,500 tops. That leaves a lot of flower children. The rumor about the Diggers got started, Taylor admits with his customary disarming candor, one day when he was short a release for the underground press. Taylor felt he had to say something about this problem of feeding the extra people, so he took some loose talk from around the office and transformed it into newspaper copy.
When Monterey Police Chief Frank Marinello, who was already unhappy about the festival, read that his city was going to be invaded by every penniless young nonconformist in California, he became much more unhappy. And Mayor Minnie Coyle nearly hit the roof. An amiable grandmother in her second term, she was particularly disturbed by his talk of Diggers in the papers. "If there are young people hungry, feed them," she said, like the good liberal she is. "But don't advertise free food for everyone who wants it. That encourages youngsters to leave home."
So on May 15 the festival flew to Monterey for lunch. Phillips--tall, balding, faintly Edwardian in his sparse beard--was very suave. Everyone received a copy of the Articles of Incorporation: ". . . charitable, literary and educational in nature and is particularly to initiate, sponsor, promote and carry out plans and cultural and artistic activities which will tend to further . . . ." That didn't sound like any hippie get-together. Papa John assured the burghers that festival profits would "not go to a hippie organization" and insisted that "the show is designed for those in the nineteen-to-thirty-five age group. We haven't invited the sort of groups that inspire acting up on the part of the audience. If that happens, we'll pull them off the stage." In any case the town had no choice. Phillips agreed to advertise that no grounds admissions would be sold; the town agreed to find accommodations for the inevitable unbelievers who would show up anyway.
But if the burghers were fairly happy, the antiburghers (read: San Franciscans) were not. The Diggers were bristling over Taylor's misuse of their good name. Several of the underground groups were beginning to feel used. They wondered where all the money--including a $400,000 film contract with A.B.C.--was going to end up. As June 16 approached, Dan Rifkin, manager of the Grateful Dead, and Chet Helms, of the Family Dog and the Aragon Ballroom, 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 A.B.C. 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?
The San Franciscans had the cards--the Angelenos needed them badly. "Be happy, be free; wear flowers, bring bells," the brochure read. In other words, act like hippies, mingle with hippies, and hear hippie music. With a few exceptions, the artists from Los Angeles didn't fit the description--they were established hit-makers. Some of the San Francisco groups had never even recorded, which strangely enough was a kind of inducement. The whole setup was an implied bow to the "rock underground," which apparently existed only up north. In L.A., if you don't make it, you're just a flop.
But San Francisco did not appreciate the compliment. Dan Rifkin envisioned an enormous, secluded campground at Fort Ord--so the M.P.'s could protect everyone from the Highway Patrol--where all the real groups would hold an antifestival, and began to implement his plot. Meanwhile, Chief Marinello alerted six hundred National Guardsmen in training at Fort Ord to be prepared for trouble at the Fairgrounds. The staff in L.A., mostly volunteers, was working frantically. Hell's Angels and soldiers were reported excluded. Radio stations featured interviews with festival staff and performers, then advised listeners not to attend without tickets and accommodations. The Berkeley Barb swallowed the same shuck. The Beach Boys dropped out. The Byrds, who hadn't given a decent concert in a year, were practicing like mad, and many lesser acts seemed jumpy. The festival office in L.A. was even jumpier. Nobody knew whether it would come off, and just about everybody was worried.
It came off.
Crews began to set up amplification equipment and prepare the stage at the beginning of the week. On Thursday about twenty-five love people arrived, mostly by thumb, to work on the Fairgrounds in return for food, shelter, and admission to the arena. Other workers were recruited from Monterey Peninsula College, about a mile from the Fairgrounds. The college had also agreed to provide a camping area on its football field.
Next day the love crowd attacked in force. Traffic was jammed from midafternoon, not only with long-haired kids but with short-haired gawkers. Roads both north and south were full of hitchhikers, and getting a ride was never easier. The brochure had gently suggested that blankets might be useful, and most of those from up north took the advice, but sun people never seem to understand about cold weather in June--one gang of kids on the beach in Santa Monica decided to drive up at the last minute in nothing but shirts and swimsuits and were not seen after Saturday. A small group of Hell's Angels roared in late Friday, and soldiers attended all concerts. Those invaders who weren't in costume--cowboys and Indians was the favorite masquerade--wore spectacularly new or spectacularly old clothing, usually the latter. Bells, tambourines, beards, painted and decaled faces, bare feet and bare thighs, were all in evidence. So was the smell of incense, and of course there were flowers. Longhairs outnumbered shorthairs, despite twelve hundred press people (Taylor accredited nearly everyone with a hustle), a lot of recording and radio professionals, and several thousand locals. (None of these groups bolstered the shorthair ranks as decisively as might have been expected.) Many of the celebrants looked under nineteen, and not many were over thirty. The few families were very new ones.
As the crowd grew--there were at least thirty thousand by Friday, and estimates for the weekend ranged up to ninety thousand, with fifty thousand a conservative figure--the police became more and more nervous. In addition to his own men, Marinello had called in a hundred extras from surrounding towns. He dismissed suggestions that they exchange their guns for flowers, but by dusk there were quite a few beflowered cops. What can you do when a barefoot girl smiles and offers you a daisy? The rule of love was beginning to take hold.
The rule of love did not begin as a rule, although it has certainly become one, with many would-be hippies murdering their own impulses to keep the law. It began as a feeling--a feeling that it was possible to live freely without hassling everyone. A capacity for generous self-effacement is one of the many things about the hippies that turn the love crowd on. Now, ordinarily, the day-to-day exigencies of almost everyone--hippies included--demand egoism, and so even among the love crowd love is often theoretical. But Monterey was anything but a day-to-day situation. Except for the weather, which was damp and cool, it was totally benevolent. Those who came empty-handed despite all the warnings--because they knew someone from somewhere or trusted their own ingenuity or just didn't believe what they heard on the radio--were vaguely aware that a lot of attention was on them, that they had the law-men and the plan-men worried. Once they shelled out grounds admission (a dollar, abandoned altogether by mid-Saturday), they had most of what they wanted. So they went on their best behavior, just to prove love could work, and they succeeded. All those who had come neutral or slightly apprehensive caught the mood, and the largest crowd in the history of the Monterey Peninsula became the best-behaved. Marinello started sending his reinforcements home on Saturday morning, before the last show had begun, a hundred of his three hundred men were gone. The rest had nothing to do but look at the funny people.
Of course, the police could have risked the fury of the love crowd and made marijuana arrests, but they didn't. Nor did they seize any of the thousands of acid tabs that were distributed free all weekend. There are even stories of policemen walking away from obvious turn-on sessions; in one the cop goes so far as to empty a vial into the bushes, shake his finger at the offender, and intone: "Be cool." Once the love crowd felt the vibrations, it abandoned paranoia. Love worked. But the grass helped, too.
The major turn-on, though, was the music--twenty-two hours of it. There is a lot of talk about the new rock audience--critical, unhysterical, intelligent. The festival was predicated on such talk. But the issue is more complicated. The love crowd is an intelligent and mature audience, but it demands to be turned on--that is, its attitude toward intelligence and maturity is stubbornly emotional and childlike. It reveres enthusiasm. It is made up of teenagers who have no great desire to grow up and adults who have never completely renounced their adolescence. And like any kids, they know how to enjoy a good time; once the vibrations establish themselves, it's uncool to cause static. That doesn't mean the audience was totally uncritical. But often it responded as much to itself as to what was happening onstage--autohype.
Friday evening's concert, dominated by what San Francisco calls plastic, was received with unmitigated enthusiasm--not just in the arena, but far, far back behind the cyclone fence, and even on the grassy midway, where celebrants examined the jewelry and lightworks and underground newspapers and listened over the P.A. But the Paupers, an unknown group forced onto the program by Albert Grossman, got something more than mere enthusiasm when bassist Dennis Gerrard, a stubby bullfrog with eyes that seem to rise clear out of his head when he gets going, started fooling around with the feedback, gradually working into an unanticipated solo. After a couple of good stretches he got scattered applause, and when he appeared to finish, he was cheered enthusiastically. But Gerrard wasn't through yet. He turned to the amplifier, doubling the cord so he got shuddering interference on every note, and played some more, not so well this time but very intensely, perhaps even hoking it up consciously, and now, although the whole solo was turning into an exhibition, the place really broke up, unable to withstand the impulsion of its own excitement.
The love crowd also reacted very readily to preconceived symbols--the spade, the supergroup, the guru--but of course not exclusively. The biggest exception performed Saturday afternoon: Janis Joplin, of Big Brother & the Holding Co. Janis is a good old girl from Port Arthur, Texas, who may be the best rock singer since Ray Charles, with a voice two-thirds Willie Mae Thornton and one-third Kitty Wells, and a fantastic stage presence. Her left nipple erect under her knit pantsuit, looking hard enough to put out your eye, she rocked and stomped and threatened any moment to break the microphone, or swallow it. She got a reaction based solely on her sweet tough self.
That was about two o'clock of an afternoon devoted primarily to blues-based music. By five it was getting pretty hard to tell good blues from mediocre blues. I am told the Steve Miller Blues Band, which played seventh, was excellent, but although I was sitting twenty feet away, I remember nothing about them except that they were followed by Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag.
Chet Helms had been emceeing most of the day, but John Phillips introduced Bloomfield: "One of the two or three best guitarists in the world." I think that's excessive, but many don't. Bloomfield had been a legend since his early days with Paul Butterfield, and this was the first performance of his own band. There were cries of anticipation in the audience, most of which agreed with Phillips, and the rest of which believed him.
My head hurt, and I walked to midarena to watch. Singing lead was a great fat black man with an enormous pompadour and a big set of drums, Buddy Miles. Miles is a great shouter. Bloomfield's solos were fine, but the show disappeared from under him--when Miles just drummed for one tune, the audience screamed for him to return. After four and a half hours of blues, one more blues singer just knocked everyone out. Miles really didn't seem to want an encore--perhaps the band's repertoire was too thin--but he was literally pushed back on from the wings. It was very exciting.
Now, Miles was good but no better than others. Since he closed the show, the extra applause was natural. But position wasn't the only reason he got it. He got it because he was with Bloomfield, who was so turned on he looked as if he were about to blow up like a balloon--the supergroup. Miles got it because he was, as the Los Angeles Free Press so delicately put it, "a raunchy black mound"--the spade. And he got it because the audience heard itself applauding, deduced that it was approaching hysteria, and slipped right over the line--autohype.
The next afternoon something similar happened with Ravi Shankar, who complimented his audience on their choice of incense, threw back their orchids, and geared his invention to what he knew would delight them. Such delight is the good kind of autohype, the obverse of showmanship, and only a very warm crowd can generate it. Of course, when someone who looked like Paul McCartney walked down the aisle toward the end of the concert, the whole house craned for a peek. A superstar tops a guru, anytime.
A mood of sanguine goofiness dominated the whole weekend. Everything was beautiful. Those who had money spent it on food and trinkets; corn on the cob and a metallic pinwheel were big sellers. But the Los Angeles Diggers were there with free fruit, so those without money didn't go very hungry. Sleep was the same. Motel beds were full, and floors were often occupied. One local designated his field a "Sleep-In" and charged a buck to park the night. The lazy just rolled out their gear at the Fairgrounds. But the hip core of kids hiked over to the designated sleeping area at Monterey Peninsula College, where Dan Rifkin had set up his antifestival.
There were concerts at the football field Saturday afternoon, but the big crowd was that night, after Otis Redding had supposedly sent everyone to sleep. As I arrived, sometime after two, an anonymous group was testing the power on an improvised sound truck while the audience reclined nearby in sleeping bags and blankest. Some were dozing. A hundred feet away there was a ring of standees teen deep, and beyond that an expanse of sleeping bags stretching into the darkness. I waded through, stepping carefully, as one of the band members called for a B-flat harmonica. Cigarettes glowed here and there, and every once in a while I was hit with a whiff of pot. Couples who hadn't reached the age of consent slept in each other's arms. Someone was at the controls of the scoreboard, running an impromptu light show: 36-37-38-39 . . . . There was giggling, murmuring. The musician blew into one instrument and called the donor back: "Hey, man, you sure this harp is B-flat?" The music began. It was mediocre. Everybody dug it anyway.
Sunday afternoon I decided to inspect the football field again. Traffic was heavy, so I hitchhiked. Four high-school kids from a small town in the Sacramento Valley picked me up. They wanted to know if I was holding any grass. The festival was great, only someone had stolen their blankets. They had been up at the football field until it started to rain, then slept sitting in the car. The greatest thing was about four in the morning, when a new singer came on. They had been half asleep and were far from the bandstand; for a moment they couldn't make out who it was. Then:
"It was Eric Burdon, man. I couldn't believe it, Eric Burdon, it was like a dream. It was all foggy and looked like a dream, you know? I really dig Eric Burdon."
We reached the football field. It was completely abandoned--not a scrap, not a sleeping bag, not a soul. The kids told me most of the crowd had slept through the rain, then rose at eight or nine, wiped off the mud, and returned to the Fairgrounds. They took me to the road and turned for Pacific Grove. Some crazy chick had let them all take showers in her house that morning. Maybe she'd have some pills or something.
I walked back, making better time than the cars, my shaggy hair blowing in the breeze. An elderly couple in a Pontiac pulled over and honked. I saw no way to refuse the ride. The proprietary gleam in the husband's eye told me he thought he had a live one. He seemed disappointed when he learned I was only a reporter, then perked up as his wife asked questions. Who were they? Why did they? What had they?
I offered standard answer number three: essentially religious blah-blah, never had to cope with the material environment blah-blah, drugs both good and blah-blah-blah. They seemed disappointed when I had to get out.
"Tell me just one thing," the man said. "Do they believe in the one great God, Jehovah?"
I told him I didn't know.
Even before the last concert began, on Sunday, there was a sense of something ending. A few had already left, and many who had hitched coming were setting up transportation home. One of the ushers wore a sign that said "Oregon" along with his "Seat Power We Love You" hat-band. (He got his ride.) Starting time was seven-thirty, and as usual, it was accurate. The Blues Project did a short set. Janis Joplin and Big Brother came back for a reprise. The Group with No Name bored everyone into thinking them up: the Lead Balloon, Grundy's Kite Tree, the Bummer, Lou Adler's Lonely Hearts Club Band. David Crosby, of the Byrds, sat in with the Buffalo Springfield, the only such admixture of the festival. Then the Who came on.
Although it has never fired in the States, the Who is one of the finest groups in England, famous for a stage technique invented by leader Peter Townshend and eventually adapted by Michelangelo Antonioni for Blow-Up (with the Yardbirds--because, Townshend claims, his group was too difficult to manipulate). For over a year of steady performance in Europe, Townshend ended every show by smashing his guitar into the amplifier while Keith Moon attacked his drums and Roger Daltrey hit things with the mike. Welcoming applause was rather light, but as always the group put on a good show. Moon is a spectacular drummer to watch, with a trick of bouncing one stick ten feet off the snare, then catching it on the beat. Townshend flailed his guitar as if her were sending semaphore signals. And Daltrey, wearing a fringed shawl that looked about fifty years old, did the group's best songs. But although they performed in a class just below the top of the festival, the audience wasn't with them.
Then they did "My Generation." The song is raucous, hard-driving, hostile, and it really caught the crowd. Somewhere among the refrains the destruction started. The rumor is that the Who is bored with the whole routine, but they were obviously up for this audience. As bassist John Entwistle kept the beat, Daltrey crashed his mike against the cymbals, and Townshend thrashed the amplifiers. A smoke bomb exploded. The audience was in pandemonium, and the stage crew, which had been magnificent all weekend, was worse. One hero tried to save a mike and nearly lost his head to Townshend's guitar. Lou Adler, frantic and furious, protected one bank of amplifiers. The love crowd was on its feet, screaming and cheering. Backstage, Jimi Hendrix was heard to wonder how he was going to top that.
But 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. But Adler's compulsive streak was really beginning to show, and before too long he helped the stagehands hustle the dancers off. The ushers did the same in the aisles. There was no real resistance, but the dancers were annoyed, and the Dead looked as if they might leave the stage themselves. Then Peter Tork appeared.
Tork, the neurotic Monkee, had surprised everyone by emceeing part of Friday night and drawing a good many teeny shrieks. The surprise was not only the presence of Monkee fans amid the love crowd; it was also because Tork himself had written a little apology in the program, explaining that the group couldn't appear due to prior commitments. Yet both he and Mickey Dolenz were around all weekend, doing their best to be likable. The Monkees want to be liked. Ever since their first album appeared with someone else playing the instruments, rock professionals have snickered at everything about them except their money.
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," added Derek Taylor). Sgt. Pepper played in all the concession tents. 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 bassist, 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 couldn't stand.
"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 and 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 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.
But their performance was quickly obscured by that of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix is a black man from Seattle who was brought from Greenwich Village to England by ex-Animal Chas Chandler. A smart move--England, like all of Europe, thirsts for the Real Thing, as performers from Howlin' Wolf to Muhammad Ali have discovered. Hendrix, joined by two good English sidemen, came to Monterey recommended by the likes of Paul McCartney. He was terrible.
Hendrix is a psychedelic Uncle Tom. Don't believe me; believe Sam Silver of the East Village Other: "Jimi did a beautiful Spade routine." Hendrix earned that capital S. Dressed in English fop mod, with a ruffled orange shirt and red pants that outlined his semierection to the thirteenth row, Jimi really, as Silver phrased it, "Socked it to them." Grunting and groaning, on the brink of sham orgasm, he made his way through five or six almost indistinguishable songs, occasionally flicking an anteater tongue at the great crotch in the sky. He also played what everyone seems to call "heavy" guitar; in this case that means he was loud. He was loud with his teeth and behind his back and between his legs, and just in case anyone still remembered the Who, Hendrix had a capper. With his back to the audience, Hendrix humped the amplifier and jacked the guitar around his midsection, then turned and sat astride his instrument so that its neck extended like a third leg. For a few tender moments he caressed the strings. Then, in a sacrifice that couldn't have satisfied him more than it did me, he squirted it with lighter fluid from a can held near his crotch and set the cursed thing afire. The audience scrambled for the chunks he tossed into the front rows. He had tailored a caricature to their mythic standards and didn't overdo it a shade. The destructiveness of the Who is consistent theater, deriving directly from the group's defiant, lower-class stance. I suppose Hendrix's act can be understood as a consistently vulgar parody of rock theatrics, but I don't feel I have to like it. Anyway, he can't sing.
The Mamas & the Papas, who can, provided the anticlimax, a feathery landing back into the land of music, love, and flowers. Outfitted in royal robes, with Mama Cass fatter than ever in a shift and Phillips beaming like the great white father of his tribe, they bestowed their somewhat patronizing blessing on all of us. "Hasn't this been something?" Cass began. "Something we can be proud of. Everybody. We're gonna have this every year, you know. You can all stay if you want. I think I might."
Thirty minutes later a dozen stragglers were still on the Fairgrounds, jumping up and down, or dancing to a dozen different rhythms, or none at all. Others banged on trash-can drums. A cop approached warily and asked them to cool it.
"How come?" one of the kids asked. "We're not hurting anyone."
Uh-oh, the cop thought. He offered some dreary facts of life--people sleeping, maintenance crew had to work, etc.--and the kid thought for a second. The cop, who was still a cop, looked as if he was afraid of trouble.
"I guess you're right," the kid said. Soon everyone was gone.
Mama Cass was right--yea verily, the festival was something for everyone to be proud of, even to the least teenybopper. The press was ecstatic, with the trades and the underground and the teen magazines and the big-city dailies concurring with Newsweek: "They landed at Monterey last week and built a city of sound, a hippie heaven of soul and rock blues and funk." But no one stopped to wonder how soul and rock and blues and funk meshed with the "peace and acceptance" (Newsweek again) of Monterey. The new rock has no more peace and acceptance about it than the old. To the adolescent defiance of the fifties has been added not only whimsy and occasional loveliness but also social consciousness and the ironic grit of the blues. The big beat has been augmented by dissonance, total volume, and a science-fiction panoply of electronic effects.
But the paradox is on the surface. The music isn't peace itself; it is a means to peace. It is how the love crowd mediates with an unfriendly environment. And Monterey was the love crowd's simpleminded stab at a replacement, a little utopia to show the bad old world it might be done.
In Monterey, however, where the example should have had its strongest effect, a kind of posthallucinatory reaction set in. Mayor Minnie Coyle had faced the press Saturday afternoon and told us our music was a pleasant surprise and our crowd just wonderful. On Sunday Chief Marinello appeared and was even friendlier. He said he had "never encountered such peace-loving people" and planned to tour the Haight first chance. On Monday, after everyone had gone, Mayor Coyle announced that she had drafted a City Council resolution that would prevent more pop festivals. A week later, Chief Marinello of the "Flower Fuzz," inundated with thank-you letters, described his admirers as lawbreakers who had avoided capture and said he agreed with Mayor Coyle. And while the only businessmen who oppose the festival as a group are the bar owners, there is scattered opposition everywhere.
Townspeople who hope the love crowd returns--and there are many--are sure the proffered excuses, which revolved in a narrow ellipse around lack of space and lack of kulchuh, are only covers for the real problem, which is style. And they're right. Especially if the difference between marijuana and alcohol is granted to be mostly a matter of legality and taste, style is the whole problem. The festival wasn't merely love and good vibes. It was also good business--almost hip show business, in fact. Without organization--at once very tight and remarkably unautocratic, which is to say, intelligent--it would have been a shambles. The stage crew was the most efficient I've ever seen. The sound system was flawless. Head Lights, brought in to do the rear-projection light show, had prepared brilliantly. When it came time to distribute the $200,000 proceeds, sentiments leaned not toward the Diggers (who had donated food) nor toward Monterey (which claimed $4,000 in unpaid traffic-control expenses) but to some kind of ghetto education program. This from the dropout culture--an unspectacular end for all that lovely money.
But the love crowd doesn't want anything spectacular. It just wants peace, tolerance, and the chance to work things out for itself. If Monterey doesn't want the festival, well, the festival isn't so sure it wants Monterey either. Repeating yourself is just a big drag anyway. Entrepreneurs in the East are talking about holding their own festival, in New York or Boston. Phillips has considered London and Stockholm. And Victoria, Australia, has offered to pay for everything if the festival will come to Melbourne next year.
It won't be Monterey. The love crowd may never come together again. But something will happen, which is all that matters.
Esquire, Jan. 1968