Category Archives: Festivals

LA Free Press Festival Riot

LA Free Press Festival Riot

April 20, 1969

The LA Free Press’s Birthday Party

The second “festival” of 1969 was the LA Free Press Festival. I qualify the word festival because organizers planned only a one-day event and typically a festival was a multi-day event. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that although it was only one day, there were a number of groups for whom this event was simply one of a series in Venice aimed at controlling what they saw as uncontrolled development of the area.

California was the birthplace of rock festivals whether they be called festivals, be-ins, fairs, or whatever. The 1967 Summer of Love had demonstrated the counter-culture’s positive and negative characteristics.

For the most part, the peaceful gatherings where youth enjoyed their music and other types of entertainment presented no issues to local governments. When the gatherings interfered with the everyday lives of other residents or when local law enforcement viewed (for any number of reasons) the youth’s behavior as immoral and illegal, conflict resulted.

Such were the circumstances that led to the LA Free Press celebrating its birthday with the LA Free Press Festival. Unfortunately, a well-intentioned event turned violent.

LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Los Angeles Free Press

LA Free Press Festival Riot

The LA Free Press–The Los Angeles Free Press–(also called “the Freep”)  was an underground newspaper of the 1960s, perhaps the first of that type.  Art Kunkin edited and published it weekly.

Unlike all the other festivals of 1969, the Free Press’s was to be both musical and political.

Venice had been an independent city until it merged with Los Angeles in 1926.  According to its site, “Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art.


Sounds like a good spot for a festival.

There is not much about who was scheduled to play. Country Joe and the Fish were there. In the book the place of music edited by Andrew Leyshot, David Matless, and George Revill, it reads, “In April 1969 Venice Beach hosted its first free concert, attempting to build upon the success of Be-Ins in the previous two years. In the mythology of L.A., the “Beach” was considered an ideal ecology of life for such revelry.”

LA Free Press Festival Riot

Incident

The times were one that the hum of confrontation between law enforcement and youth was a constant presence. Apparently a thrown bottle lighted the fuse that led to the incident. One of the lessons that Woodstock Ventures learned from this and other similar incidents was to avoid having an law enforcement presence on site.

LA Free Press Festival Riot

Tales of a Blue Meanie

Alan Cole from his book, Tales of a Blue Meanie, chapter 8, Riotous Behavior, described some background: Circus Saul [Blumenthal] and Fish Face [Sam] were radical capitalists – that’s what they called themselves, anyway. They hated LBJ, despised Richard Nixon even more and had pledged ten thousand dollars each to the newly formed organization “Businessmen For Peace.” They also vowed to stage various concerts up and down the state to raise awareness and funds for their cause.

LA Free Press Festival Riot

Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie

Phil Polizatto wrote in Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie

It was supposed to be a love-in/anti-war gathering. Right there on that expanse of beach between Pacific Ocean Park and where Venice proper started. The line up consisted of Spirit, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Taj Mahal, interspersed with anti-war speeches. For a change, we would be on the stage itself and not on scaffolds. Still, it was just more go-go dancing. And we’d be doing it for free just like all the other entertainers….

It was a wonderful day. Everyone was on a high. Spirit really got everyone on their feet. Dancing. Swaying. Gettin’ down! The speeches were empowering and solidified the crowd’s resolve against the war. They knew that the threat from the outside was now and forever a lie. They knew that the country had better start thinking in a new way. And they knew that these rallies were meant to attract the media and make people pay attention. They needed a venue where their opposition could be clearly seen and loudly heard. So they rose to the occasion and hooted and whistled and hollered at the top of their lungs in response to buzz words that echoed through the loudspeakers. But the crowd was there as much for the music as they were to make a statement. They were there to have a good time and have some fun.

A threatening police presence, a bottle perhaps thrown, and “Suddenly it was chaos. Clubs cracking skulls. Kids screaming and being trampled by both the cops and the crowd. Some people putting up a fight. Guys trying to rip the masks from the cops’ faces to get something to punch at. Feisty women kicking and biting their assailants. Kids trying to hang on to, but then violently bucked off, the bronco legs of police who were trying to pummel their dads. Lots of bleeding. Lots of pleading. “

LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Evening Outlook reported

LA Free Press Festival Riot

A local paper reported the next day that police moved in because of a planned orgy: “The plan was for people to form a huge circle around a couple on the beach who would have intercourse. Slowly, other couples would join in, [police Capt. Robert] Sillings said his reports revealed. One couple was arrested for lewd conduct after the girl danced topless while her partner fondled her, police said. The girl reportedly was told to put on her top several times and was arrested when she refused. Sillings said there were “numerous incidents” of girls peeling off their bathing suits. Six officers were injured by flying rocks and bottles and at least a dozen other people were hurt in fist fights and by broken glass. A dozen ambulances went to the scene during the day. The violence broke out late in the afternoon when officers attempted to arrest several individuals on suspicion of possession of marijuana and public intoxication.”

LA Free Press Festival Riot
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First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

Cleveland Zoo
September 6,  1969

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

Simon and Garfunkel had released "At the Zoo" as a single in 1967, so I would not be surprised if the song helped inspire the location of the First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festiva in 1969. 

Jim Tarbell helped create the event (Tarbell later became a Cleveland councilman). He recalls, "That was on the heels of Woodstock. I had contracted with Hanley Sound, who did sound at Woodstock. The sound system came directly to Cincinnati after Woodstock. When it arrived, the crew was still caked in mud. We had Vanilla Fudge, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Lonnie Mack and Elvin Bishop."
First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival
Because I saw that Bill Hanley had done the sound, I contacted David Marks. David was at Woodstock and worked with Hanley sound. I asked him if he was in Cleveland with Hanley? Here are his responses: I was on the sound crew. Actually sang a song (disastrously) while the crowds were waiting for Grand Funk to pitch. Strange event. I'm sure Steve Wozniak had something to do with it? He may have helped Harold & Bill with some technical stuff.

I followed up with David and asked who "Harold" was and how Steve Wozniak was connected? Harold Cohen. Bill's main technician & a much sort after sound mixer. I may be wrong but it would've been HC or Sam Baroda who mixed. SW? Not certain how but he bopped in & out of a few Hanley Sound festivals / events. I somehow think it was in Cincinntti Zoo I met him. I do recall Jim Ludlow who ran a club in which we installed a sound system... Ludlow's Garage & us crew stayed at his house. 
 

Unfortunately for Mini-Pop, it rained for the one-day event. The whole line-up was:
  • Grand Funk Railroad
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Vanilla Fudge
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Dee Felice Trio
What you see above is what I've been able to find. As always, I'd love to hear from anyone who has any more information, especially if you were there.

In the meantime, what better lyrics to post than...
Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it’s trueIt’s a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the park
Just a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo
Bus you can take the crosstown bus
If it’s raining or it’s cold
And the animals will love it
If you do, nowSomethin’ tells me
It’s all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it’s trueThe monkeys stand for honesty
Giraffes are insincere
And the elephants are kindly, but they’re dumb
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum

Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries
Pigeons plot in secrecy
And hamsters turn on frequently
What a gas!
You gotta come and see
At the zoo
At the zoo

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival, First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival, First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

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Vancouver Pop Festival

Vancouver Pop Festival

Paradise Valley Resort
August 22, 23, and 24 1969

Vancouver Pop Festival

Each year as I post a short piece about the many rock festivals that took place in 1969, I seem to find a few more. On my latest list, the Vancouver Pop Festival is number 27.

Paradise Valley Resort (now the Cheakamus Centre) is about 40 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Promoter Bert Gartner had planned on selling 30,000 tickets for each of the three days. He sold 15,000. The MC was well-known radio DJ Terry Mulligan. Bikers showed up and "did" security. 

There is some dispute as to whether the Grateful Dead played the event. Some sites state they did; others dispute it. Unusual is that there is no recording of their performance, something that almost always occurred.

The Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger site comes down on the "did not play" side with the following information:
Here are the listings from the great San Francisco Express Times, vol. 2 no. 32 (August 21, 1969), p. unk. There’s lots of interest here, of course. But I have circled the item that interests me most greatly. It’s under the listings for Sunday, August 24, 1969, and reads as follows:
Hippy Hill: Trans-Cultural Rip-Offs, Inc. presents Steve Gaskin & the Grateful Dead in concert with Shiva Fellowship. Bring dope (the sacrament) and good vibes. noon. free.
“Hippy Hill”, a.k.a. Hippie Hill, is apparently at the far eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, close to the entry from the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It seems like a perfectly good place to go share a sacrament and a free show by the Dead.
I show the listing referred to below. It is too small to read, but if you click on it you will likely be able to see a larger view:

Vancouver Pop Festival

In 2011, MC Terry Mulligan wrote his biography, My Life...So Far. In it he included his memories about the event. He felt it had held much promise, but failed to deliver.  He also said that the Grateful Dead did not play. Among the several paragraphs about the event, Mulligan includes...
I had my own experience with an unruly music event when…I introduced the acts at the Vancouver Pop Festival–three days of rain, cold and miserable hippies….
Nobody was ready for the pissing rain and cold. People were in sleeping bags on the wet ground in a mountain valley that was mostly shielded from the sun.
I was the guy who promoted the event on the air, so many people thought it was my event. Every half-hour there was somebody loud and angry in my face, spittle flying. “My old lady just got robbed.” “These are bogus tickets.” “You took my money, man!”
Vancouver Pop Festival
Yet like any event, perspectives change with who one was and where one sat. Vancouver Sun reporter Eileen Johnson wrote:
…the music was excellent, the sound system worked fine, the weather couldn’t have been been better, the light show was a delight, and there were so few people…no one could have suffered from overcrowding
And yet another statement from the same article by attendee David Chesney,
It was like every outlaw motorcycle gang in the Pacific Northwest came to this thing….The bizarre part was when Little Richard came on. All these bikers right up front. …Little Richard was mincing it up big time, and questioning their sexuality while flaunting his.

Vancouver Pop Festival, Vancouver Pop Festival, Vancouver Pop Festival, Vancouver Pop Festival,

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