Wednesday, April 23, 2014

10 Performances That Rocked Festival History
Jimi Hendrix of the Experience with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones at the
Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967.

Brian Mansfield, USA TODAY 9:01 a.m. EDT April 23, 2014

Woodstock may have captured the spirit of a generation, but the Monterey Pop Festival had more moments that changed popular music.

That's the collective opinion of USA TODAY readers, who recently voted to select 10 breakout festival moments for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's new year-long exhibit Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience, which opens Friday. The fests are part of a montage that plays on a giant video wall at the exhibit's entrance.

A pair of sets from the 1967 California fest topped the list (Jimi Hendrix and Big Brother and the Holding Company), and Monterey claimed three spots to Woodstock's two. Live Aid, a televised 1985 two-continent event raising money for Ethiopian hunger relief, also had two acts represented, with the Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and Woodstock '94 each having a moment on the list.

"I find it interesting that the '60s are so well represented," says Lauren Onkey, vice president of education and public programs at the Cleveland museum. "It says something about the importance of the film and TV mediums to music festivals.

"One of the reasons that Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Wattstax retain their power is because you can, to this day, go to a theater or watch the festival performance on your TV. You could argue that Woodstock wouldn't be as important if a major film crew wasn't there to capture it."

The top 10 timeline runs from bluesman Muddy Waters' audience-expanding 1960 visit to Newport Jazz to Nine Inch Nails' appearance at Woodstock '94.

Onkey says she was surprised that newer performances didn't make the list.

"They're every bit as good as the older festival moments," she says. "I suppose these performances just need to be seen by more people before they are truly appreciated and make a short list."

Here are the moments that voters chose:


Monterey International Pop Music Festival (1967)

Hendrix, who had made a name for himself in England but hadn't yet established a U.S following, forever altered the sonic possibilities of rock guitar during a nine-song set that included Foxy Lady, Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary. An astounding technician and showman, Hendrix played with his teeth, between his legs and behind his head. He finally set his guitar on fire during Wild Thing, then smashed it against the stage and tossed pieces into the stunned crowd.


Monterey International Pop Music Festival (1967)

Director D.A. Pennebaker's crew didn't film the group's Saturday afternoon set, but Janis Joplin made such a big impression that organizers quickly slated a two-song performance for Sunday so she could be in the Monterey Pop movie. "They didn't even have a big-time recording contract at that time," notes Lauren Onkey, the Rock Hall's vice president of education and public programming. Five months later, they did, signing with Columbia.


Live Aid (1985)

Not everyone who came to London's Wembley Stadium that July day came to see Queen, but frontman Freddie Mercury held them all in the palm of his hand for 20 minutes. "It's such a bonding moment between artist and audience," Onkey says. "Queen, and Freddie Mercury in particular, was one of those acts who could play on a grand scale, who could take a stadium and get to people on the back row. When you see the footage, you feel that."


Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969)

Despite Woodstock's status as the '60s watershed cultural event, it didn't break the bands that played there the way Monterey Pop did — yet Santana was an exception. "Their first album came out that same month," Onkey says. "They came out of the gate so strong and had such a unique mix of rock and Latin music that really hadn't been seen before. The cameras captured it perfectly. Santana's still a household name, and it's a performance people can go back to and find it still sounds fresh."


Newport Folk Festival (1965)

Dylan goes electric; boos follow. The audience may have reacted to the poor sound quality or the briefness of the set, but legend has it that the crowd felt betrayed by the intractable singer's sudden stylistic shift. "He changed gears so rapidly at that moment, and Like a Rolling Stone became a pop hit," Onkey says. "It's one of the most unlikely pop songs on top 40 radio — sonically, lyrically, every way. As he has this moment, he also breaks out to a wider audience, out of the folk circle."


Monterey International Pop Music Festival (1967)

Redding's five-song set, backed by Booker T & the MGs, included astonishing versions ofI've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) and Try a Little Tenderness and established him as one of the era's premier soul singers. For many fans, Redding's legacy consisted of the footage in the Monterey Pop film and his next single, (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay: By the time both came out, Redding was gone, killed in a plane crash in December 1967.


Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1994)

The members of Nine Inch Nails wrestled one another in the mud, then took to the stage for an unforgettable 15-song performance. The most recent inclusion on this list, it became the defining moment of the festival, a 25th-anniversary celebration of the original Woodstock, and, perhaps, of the band's career. "The visual there — the mud, embracing the vibe and what can happen and throwing yourself into it — is really powerful," Onkey says.


Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969)

Having just come off a career-first No. 1 hit with Everyday People, Sly and the Family Stone was one of the nation's hottest acts when the group began playing at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. "If rock music was kind of about audiences desegregating and coming together in the '50s and '60s, Sly and the Family Stone were symbolic of what was possible at that moment, at the peak of the counterculture," Onkey says.


Live Aid (1985)

In 15 minutes, performing one number (Bad), U2 established itself as a future stadium act, dropped in bits of Rolling Stones and Lou Reed songs, and saved a girl's life. Kal Khalique later told Britain's The Sun that she'd been suffocating beneath the crowd crush before Bono pulled her out and wrapped her in his arms. "That worked so brilliantly on TV," Onkey says. "If you had been sitting in the back of the stadium, you might have missed it."


Newport Jazz Festival (1960)

Onkey finds the blues great's inclusion, the oldest performance on the list, a thrilling surprise amid all the rock acts. "The Internet has opened up access to music history in a way that's really remarkable," she says. "If you heard about Muddy Waters before YouTube, you wouldn't know how incredible his Newport Jazz Festival performance was. The Internet has allowed us to reinvestigate the past and rediscover gems like this."

No comments: