1969 Denver Pop Festival

1969 Denver Pop Festival

1969 Denver Pop Festival

June 27, 28, & 29
Mile High Stadium
1969 festival #16

1969 Denver Pop Festival

AUD of Big Mama Thorton, “Ball and Chain”
The line-up
June 27

  • Big Mama Thornton
  • The Flock
  • Three Dog Night
  • Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
  • Iron Butterfly
June 28

  • Aorta
  • Zephyr
  • Poco
  • Johnny Winter
  • Tim Buckley
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
June 29

  • Aum
  • Zephyr
  • Rev. Cleophus Robinson
  • Joe Cocker
  • Three Dog Night
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience
1969 Denver Pop Festival

Mile High Stadium

The Denver Pop Festival was the sixteenth rock festival of 1969. It was held at at Mile High Stadium [insert joke here].

Holding such an event inside a big stadium seemed like a perfect match. Bathrooms, food services, seating, controlled exit and entry are already present and do not have to be independently set up.

Unfortunately for the Denver festival, that amount of control was part of its problem.

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Hendrix/Star Spangled Banner

Another little known part of its history was that the Denver Pop Festival was the last performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, less than three years after its formation in the UK in September 1966. And Woodstock fans may be disappointed to hear that Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner, that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was not his first public performance of that cover.

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Bill Hanley & Chip Monck

Barry Fey promoted the concert. While his name may not be recognized by many as a Bill Graham is, Fey had a long illustrious history of rock concert promotion. In fact, he promoted the first Led Zeppelin concert in the US: December 26, 1968 at the Denver Auditorium Area.

The Denver festival, unlike Woodstock’s legal challenges and trying to find a home accepted by the locals, had the support of the city government. Denver provided a campground, services there, as well as a shuttle service to and from the festival.

Like Woodstock’s impeccable sound system, Bill Hanley was the sound man. Like Woodstock, Chip Monck was an MC.

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Not a Woodstock

So why wasn’t the Denver Pop Festival another Woodstock? Looking at its line up it certainly had that potential.

Once again it is a combination of factors. The number of attendees plays a part. The Mile High Stadium accommodated approximately 50,000 people. Certainly an acceptably large amount, but no comparison to a 40-acre Max Yasgur field with 400,000.

Not filming or recording the event is another factor. The only recording I could find on YouTube was an audience one of Big Mama Thorton. She wrote “Ball and Chain” and as good as the famous Janis Joplin cover is, it’s nice to hear Thorton herself.

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Law enforcement

Part of Woodstock’s mission was to keep law enforcement away from the festival site. NYC cops were hired to moonlight, but only those who had a conciliatory attitude toward the Woodstock generation youth were hired. NY State Police were present on the periphery.

In Denver the local police were outside and around the stadium. Their presence, though not intentionally there to intimidate and harass, represented the authority that so many young people were rebelling against.

First Day

Inside the stadium was mostly OK. One minor incident was that a fan undressed, but was taken away by security. No such qualms would exist in Bethel, NY.

Outside some gatecrashers unsuccessfully tried to get past the security guards. Keep in mind, that the view of some fans and musicians was that music should be free. Tying a price to listen made the event corporate, the antithesis of to the counter culture’s ideals.

Members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the American Liberation Front were there to protest, not for the music.

At a point the first day, a bottle was thrown and hit the helmet of an officer.  The thrower was arrested without any additional incidents.

1969 Denver Pop Festival


1969 Denver Pop Festival

The second day again found gatecrashers unsuccessfully attempting entry. This time additional police were called in and they used time tear-gas to disperse the crowd. Some of the gas wafted into the stadium where Chip Monck advised the crowd to cover and protect their faces. Promoter Barry Fey subsequently handed out free tickets to avoid any further confrontations.

The free tickets were limited and the next day tear gas was again used to force gatecrashers away.

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Yes Butterfly, but last Experience

The Iron Butterfly did play in Denver, but though scheduled to play at Woodstock, they’d be left at the airport waiting for a ride after hearing a coded FU.

As mentioned above, this event was the last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The next time Hendrix would play in public would be that famous muddy morning in Bethel, NY at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Drummer Mitch Mitchell would remain part of Hendrix’s larger ensemble there, but Noel Redding was no longer a member.

Click below to hear a small slice of Jimi Hendrix’s intro at Denver.

According to John Kane’s excellent book, The Last Seat in the House, The Story of Hanley Sound, Fey only made $50,000 in profit.  In two months, Woodstock Ventures would have considered such a “small” profit a complete success.

Related link >>> http://www.bobwyman.com/hendrix.html

Related link >>>  http://www.retrorebirth.com/music-festivals/denver-pop-festival-june-27-29-1969.php

1969 Denver Pop Festival

Next 1969 festival: Bath Festival of Blues

14 thoughts on “1969 Denver Pop Festival”

  1. I was there! The most exciting time of my life! Me and my friends got our draft notices and we burned them at the park. Denver had everything, the best music in the world, camaraderie, beautiful stoned girls, Hell’s Angels. Of the group I was in after the concert, 2 went to Viet Nam , 1 died there, it was jsut like the Movie Hair. 2 other friends OD’d and died, I got lucky and failed my induction physical. I have tried to live for my friends that can’t, I think about Denver all the time.

  2. I got back from Vietnam Nam and was stationed at Fort Carson Colorado Springs. Drove to Denver for the concert. It was great to see Hendricks play the Star Spangle Banner. Great memories.

    1. I also attended the festival all three days and it was a blast. When the Mothers of Invention were playing, the Denver PD decided to tear gas the stadium crowd. Frank Zappa stepped to the microphone and had 1/2 the audience say f**k and the other 1/2 say you, back and forth, one side to the other for several minutes in response to the tear gas. It was one of the funniest thing I’ve ever heard at a concert. it was a real good experience and the camp ground at 6th Ave. and Federal was a peaceful acid trip!

  3. My cousin Bobby scored tickets and he drove our little group of 4 to the stadium. We had seats about 1/3 of the way up and eventually gate crashers pushed down an area of fence and filled up remaining seats.

    I don’t remember much but the music blowing us all away. Yes, there was enough smoke in the air to get a second hand high, but we had never heard anything like Hendrix before and we’ve never heard anyone like Hendrix since. His performance was stunning. It extended the limits of the possible.

    The news reports say something about a riot, but we simply walked back to the car.

      1. Made our way there as teenages from El Paso, TX. Slept in a Volkswagen Bug, on the road by the parks. Saw a dude with hair to his ankles, believe he may have been a member of “Charlie’s Family.” The festival was unbelievable. The Mothers and Experience were eternally mesmerizing. Why it wasn’t videod is the mystery.

        1. For all the festivals of that year (I’ve found 42), it surprised me too that Woodstock Ventures was the only one to think of recording and filming the festival. I realize a festival is a huge undertaking no matter what and added media only makes things more complicated, but one of the main reasons that Woodstock became WOODSTOCK is that we can still watch and listen to much of the concert with great sound and film. Ah well.

    1. I attended the festival as a 17 yr old with my church youth group. There were probably 10 – 12 of us who traveled from a small town in NE Colorado. We stayed with relatives of one of our adult leaders who lived near the stadium. The music was phenomenal. Three Dog Night, Jimmy Hendrix and Iron Butterfly for me we’re standouts. The little guy who took all his clothes off happened right in front of us. I’m guessing he was tripping on LSD or something – it was obvious he was not in his right mind. When the tear gas hit us, just sitting in the crowd, I was one of many who rushed the fence and knocked it over to get on the ball field to get as low as I could and breathed through my wind breaker with my face in the grass. Before the gas hit us, one of my friends and I went out to one of the upper walkways and watched some of the pitched battle between the kids and the police. I saw someone throw a brick which smashed a VW Beetle’s windshield. The police were in a foul mood for sure. Our adult sponsors were absolutely horrified!

  4. my sister Sheila and I were 11 and 13 yrs old. We did our first tab of orange sunshine acid at the festival. We knew Tommy Bolin and Candy Gibbons. I worked Security for Barry Fey for years
    after I grew older. I worked concerts at Mammoth Gardens,and Red Rocks. My last concert at Mammoth Gardens was Rick James, at the mammoth event center. Got in on his guest list. He died after that concert.

  5. I was 17 at the time and came down from NE to the 3 day concert, had one of the best times of my life there. Learned a lot about life there, the smoke just rolled on by all the time, it didn’t matter who’s it was. Just a lot of happy people having fun. And yes you didn’t want to be on the field unless you had a mask.

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