1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music

1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music

August 30 and 31, 1969

1969 Isle of Wright Festival of Music

1968

     The first Isle of Wight Festival of Music was in 1968.  It was a relatively small one. Its poster also referred to it as "The great south coast bankholiday pop festivity." The festival featured the Jefferson Airplane and several other British bands.

1969 Festival # 24

     All but two of the 1969 festivals I've written about happened in the United States. The first non-US event was the Bath Festival of Blues in June. The Isle of Wight is the second and last that I'll cover that occurred outside the US.

1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music

     Woodstock Ventures, organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, had hoped and nearly assumed that they could book the still reclusive Bob Dylan. The biggest rumor that august weekend in Bethel was that he'd be there. 

     Dylan had stopped touring after his 1966 motorcycle accident, an event still shrouded in mystery as to how serious the accident was and how long he actually needed to recuperate. Some conspiracy theorists conjecture that there was no accident, but Dylan simply wanted out for awhile.

     Whatever the case,   brothers Ron and Ray Foulk formed Fiery Creations Limited to put on the show and they hit gold by booking Bob Dylan. To say he headlined is an understatement. Despite the Beatles continued success and influence, even they tipped their hats to Dylan.

1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music

Line up

Saturday 30 August

  • The Who
  • Moody Blues
  • Fat Mattress
  • Joe Cocker
  • Bonzo Dog Band
  • Family
  • Free
  • Pretty Things
  • Marsha Hunt & White Trash
  • Battered Ornaments
  • Aynsley Dunbar
  • Retaliation
  • Blodwyn Pig
  • Gypsy
  • Blonde on Blonde
  • Edgar Broughton Band
  • King Crimson
Sunday 31 August

  • Bob Dylan & The Band
  • Richie Havens
  • Tom Paxton
  • Pentangle
  • Julie Felix
  • Gary Farr
  • Liverpool Scene
  • Indo Jazz Fusions
  • Third Ear Band
     Note the acts who returned to or came to the UK from Woodstock for this festival: The Band, Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, and the Who. 

     A "what-goes-round-comes-round" story is that on the flight that the Who were on, a passenger by the name of Howard Mills and his family were also on board. Howard had long-promised his family a trip abroad and they and he had recently had a difficult spring and summer. It was his property in Wallkill, NY that Woodstock Ventures had initially contracted to hold their festival on before the Wallkill government forced them out. The Who got a kick out of that story.

     150,000 people sailed to the island for the concert including all the Beatles themselves except Paul McCartney. A number far less than Woodstock two weeks earlier, but still impacting the rural island significantly.

1970

     The 1970 event had over 600,000 attendees. Over 50 act performed including Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Doors, The Who, Lighthouse, Ten Years After,Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Melanie, Donovan, Gilberto Gil, Free, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull, Taste and Tiny Tim. 

     Those levels led Parliament to pass "Isle of Wight Act" in 1971 which prevented gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special licence.

     The New York State legislature passed a similar act for the same reasons.

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New Orleans Pop Festival

New Orleans Pop Festival

August 31 – September 1, 1969

Baton Rouge International Speedway

Prairieville, Louisiana

New Orleans Pop Festival

 

Woodstock in Bethel

New Orleans in Prairieville

     People continue to visit Woodstock, NY to visit the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair. It is an easy mistake for two reasons: 1) the town IS called Woodstock, and 2) the town still looks like that famous festival was held there because many merchants decorate and sell dozens of  festival-related items.

     The New Orleans Pop Festival name has an even more interesting disconnect. Firstly, it was not held in New Orleans, but in Prairieville, Louisiana. Secondly, it was held at the Baton Rouge International Speedway.

     The differences are pointed. If Woodstock Ventures had called their event the Bethel Music and Art Fair (or the Wallkill...) would  that name have been as initially interesting as branding it "Woodstock"? Of course, that was the idea. Branding. And branding this festival the New Orleans Pop Festival made more sense than other choices. 

     Like Bethel there was camping at the New Orleans Pop Festival. Unlike Bethel, the camping was a few miles away so the community feel that developed at Bethel over its four days did not happen in Prairieville over its two.

New Orleans Pop Festival

         Steve Kapelow and his sponsoring company, Kesi, Inc organized the event. Attendance was small compared to Woodstock two weeks earlier, about 25,000–30,000 people per day. The line up was a good one. 

           Organizers planned a two-day festival (as the poster indicates), but they added a free Saturday evening show. Sunday tickets went for $7.00 for advance tickets and $9.50 at the gate; Monday prices were $8.00 in advance and $10.50 at the gate. Tickets for the entire cost $13.00 in advance and $16.00 at the gate.
Saturday, August 30, 1969

  • Local bands starting playing at 6:00pm until the “official” free concert began at 8:00pm.
  • White Fox
  • Snow Rabbit
  • Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train
  • Whizbang
  • Axis
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
Sunday, August 31, 1969

  • Flower Power
  • Snow Rabbit
  • Spiral Starecase
  • Oliver
  • Smyth
  • The Youngbloods
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • Country Joe and the Fish
  • The Byrds
  • Canned Heat – A fireworks display was scheduled after this act.
  • Iron Butterfly
  • Janis Joplin
  • Santana
Monday, September 1, 1969

  • Potliquor
  • Axis
  • Oliver
  • Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys
  • Santana
  • Chicago
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • The Youngbloods
  • Lee Michaels
  • Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Dr. John VooDoo Show
  • jam Session featuring Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Cat Mother, Santana, Chicago, Beautiful Day
  • Whizbang

Other facts

*On Sunday, the schedule indicated that Sweetwater and White Clover were supposed to play, but the late hour cancelled their performances as well as a scheduled jam session. Doug Kershaw from Louisiana played as well but is not mentioned. Organizers likely  moved both groups to Monday's lineup,but local media reports do not show that to be the case.

*On Monday,  a flower drop was supposed to take place during the Potliquor performance, but the plane missed its target and dropped the flowers onto nearby fields instead of on the crowd.

*Glen McKay and his crew, known as the Headlights presented light shows Sunday and Monday nights.

*As was so often the case, the Grateful Dead recorded their performance and it is available at the Internet Archive site: https://archive.org/details/gd1969-09-01.sbd.kaplan.5216.shnf

*Young and energetic, the following bands played the same weekend at the Texas International Pop Festival:
  1. Canned Heat
  2. Chicago Transit Authority
  3. Janis Joplin
  4. Santana
  5. Sweetwater