1960s & 1970s festivals
It is almost impossible to talk about the 60’s and 70’s music without remembering the great festivals on the outdoors which were full of many long haired visitors. Music has its most intimate contact with the audience always during live performances which were always more exciting than frozen, always the same notes coming out of speakers in our rooms. This fact was seen by the old jazz musicians who were in the smoky clubs carried by the moment of inspiration and maybe some opiates created bebop music, and this is certainly the thought of Jim Morrison when he talked about making love to the masses.
60’s with all its charms liberated mankind from the shackles of mind and enable them to operate Dionysian – to follow the echo from the depths of the heart, neglecting the limitations posed by the cold mind that is already fooled by imperfect senses. Here come the pioneers – Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Stanley Owsley – who have delved into the deep sea of the unconscious and they found the whole cosmos. Yes, the cosmos that lies within us, and which we can only reach with the heart freed from the shackles of the mind. All is one, the old sages of the East had always talked about that.
Basically, the music was in those days followed by the path of the heart. Live performances sounded unique, but these days we are no longer able to repeat that sound, no matter how hard you try, how your technical and production skills are advanced, the mind will never penetrate where it was once the heart. Listen Cream live. Or the Grateful Dead. Or Quicksilver Messenger Service. Listen to the savage improvisation of Baby Grandmothers. Listen to “Live in Nazilli” and ride on the magic carpet with Erkin Koray. Give pleasure to your ears and give them orgasmic joy that comes from “Live in Berlin” by Ash Ra Tempel. These are the sounds that are not from the surface of this world, but the sounds of the discovered cosmos, it’s the singing of the collective unconscious, the echoes of eternity, and maybe a touch of the voice of God himself. People in those days were open, and the overall “zeitgeist” was returning humanity to an innocent, almost primordial and infantile level, it seemed as if the spirit of mankind at the moment of enlightenment touched their own roots, finishing his spiritual odyssey. When someone mentions in conversation that Woodstock is the first place he would visit if he could sit in a time machine, the same moment I am clear that I will no longer talk about music to that person. It’s like a wannabe connoisseur of art praising Leonardo and Picasso as the pinnacle of human creativity (without particullary knowing their work). But what about the others? Manet? Munch? Caravaggio? So it is with music. Why Woodstock? Why does not Denver Pop Festival? Or Atlanta Pop Festival? Or Summer Jam at Watkins Glen? The thing is in the film. It was the film that created the myth of Woodstock as the greatest of all festivals, thus creating one of the trademarks of rock and roll and hippie culture that will nurture upcoming generations of young rebels. If by any chance Seattle Pop Festival had the luck of being filmed and so much circulated it could become bigger than Woodstock, as well as the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. Monterey Pop Festival was his superior in musical terms. Festival on the Isle of Wight (there were three, and the third is best known) was more massive. Altamont was certainly more scandalous.
But not to be misunderstood, I must point out that I TRULY LOVE WOODSTOCK. I consider it excellent, but I need to emphasize the fact that there were many such great festivals, some of which are even superior to the Woodstock. In addition, there have been all over the world. At the Festival de Avandaro in Mexico 1971. playing skills were confirmed by wonderful bands such as furious Los Dug Dug’s, blues sounds tend Three Souls in My Mind, brass rock band Bandido, etc. Or maybe that the Festival de Vera Guarapari, 1971., in Brazil. Or Festival de Aguas Claras, 1975. also in Brazil, where played, among others, legendary Mutantes and Arnaldo Baptista. In Yugoslavia, there was a whole range of Boom Festivals where big bands like Time, Smak and Drago Mlinarec performed. In Czechoslovakia they organized illegal underground festivals where unusual bands like DG 307 or Plastic People performed. Not to mention the numerous festivals that were held across the European countries or in Australia and Japan. However, let’s see the music itself in these festivals. It is very eclectic – you could for example, in one night hear the thunder of Led Zeppelin, folk sounds of Incredible String Band and the gentle tones of blues by B.B.King’s “Lucille”, as on the Texas Pop Festival. Or acoustic blues by Tomaž Domicelj, savagely hard rock group Had, and a deep psychedelic by Mladi Levi (“Spominjam se antimaterije”) at the Boom Festival in Ljubljana 1972. Moreover, at the Woodstock Ravi Shankar performed, at the Wight played Miles Davis. Once I read that Johnny Cash was invited to the Woodstock, but he allegedly refused, fearing how a young hippie audience will accept him (which would probably accept him quite well, as it accepted Bo Didley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jery Lee Lewis too, at the festival in Toronto). As time went on, other musical forms appeared, and since it is a kind of eclecticism as a paradigm remained present at festivals, so at the end of 70’s you could see Ian Gillan, Sham 69 and Lindisfarne (Reading ’78), or Gong, UK Subs and John Martyn (Glastonbury ’79) in a festival. This is where a new epoch appears; music has lost its tendency to wander around transcendental wastelands, and it allowed itself to fall into the chains of marketing. Bands are increasingly trying to sound the same both in the studio and live, and the audience does not want to feel and experience the music, but only shorten the time – no pleasure, no catharsis.
– Martin Okun