Aquarian Family Festival

Aquarian Family Festival

May 23 – 24, 1969

Aquarian Family Festival
poster for Aquarian Family Festival
Mention the words festival and 1969 and most people will respond Woodstock. That  is a sensible association as too would be the word Altamont. However, dig around a bit and you'll find that 1969 is spangled with rock festivals.

May 23 marks the first of them. In fact there were three that occurred that weekend, two of which were less than a mile apart.

On May 18 – 19, 1968 The Northern California Folk-Rock Festival had been held. It was controversial because of the the several "announced" bands had not actually been booked and nearly 1,000 attendees experienced PCP drug reactions. 
The following year when the 1969 Northern California Folk-Rock Festival was announced, Dennis Jay (of the Drug Crisis Intervention group), members of San Jose's Free University, the Institute for Research and Understanding, and the Druid Corporation (a musicians collective) announced a counter-festival: the Aquarian Family Festival. It was a free concert.

While free concerts were not unheard of, major free concerts were rare. Any actual free concert fed the idea that music should be for free, not something to be paid for. Such an idea doppled forward to that famous August weekend in Bethel, NY.

Another unique facet of the Aquarian Family Festival was that camping was permitted so that attendees could stay on site for the two days. Perhaps Michael Lang read about that, too?
Since the Aquarian Family Festival wasn't recorded or filmed, it lives in obscurity like most of the many other 1969 festivals. Those facts should not deny its just place in festival history.

Here is the not-too-shabby list of performers for this festival and keep in mind that the  Northern California Folk-Rock Festival was happening simultaneously. Interestingly, Jefferson Airplane appeared at both. Most of the bands were local and there are so many because one of the stipulations was that the music had to be continuous.

Aquarian Family Festival

(the highlighted bands would play at Woodstock)
  • The Ace of Cups
  • All Men Joy
  • Birth
  • Beggars Opera
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Boz Scaggs
  • Chocolate Watchband
  • Crabs
  • Crow
  • Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band
  • Devine Madness
  • Denver
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • Elgin Marble
  • Flamin’ Groovies
  • Frumious Bandersnatch
  • Gentle Dance,
  • Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band
  • Glass
  •  Mountain
  •  High Country
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Joy of Cooking
  • Last Mile
  • Libras, Lamb
  • Living Color
  • Linn County


  • Mother Ball
  • Morning Glory
  • Mad River 
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Nymbus
  • Old Davis
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Red Grass
  • Green Smoke
  • Rubber Maze
  • Rising Tide
  • Rejoice
  • Sunrise
  • Sable
  • Sons of Champlin
  • Sounds Unlimited Blues Band
  • Sandy Bull
  • The Steve Miller Blues Band
  • Strawberry Alarm Clock
  • Stoned Fox
  • South Bay Experimental Flash
  • Throckmorton
  • Tree of Life
  • Weird Herald, Womb
  • Warren Purcell
  • Zephyr Grove
I hope Mad River played "Amphetamine Gazelle." And many thanks to Also, the featured image on top is of the Chocolate Watchband. Who knew!

The first band listed (alphabetically) is the Ace of Cups, an all-gril band from the Haight. Here's a report about them.

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3 thoughts on “Aquarian Family Festival”

  1. Wow, I was a teen, in Aquarian family & participated a bit with the “putting together” tho my most vivid memories of the actual event was “sleeping”under the space of the stage
    while bands played… quite the education – And the druid house band thockmorton’s sound guy Mark. he was a gentleman, genius.

  2. That Gurl can PLAY the Drums !…Wish I knew ’em back in the day…I was a young ”Aspirin” Drummer myself….Thanks for the Video…. AH ! The good ‘ol days….

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