Tag: Concert

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 960: Day Three of Peace & Music

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“And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, and maybe it’s the time of man.

And I don’t know who I am but life is for learning.”

 

As the bone-soaked and weary revelers packed together their tin-foil hash pipes, their mud-crusty jean-shorts and their near-sentient hangovers to leave the festival, one wonders if the historic weight of their experience could be fathomed among any of them. Leaving a grisly wake of discarded garments, blankets so infused with dirt and sweat they could never be clean again, and a weekend’s worth of rubble from the small city that rose and fell upon Max Yasgur’s farm over four days, they likely had other things on their minds.

Would their parents be worried? Those whose jobs necessitated a Monday appearance had likely been trapped in Bethel, New York until the crowd was ready to disperse – would they still have employment upon their return? No doubt a handful were wondering how they’d describe the wondrous soul-swoosh of the previous weekend to their friends and family serving overseas in Vietnam, or if they’d ever get the chance.

Judging by the overwhelming jubilance witnessed in the Woodstock documentary film, some may have tasted the optimistic truth that such massive accumulations of good vibes are possible, and that a few more parties like this might end the war and straighten up humankind’s preternatural bent toward self-destruction. Could any of them have foreseen the generation’s collective retreat from idealism and decay into boring ol’ adulthood?

And how were they going to clean this mess without the use of flame-throwers?

And how were they going to clean this mess without the use of flame-throwers?

For those of us who grew up in the shadow of the Love Generation, when Free Love meant death from AIDS, when the only war we could protest was the UN’s righteous removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and when drugs were not – as we were told – a liberating force, but rather the egg goop that would sizzle upon the frying pans of our brains, Woodstock became an ideal. We watched the movie, we found the music more engaging than M.C. Hammer’s instructions of what we can and cannot touch, and we subsequently glorified the festival and its citizens. Where was our Woodstock? Read more…

Day 922: Riding That Train, High On Cocaine & Pretty Much Everything Else

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Within a span of about five months, the notion of the Grand Hippie Music Festival had deteriorated from a three-day swoon of good vibes, great drugs and phenomenal tuneage at Woodstock into an angry and disorganized mess at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. I’ve written about the latter already, and I’ll have plenty to say about the former in an upcoming piece, but the question left unanswered by Altamont can only be: “what happens next?”

The digestible myth is that the disastrous Altamont concert nudged the nail in the sixties’ coffin, not only landing near the decade’s calendar terminus but also smushing into ash any hopes that the peace ‘n love generation could haul their good vibes into adulthood. But beyond Altamont you’ll still find the stellar 1970 Isle of Wight festival and the poorly-managed (but heartily rock-tastic) Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. The dream wasn’t dead, it just took a nasty little hit in late ’69.

One of the first post-Altamont gathering of groups took place in Canada in the triumphant early days of 1970’s summer. Where festivals like Woodstock and Monterey Pop had previously lured fans from neighboring time zones and beyond to the event, the Festival Express was set to cruse across the country, bringing the idea of a super-conglomeration of super-groups to a myriad of cities. It was a concert game-changer, and solid proof that the perpetual party of the previous decade had not yet reached last call.

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Originally known as the Transcontinental Pop Festival, Ken Walker (above) along with his partners Thor and George Eaton aimed for four cities: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. They secured a 14-car Canadian National Railways train for the artists, and booked a documentary crew to film the entire event. Walker and his associates booked passage for themselves on the train also, as no self-respecting businessman of that era was foolish enough to throw a party like that without attending it. Read more…

Day 811: Sympathy For The Sixties

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Growing up as I did amid hippie anthems, psychedelic living room lighting fixtures and the notorious sweet smell of those skinny little cigarettes my parents would pass back and forth, it was easy to romanticize the Woodstock culture. When I attended high school, anti-war activism (to boot Iraq out of Kuwait) was non-existent and youth culture involved acting intentionally mopey and disenfranchised or memorizing the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby”. Those kids in 1969 were grooving to great music, they were smiling and enjoying the sun, and they were having promiscuous sex without fear of a deadly organ-murdering virus.

I understand now that framing that era is simplistic and one-dimensional, and I’d overlooked the racial violence, the gender inequity, the generational disconnect and the very real fear that many Americans faced at being shipped off to die in Vietnam. Also, from what I hear the weed wasn’t very good. Woodstock – and I watched the film a few times as a teenager – appeared to be the glittering diamond between the proudly stretched arms of the Peace ‘n Love generation. And Altamont was the axe that knocked the entire thing to the ground.

Another simplification, and it pains me to know that this rich and inarguably fascinating period in our history is going to be butchered by hazy summations and inaccurate conclusions the further we move away from it. The Altamont concert was not the “end of 60’s youth culture” or the “death of ideology”. It was a catastrophic blunder fuelled by poor decisions and lousy planning. Woodstock was a fluke, in that things went well after a disastrous build-up. Altamont was reality.

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Less than four months after Woodstock, concert organizers were looking for a sequel. This was prior to the age of corporate-sponsored gigs, when there was no slick industry in place to monetize the counterculture. This is why a free concert was the plan – Woodstock had been free (not by the promoters’ choice, but that’s another story), so why not simulate that vibe on the west coast?

The Rolling Stones were slogging through a successful (though many felt overpriced) tour of the States, and landing in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for a huge free show with a killer roster of opening acts seemed like a great way to finish the tour. They worked alongside members of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead to make it happen. Read more…

Day 481: The Morality Cops

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Let me paint you a picture. On a Sunday night at 8:00, my family has the option of watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on ABC (channel 13), or flipping over to the latest episode of The Walking Dead on AMC (channel 39). One of these two shows contains profanity, excessive blood and gore, and the most creative violence I’ve ever seen on TV. The other contains hilarious trampoline-induced, groin-related mishaps. With sound effects!

In that same timeslot, AMC and HBO are proud to show us a protagonist who cooks meth, a 1920’s gangster who likes to be choked during sex (with full frontal wagging wang), and the visceral assault on the hormones of straight women and gay men everywhere which is contained within Don Draper’s pants.

Yet the ABC show is subject to intensive scrutiny by professional finger-pointers like the Parents Television Council. If my wife and I were not home, our babysitter sprawled drunkenly across the bathroom floor, the PTC would protect my kids from damaging television, but only so long as they can’t figure out how to use the Channel Up button to get to 39.

Stifling their counting skills is always a good idea.

Stifling their counting skills is always a good idea.

Most modern televisions have the ability to lock out channels. V-Chip technology can block network shows with questionable content for children. And for parents who are really worried, there’s always the ability to fall back on actual parenting, meaning if you don’t want them to see the bloodshed on CSI, then you don’t fucking let them watch it.

Uh-oh. Now the PTC will be on my case for that slip-up. Sorry if I’ve offended any of you. If only I had the wisdom and wherewithal of the censorship sages in their office. Read more…

Day 414: Spelunking For Dollars

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If you’re a fan of the earth, so much so that you enjoy being completely ensconced in it, do I have some vacation spots for you. You see, ever since humankind moved out of caves into 4-level split duplex suburbia, we have been fascinated with returning to caves, shining lights on walls and marveling at the twists and turns inside.

I’m sure some psychologist would point out the phallic imagery of poking our noses into Mother Nature’s forbidden crevasses; I’m not quite bold enough to spend a kilograph juggling those cerebral chainsaws like an amateur. I’d like to hang out with that guy though. I bet he’s a riot at parties.

"That tree over there? Also signifies a penis."

“That tree over there? Also signifies a penis.”

Fortunately, nature has given us a number of show caves, dank troughs of murky curiosity, ready to accept your tourist dollars. Also fortunately, some of them are endowed with an interesting backstory. Read more…