Tag Archives: 1969 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


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
Please follow and like us:

Palm Springs Pop Festival

Palm Springs Pop Festival

Before I began giving museum tours at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, I, like many, thought that other than the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, there were few other festivals that summer. 

Yes, Woodstock had spawned the scores of other multi-day festivals that followed in the 70s and beyond, otherwise 1969 was empty.

Not so.

I have found dozens of others and the Palm Springs Pop Festival is the first I’ve found in 1969.

While it might not have the cachet that Woodstock has–not 500,000 people, mud slides, skinny dipping, closed highways, et cetera–it did have a great line up, several of whom would be visiting Bethel, NY later that summer.

There isn’t too much about the Palm Springs Pop Festival–like many of the other 1969 festivals. It was unique in that it took place over two non-consecutive days and also took place at two different venues.

Palm Springs Pop Festival
♥  #1  

Day 1…April 1, 1969

According to the Palm Springs Life dot com site, “Students came from San Diego and Los Angeles by the carloads hoping to purchase tickets for the two concerts that were sponsored by Los Angeles FM stations as part of the two-day pop music festival.

The drive-in marquee messaged: “Tuesday only Palm Springs Pot Festival from 6 to Midnight “Come high and stay high.”

In a foreshadowing of that upcoming historic festival, those who could not get in broke holes in the fences and pushed in.

1969 Palm Springs Pop Festival

Palm Springs Drive-In Theatre
  • MC, KMET’s B Mitchell Reed
  • Jeff Beck (billed but didn’t appear)
  • Moby Grape (billed but didn’t appear)
  • Procol Harum (replacement for above)
  • Flying Burrito Brothers (replacement for above)
  • Gram Parsons
  • Timothy Leary
  • John Mayall
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Lee Michaels
  • Hard Luck Boy
Day 2…April 3, 1969

Palm Springs Angel Baseball Stadium

The second night was marred.  After the 3,500 ticket holders went in, police kept potential gate-crashers away.

The crowd spread out and a gas station owner shot and killed a 16-year-old. Authorities determined it was self-defense or what in today’s parlance is called stand-your-ground.

1969 Palm Springs Pop Festival

  • Ike and Tina Turner Revue
  • Savoy Brown
  • Buddy Miles Express
  • Canned Heat
    Palm Springs Pop Festival

1969 Palm Springs Pop Festival

Again from the Palm Springs site, ” A Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial of April 9, 1969, concluded: “The week has gone, but a bad feeling lingers on. The record makes essential the kind of thoughtful long-range preparation that can cut down on the chances for a repetition.”

Permits were not issued for outdoor concerts in Palm Springs for more than a decade.

According to the djtees.com site, “Rolling Stone reported one festival-goer as saying, We’re the new breed, proclaimed Mike Henderson, 22, of Long Beach. Sooner or later we’re going to take over the country. Then we’ll be able to do what we want to do, and we’ll have a peaceful planet.”

Such sentiment sounds sadly familiar.

Palm Springs Pop Festival
Please follow and like us:

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

Cleveland Zoo
September 6,  1969
1969 Festival #32

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 Festival 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

Bill Hanley Sound

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.

First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

Line up

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 rumZebras 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
Please follow and like us: