Tag Archives: Festivals

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

July 28, 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Another Woodstock?

Rock festivals had become a normal part of the warm months and 1973 had the biggest ever, at least in terms of attendance.  Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplin produced the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, a one-day event with only three bands.

The three bands weren’t just any bands. They were arguably the three biggest rock bands of the time: the Allman Brothers, The Band, and the Grateful Dead. Some attendees bought tickets, 150,000 at least. If that number is accurate, then 450,000 people saw the event for free, because the estimated number of people at the event is 600,000, far outnumbering Woodstock in 1969.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

July 27, 1973

The plans called for the bands to do their soundchecks the day before. Like Woodstock, there were already thousands of fans waiting the next day’s concert, but The Band decided to do their soundcheck anyway. The Allman Brothers followed with a couple more songs.

Like no other band before, since, and perhaps ever, the Dead ended up doing 90 minutes with two full sets. Deadheads rate this “show” as one of the best ever!

Set 1

  1. The Promised Land
  2. Sugaree
  3. Mexicali Blues
  4. Bird Song
  5. Big River
  6. Tennessee Jed

Set 2

  1. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
  2. Me And My Uncle
  3. Jam ->
  4. Wharf Rat
  5. Around And Around

And like most Dead shows, there are several recordings available: soundboard, audience, and a wonderful matrix.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Watkins Glen acoustics

With 600,000 attendees the area resembled the already 4-year-old Woodstock Music and Art Fair: clogged highways, impromptu parties, dazed wanderers, and seat searchers.

A crowd of that size required some clever acoustic technology. Every two-hundred feet from the stage, the crew erected additional sets of sound towers.  Seven sets altogether. That alone would have created  acoustic Doppler mayhem with the original sound lagging  behind the forward groups of towers, each delayed and piling upon each other.

The key was setting a 0.175 second delay for the first set speakers and additional delays for each set outward. Such a system created a “single” sound to the brains of guests. (insert joke here)

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Jam

The word “jam” in the event’s title lived up to its name. The Dead opened the day with a three-hour plus show. The Band followed with a rain-interrupted two hour set.

The Allman Brothers followed with its own three-hour set after which all three bands joined for a 45 minute set of Not Fade Away, Mountain Jam, and Johnny B. Goode.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Not Woodstock

Despite its location (New York) and its size, Watkins Glen is not nearly as famous as its iconic neighbor in Bethel, 145 miles away. And it is not famous for some of the same reasons that the three dozen plus other festivals of 1969 remain mainly in obscurity: no soundtrack and no movie.

In fact, one can argue that the fate of Woodstock would be similar to that of Watkins Glen if not for it having a movie and album.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973
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Bethel Becomes Woodstock

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

July 1969

One of the most common questions guest ask when I’m volunteering at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is, “Why do they call it Woodstock?”

The question never asked is, “What happened in Wallkill?”

Here’s what was happening in July 1969 while Woodstock Ventures, the partnership that created the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, continued to prepare the Wallkill, NY site for the August festival.

https://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/
Rt 17B, early Saturday morning 16 August 1969 (photo by J Shelley)
Bethel Becomes Woodstock

Wallkill declines

On  July 14, 1969, Woodstock Ventures had again met with Wallkill town officials and presented its revised application for the festival. Wallkill had instituted new ordinances and Woodstock Ventures felt it had done what was necessary to meet those demands.

The next day, in a closed session at the town hall, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals passed judgment on the status of Woodstock Venture’s application for a permit. The five-member board refused to allow the festival to build anything on the 200-acre site.

July 16: officials posted  an eviction notice on the front door of Howard Mill’s barn (one of the organizing locations for the festival) The notice told Woodstock Ventures to vacate the premises. To this point Woodstock Ventures had sold approximately 150,000 tickets for each day and had spent $500,000 on the concert. Woodstock Ventures went to court.

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

Bethel’s Woodstock

The move to Bethel, New York is a bit shrouded in a Sullivan County early morning fog. That is not surprising. No one followed Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, or John Roberts around with a tape recorder or notepad to document every word for posterity. No one knew that posterity would be interested.

That same day (July 16) Mel Lawrence (Director of Operations) and Michael Lang took a helicopter over nearby areas looking for a concert new location.

While they were gone, Elliott Tieber apparently contacted Woodstock Ventures about a place in Bethel, NY, 30 miles away. Tieber’s family ran the El Monaco Motel at the intersection of Rts 17B and 55.

Upon investigation, the site was completely unsuitable. Tieber (perhaps, perhaps not) set up a meeting with Max Yasgur.

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

Max and men on the moon

July 17: although not particularly interested, Max Yasgur agreed to meet with Woodstock Ventures. Area media had covered the festival’s troubles in Wallkill and Yasgur knew all about the Wallkill eviction.

July 18: in the morning before the Yasgur meeting, Michael Lang and Ticia Bernuth (production assistant) explored the Bethel area. They saw an area they thought suitable.

The first site Yasgur offered did not please Lang. Yasgur offered another site, a field he owned about a mile away. It was the same site Lang and Bernuth had seen that morning. Yasgur and Lang made an agreement.

July 20: Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

Blowback

July 20: someone nailed a sign to tree at driveway entrance.

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

July 21: Judge Edward O’Gorman handed down a decision. It banned the festival from the Wallkill site. That evening, the Bethel Council unanimously voted to grant permission to Woodstock Ventures to hold the festival.

Bethel Becomes Woodstock

July 22:  Mel Lawrence brought festival workers from Wallkill to Bethel. He held a general meeting at Tieber’s El Monaco Motel.

July 24: the Bethel Supervisor reported that he’d received about twenty phone calls from residents opposed to festival, but no legal threats.

July 26: Wes Pomeroy, the Chief of Security, began interviewing NYC police. He explained that those selected will not be in uniform, will carry no weapons, and will not hassle attendees about drug use, dress, or language.

That same day a local petition circulated to ban the festival.

Yasgur continued to support his decision and made the following statement: “I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don’t like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don’t like their lifestyle. I hear you don’t like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don’t particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don’t particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don’t like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That’s what this country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our town just because you don’t like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival.”

Bethel Becomes Woodstock
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1969 Seattle Pop Festival

1969 Seattle Pop Festival

Seattle Pop Festival

July 25 – 28, 1969
Gold Creek Park, Woodinville, WASeattle Pop Festival
1969 Seattle Pop Festival

1969 Festival #21

Another 1969 summer weekend. Another 1969 festival. The Seattle Pop Festival was the 21st festival of that year (at least as I keep finding new ones to add to the list). And like the event named Woodstock that was not in Woodstock, this Seattle event was not in Seattle.

The lineup was a good one and if 400,000 people had shown up, if it had been in New York, and if Boyd Grafmyre, its organizer, had filmed and recorded it, we’d know even more about it today. Alas those “ifs” are mainly “nots.”

1969 Seattle Pop Festival

Boyd GrafmyreSeattle Pop Festival

Boyd had attended the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It inspired him to do the same in Seattle two summers later. According to Grafmyre, there were 30,000 attendees on first day, 60,000 the second day, and 90.000 on day three.

Friday 25 July

  • Crome Syrcus
  • Bo Diddley
  • Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Ten Years After
  • Guess Who
  • Murray Roman
  • Albert Collins
  • Santana
  • Youngbloods
  • Tim Buckley
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • Byrds

Saturday 26 July

  • Floating Bridge
  • Charles Lloyd
  • Santana
  • Albert Collins
  • The Flock
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • Ike and Tina Turner Revue
  • Guess Who
  • Bo Diddley
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Chuck Berry
  • Tim Buckley

Sunday 27 July

  • Blacksnake
  • Youngbloods
  • Guess Who
  • Spirit
  • Bo Diddley
  • Vanilla Fudge
  • The Flock
  • Albert Collins
  • Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Ike and Tina Turner Revue
  • Charles Lloyd
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Lee Michaels
  • Doors
  • Chuck Berry
1969 Seattle Pop Festival

Woodstock West (sort of)1969 Seattle Pop Festival

1969 Seattle Pop Festival

Multiple performances

Unlike most festivals, you will notice that many of the better known bands played more than one day, such as Bo Diddley (3 days), the Flying Burrito Brothers (2 days), Guess Who (3 days), Albert Collins (3 days), Santana (2 days), Tim Buckley (2 days), Charles Lloyd (2 days), The Flock (2 days), It’s a Beautiful Day (2 days), Ike and Tina Turner Revew (2 days), and Chuck Berry (2 days).

It must have been nice to see your favorite bands more than once at the same venue the same weekend.

According to the Invisible Theme Park site, the following were notable characteristics about the Seattle Pop  Festival:

  • Led Zeppelin and The Doors played together on the same ticket–the only time they did so.
  • The “Forgotten Woodstock” preceded the real Woodstock by one month.
  • Chicago Transit Authority eventually became Chicago.  Their first album had been released only 3 months before Seattle Pop Festival.
  • This is Led Zeppelin on the cusp of fame.  1969 was the year they first came to America.
  • Crome Syrcus?  They were a psychedelic Pacific Northwest band that broke up in 1973, best known for “Love Cycle” and “Take It Like a Man.”

     

  • Murray Roman?  He was a stand-up comedian, a bit of a poor man’s Lenny Bruce, who had an album called You Can’t Beat People Up and Have Them Say I Love You.  He died in 1973 in a car crash on PCH.
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers was formed a year before Seattle Pop from former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman.
  • Forgotten Woodstock:  25 acts, 50,000 fans.  The East Coast Woodstock:  32 acts, 500,000 fans.
1969 Seattle Pop Festival
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