Highlights from Monterey Pop, the Best Music Festival Ever

The Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California was arguably the apex of the 1967 Summer of Love. Featuring some of the best live performances from the era’s most iconic performers, Monterey Pop was one of the first modern music festivals. I don’t think another festival has topped the music, spirit, and camaraderie of Monterey since (even Woodstock…); to say the attendees were lucky is a huge understatement.

Many of these performances have been immortalized (see: Jimi Hendrix and The Who), but it’s easy to overlook some when the festival was chockfull of amazing sets. Below are some of my favorite moments from the music festival that changed the world.

Country Joe & the Fish – “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”

Country Joe & the Fish were known for their experimental psychedelic rock instrumental numbers, but their single “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” demonstrates their ability to create simpler rock songs without losing that psychedelic edge (those organs!). The camerawork highlights some key females in the crowd who look like they are taking the experience all in – did they realize then that they were in the midst of a music milestone?

The Blues Project – “Flute Thing” 

After hearing this masterpiece from the Blues Project, I have to wonder why more bands do not utilize the flute. Andy Kulberg‘s mind-blowing flute solo (starting around 4:55) is mesmerizing; notice how the audience is totally transfixed. Can 2017 be the year flute solos become a thing again?

Big Brother and the Holding Company (feat. Janis Joplin) – “Combination of the Two”

Critics, understandably, often cite Janis Joplin’s rendition of “Ball and Chain” at Monterey as her breakout moment, but this other song from Big Brother and the Holding Company‘s set shows how well she could complement bandmates Sam Andrew’s vocals and James Gurley’s acid rock guitar licks. Even Mama Cass from The Mamas & The Papas was impressed!

Jefferson Airplane – “High Flyin’ Bird” and “Today”

Speaking of complementary vocals, there was no better combination than the vocals of Grace Slick and Marty Balin in Jefferson Airplane, as seen above.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band – “Driftin’ Blues”

The late, great Paul Butterfield is dripping with soulful blues in what may be his strongest live performance. Like in the “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” clip, the camerawork captures the essence of the vibe at Monterey: pensive faces just drinking up all the magic from the music. No camera phones were needed at Monterey; the memories were enough.

This Saturday, the Ardmore Music Hall is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Monterey Pop with their “Ardmore Pop” concert. This special night will include recreations of the Monterey sets from Indigenous (doing Jimi Hendrix), Johnny Showcase (Otis Redding), Dean & Company (The Grateful Dead), Zach Djanikian (Simon & Garfunkel), Ali Wadsworth (Janis Joplin), and The End of America (The Byrds). Tickets for this 21+ show are available here

 

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