Friday, November 17, 2017

"Palm Beach Pop Festival", November 1969

Having watched the HBO documentary on Rolling Stone magazine last week, and again partially last night to see a few parts that were missed, it was a reminder of the "Palm Beach Pop Festival", November 28th - 30th.  That seems to be the name now but at the time it had been advertised as the "West Palm Beach Rock Festival", or is my memory faulty.  The documentary did not mention this festival, as it was something of a bust for the promoter.  Not a bust for me.

This event was after the historic Woodstock festival in the summer, and the promoter's aim was to create a similar event.  It was during a Thanksgiving break from my D.C. college, somewhat extended to make room for this trip, and with four or five friends from my hometown we headed south.  Who arranged this was unclear, but presumably I was one of the culprits.

Driving there we were harassed by police a couple of times, as Florida did not particularly welcome the festival, the drug addled bands that would be performing, or  the dregs of society that would be attending.  At least that seemed to be the thought there.  We safely arrived without incident, but there was one close call.  Does anyone who reads this remember?

The memory that was revived, never lost at all, was of the performers.  First though, perhaps the main similarity to Woodstock was that it rained constantly and the temperature in south Florida was not at all like the Florida remembered from previous trips.  In the 40's at night, with rain, and at times wind.  The crowd was small relative to what was expected.  It was easy to get close to the stage most of the time, especially at night in the muddy raceway field.

The highlight for me was the Rolling Stones who closed the festival, arriving very late in a helicopter due to a rainstorm.  They did a full set, and seeing Mick Jagger pound an iron chain on the stage as Midnight Rambler progressed sticks.  It was 2 in the morning and being close to the stage was not a challenge.  Still being at the concert was the challenge.

Other highlights were Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter playing together, they from the same Texas town, and seeing Jefferson Airplane but they did not seem to enjoy themselves.  Apparently the guitar player Spencer Dryden had missed a plank and fallen into mud and water just before they played and was not too keen on a long set.  Other highlights were the Chambers Brothers during a daytime lull in the weather and believe it or not Iron Butterfly one night in a lightning storm.  They should not have been on the stage and I should have been in my car.  As an indicator of the stretched concert line-up,  King Crimson(who dat) played all three days, while Pacific Gas and Electric and Rotary Connection(who dey) each played two days.  The underappreciated Vanilla Fudge(who) played on the final day earlier than the Stones and the Airplane.

That's it.  Writing about this is now off of my mind.  Who gets to write about seeing the Stones 48 years ago.  Many people could, but it almost scares me as I write this.  Is there such a thing as too many memories.


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