Forty years after the Monterey Pop Festival made history, the Summer of Love Tour brings back some of the rock heroes of that era.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: 1967 was an incredible year in popular culture. Even if you can no longer stand your burnt-out uncle telling you rambling stories about ’67, you gotta admit a lot happened in those 12 months. A strange Los Angeles band with a superb keyboardist and a drunken bard singer released a self-titled debut called The Doors, and San Francisco’s psychedelic rock scene reached a national audience with the Jefferson Airplane album Surrealistic Pillow. Thousands of counter-culture types moved to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, where they dressed in outrageous clothes and consumed mind-altering drugs.
It all reached a fever pitch during that summer, which was already named the “Summer of Love.”
Also in those three months, two of the most important rock acts in the history of the genre – Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd – released their debut albums. Meanwhile, the Beatles, the biggest rock band in the world, ever, put out their masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s, which was superb musically and conceptually.
Even with all of this, the most important single musical – and perhaps cultural – event of ’67 was the Monterey Pop Festival. The three-day concert that occurred right here at the Monterey Fairgrounds introduced the world to the manic guitar playing of Hendrix and the full-bodied vocals of Janis Joplin. Featuring a wide range of acts, including not only seminal psychedelic innovators such as The Grateful Dead and the Quicksilver Messenger Service, but also the soul legend Otis Redding and the Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, the Monterey Pop Festival paved the way for big rock shows ranging from ‘69’s Woodstock to today’s Coachella Music Festival.
Until recently, it appeared that there would be no event in Monterey this summer to mark the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” and the Monterey Pop Festival. (For a while, there was a rumor about a huge 2007 Monterey Pop Festival at Laguna Seca that would feature acts like Dave Matthews Band and David Bowie, but alas it never materialized.)
Enter Andrew Hernandez, a Bay Area music promoter. Hernandez, who manages a stable of tribute bands that recreate popular ‘60s acts, had a simple dream: He wanted to make sure that they got to play whatever commemoration event was held in the area. When Hernandez realized nothing was planned, he decided to create his own celebration show.
He had hopes to use the Monterey Pop Festival name, but it was unavailable, so the Bay Area promoter decided to pay tribute to the whole dang Summer of Love rather than just the legendary music event.
Hernandez’s biggest coup was securing a group of acts that are currently traveling the country as the Summer of Love Tour. The touring festival features a handful of bands that played the original Monterey Pop Festival, including Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Starship (with former Jefferson Airplane members Paul Kantner and Marty Balin), the Electric Flag and Moby Grape’s Jerry Miller.
The Monterey Summer of Love Festival will also feature performers who are veterans of that era but did not play the Monterey Pop Festival, including Riders on the Storm, a group composed of original Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger. (The Doors hit “Light My Fire” was burning up the charts at the time.)
Hernandez’s tribute acts will be on hand to pay homage to the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds, the Beatles, Hendrix, Shankar, Led Zeppelin, The Byrds, The Mamas & the Papas and The Who.
Curiously, the show will also feature the house band from the CBS TV series Rock Star, along with five performers who each had a moment of glory on the show. The vocalists will pay tribute to the ’67 music festival by performing songs by Otis Redding and Eric Burdon, among others.
For Hernandez, the Monterey Summer of Love Festival will be a chance to experience live performances by acts he was too young to see back in ’67. In 1970, he says, he had realized the importance of that monumental season, but by that time the world had changed again. “When I was 14, I couldn’t wait to be a hippie,” he says. “By the time I got old enough, the disco thing had kicked in.”
With the Monterey Summer of Love Festival this weekend, Hernandez and others will get a second chance to experience the wildest time in American pop culture