Tuesday, March 31, 2009
(Image via NYCDreamin Archives)
Everyone knows all the stories about Woodstock and Altamont. But there were several other large-scale U.S. rock festivals that took place from the late 1960's - early 1970's. This was one of those festivals. To say it became a nightmare for many who attended is probably an understatement. Others seem to remember a much more satisfying experience.
Here is the story - click the links for more information.
Date: April 1 -3, 1972
Place: Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
Attendance: Approx. 30,000
"Aquarius Rising: The Rock Festival Years"
by Robert Santelli (1980) [p. 230 - 237]
In 1972, nearly two years after he had helped produce the second Atlanta Pop Festival, promoter Alex Cooley thought he had found the solution to at least the legal problems surrounding rock festivals. Why bother to fight the mass-gathering ordinances and other legal stickers designed to prevent the staging of festivals? Instead, he and his business partners came up with an idea that seemed to be a promoter's dream: simply hold the event where there weren't such legal hassels and stipulations. Someplace like Puerto Rico...
Vega Baja is located on the North coast of the Island of Puerto Rico. The oceanfront property was once a huge dairy farm of more than 420 acres of beautiful countryside. A stretch of sun-soaked, sandy white beach, the kind that locals and travel agencies love to boast about, seperates the farm from the sea. Cooley and his associates rented the land for Easter weekend. It was on that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that Mar y Sol (Sun and Sea) Festival was to take place.
Promoters made arrangements with the airlines so that package deals were offered to festivalgoers flying out of the major East Coast cities. From New York City, for example, round-trip airfare plus a festival ticket cost approximately $152. Not cheap by any rock fan's standards, especially those who were accustomed to gate-crashing festivals. Mar y Sol promised to be a small, almost private event. The island and the beach atmosphere made the trip to Puerto Rico vacationlike, with the music being an added extra attraction. College kids lookingfor someplace to go besides Fort Lauderdale, Florida, found Mar y Sol the perfect substitute.
Cooley next contacted various bus lines in San Juan to transport the young people from the airport to the festival site, some thirty-five miles away. The deal was that a flat sum was to be paid to the transit companies to have their drivers waiting with their vehicles as the first load of kids stepped from the first plane. Cooley expected a crowd of twenty-five to fifty thousand. It was not an easy task to transport so many people arriving at virtually the same time. But the deal was concluded anyway. Things looked bright as the first weekend in April drew near.
Out on the festival site a commune called The Family had been hired by the promoters to construct the stage, erect sound and lighting towers, and generally ready the land for the influx of thousands of people. Living the good life, the deeply tanned comune members had been on the site since the beginning of the year. When they weren't working, they spent their time sunbathing, swimming, fishing, surfing, and playing the role of Robinson Crusoe in a 1972-ish sort of way. Somehow they managed to discipline themselves so that nearly all the work had been completed by the time the first festivalgoers began arriving in Vega Baja.
On the surface it appeared that Cooley and his Atlanta-based backers had held up their part of the bargain. It was the other partis involved who botched up the festival plans. Things turned sour a week before the festival, when a San Juan Superior Court judge issued a court injunction that barred any festival activities at Vega Baja because of the possible sale and use of illicit drugs by American hippies. When East Coast newspapers reported the decision of the court, stateside festivalgoers did not know whether to risk a trip to the Carribean island or get their money back by cancelling their plane reservations. Some chose the latter course...most however, decided to make the trip regardless of the injunction.
Festival lawyers worked frantically to get the injunction reversed, and miraculously accomplished their goal late Thursday afternoon. Due to backroom compromising the same judge abrogated his earlier decision and permitted the festival to proceed as scheduled. Planes filled with young people began arriving at the airport in San Juan early Friday morning. Once their baggage was secured they searched for the free busses that were to take them to the festival area. There were none. During the court-injunction confusion the transit company hired by the festival promoters had assumed the festival was cancelled and had not assigned any drivers or busses to the airport. When word reached the company that Mar y Sol would take place after all, officials sent all available taxi drivers to the airport to cover for the lack of busses.
The ride from the airport to Vega Baja took almost three hours due to the traffic. It was hot, sticky, and crowded in the taxis as people jammed into them, eager to be a part of the first wave arriving at the site. The music was scheduled to begin that evening, but it was obvious, from the chaos, that no live sounds would be heard from the stage until the following day. That gave people time to set up camp, do a little swiming in the warm, refreshing ocean, and get sunburned. Real sunburned. It was only April, and many were sunbathing for the first time that season. As a result, the strong tropical ultra-violet rays turned palish white backs, legs and chests into sizzling red flesh in a matter of hours.
By late Friday afternoon local Puerto Ricans had set up simple booths and concession stands and began selling at outrageous prices, food and other items. One of those "other items" later turned out to be fresh water. Some of the wells that had been drilled exclusively for use during the festival ran dry sooner than expected. Many gallons of precious water were also being used to keep the showers going. Locals kindly uttered "gracias" in a sinister tone as thirsty festivalgoers at first paid .25 and then at some stands, .75 and even a dollar for a glass of water.
When young male Puerto Ricans found out that American girls were using the open shower area, hundreds crowded about to catch glimpses, whistle, and shout signs of approval. They liked what they saw and they wanted the girls to know it. The relationship between locals and festivalgoers deteriorated rapidly. No policemen were on the site, security was spotty, and those carrying machetes knew they could do whatever they pleased. When a drunken bunch of locals tore down two American flags and raised the Puerto Rican colors in their place, numerous fights broke out. It was only a matter of time before disaster struck.
Late Friday evening, a sixteen-year-old boy from the island of St. Croix, who had been dealing coke during the day and [had] run into some problems with local dealers, slept peacefully in his sleeping-bag. Despite the hassels he had had a good day. Saturday would be even better because of the commencement of the music. The moon's light was constantly interrupted by passing cloud formations, and so no one saw a group of locals silently approach the boy. No one heard the sound of the machetes hitting bone or slicing through flesh. In a matter of seconds the body in the sleeping bag became a bloody, mangled mess. The moon and the stars and maybe one or two frightened young people who were deathly afraid to talk were the only witnesses.
Three other people lost their lives at Mar y Sol. A couple swam out past the breakers and were swept away by a fast moving current. They both drowned. Another young person, this one from New Jersey, attempted to surf where the ocean's floor was lined with jagged rocks. On his last wave he wiped out as the force of the water shot him downward. He cracked his head on a sharp rock and died on the way to the hospital.
There was a marijuana shortage at the festival, which prompted many to resort to powerful tranquelizers, barbituates, and various hallucinogens. Pot that normally sold for $15 to $20 an ounce on the East Coast was going for a minimum of $50. Surprisingly, however, the medical tent was filled more with sunburn and fight victims than people suffering from overdoses or bad trips.
*Click on links to hear live music from the Mar y Sol Festival LP.
The music got underway Saturday afternoon and helped ease tension somewhat between locals and festival participants. Nitzinger, Brownsville Station, and folksinger Jonathan Edwards performed enthusiastic sets, but the real energy did not begin flowing until late that evening, when B.B. King and the Allman Brothers played until dawn...
Sunday's billing was highlighted by the jazzy sounds of Herbie Mann and Dave Brubeck, to whom the crowd prefunctorily responded; Savoy Brown; and then Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Alice Cooper. But with the heat and the incessant worry over whether one's tent and personal supplies would be ripped off, the atmosphere at the stage area was not celebratory. Of the thirty thousand who showed up for the festival, only half were interested enough to sit and listen to the music in the afternoon. The remainder of the crowd were either hanging out at the camping area nervously protecting their belongings against theft or on the beach enjoying the warm weather rather than fighting it.
Mar y Sol stretched over into Monday, since there had been no music on Friday evening as originally scheduled. The J. Geils Band, Cactus, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Bloodrock, and Rod Stewart played late into the night. [Additionally on Monday: the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The final band to play the festival, early Tuesday morning, was Osibisa.]
The inactivity on stage between the performers grew longer as the day wore on, and many in the crowd became restless and eager to return home. A number of bands scheduled to perform never showed, and a rumor circulated that yhere would be no transportation back to the airport.
That rumor turned into fact when one of the promoters nervously announced that here were no busses available to take people back to San Juan. The Transit company that had been hired now claimed that their contract was invalid. The boos and frustrated calls of "ripoff" echoed loud and clear, but after a few minutes a feeling of resignation permeated the festival grounds. The festival was a bummer. Period. The idea was to get off the island where the bad vibrations were so thick one could choke on them and get back to the mainland, where at least one could get a drink of water without having to beg for it.
But how to get to the airport? Panic spread through the crowd as the possibility of missing one's plane became very real and suddenly very frightening. Young people hastily broke camp and started out toward Route 2, the road that led to the airport. Most figured to walk the seven to ten miles to the main highway, and then thumb a ride. Thirty thousand people all had the same idea.
Picture the scene: long lines of young people, ragged, tired, sunburned, and avstly disappointed with what had transpired during the past three days. It was a refugee line if ever there was one. An occasional car or truck that inched it's way through the horde of people going in the direction of Route 2 had to fight off attempts of piracy. The situation was pathetic. Was this what a rock festival was all about?
Once again the locals stood to make a profit from the "heepies." When the young people finally reached Route 2 and began hitchhiking, cars recklessly swerved to the side of the road and motioned to the Americans to get in. Maybe the locals were okay after all. It was nice of them to stop and pick up hitchhikers and take them down the road a piece.
"Hi, how's it going?"
"Muy Bien, amigo."
"Are you going in the direction of the airport?"
"Can me and my friends get a lift with you?"
"Sure, amigo, twenty dollars each."
"Are you kidding?"
"Twenty dollars or else you walk, my friend."
"Look, man, all I have is twelve bucks and some change. That's all I got, I swear."
"Sorry, amigo. Adios."
"Hey, wait, okay, okay. I'll give you fifteen dollars. That's all I got, man. Really. That's no shit."
"Bueno, amigo. Get in."
(Heard from the backseat in a mumbled tone) "You son-of-a-bitch spic. You're a goddamned ripoff artist!"
Once at the airport, the problems continued for Mar y Sol participants. The terminal was jammed with other vacationers returning to the United States besides the festivalgoers waiting to catch their planes. And what a mess! It didn't matter that you had a ticket that was paid for in advance or a reservation on a specific flight. There were very few available seats on any planes goinganywhere in the United States. The place was chaos. National Guardsmen and Red Cross volunteers were sent to the airport. Two huge tents were set up to accomodate those who had no way of returning home in the immediate future. It took hours of standing in line to reach a phone booth. Information centers were inundated with angr customers. Those without any money began to panhandle...What the hell was going on?
No one knew for sure. Many young people spent two or more days at the airport waiting to secure a seat on a flight. The energy and spirit of those who had hoped that Mar y Sol would be some kind of superfestival had long been sapped from their systems. Cooley and the promoters left the island claiming they had lost $200,000 on the festival. No doubt hey were telling the truth. Puerto Rican government officials wanted them for tax evasion, but nothing was ever done to extradite the promoters. When "Rolling Stone" magazine interviewed Cooley, he stated that, despite the hassels, the festival was a success. A success? The only success that came from mar y Sol was that it effectively proved that rock festivals were not welcome "cultural activities" in Puerto Rico. It wa sthe first and last to be held on the island.
...and now that you made it through Santelli's version of the events at Mar y Sol, check out this beautifully done website:
Mar y Sol - Festival.com.
Here you will find lots of photos, interviews with people who attended the festival including some stories from some of the the musicians themselves, a great interview with promoter Alex Cooley, original newspaper reports of the festival, information on which bands ACTUALLY played and who did not....everything else you could ever want to know about the Mar y Sol Festival is up at this website.
A night of stage-diving, mosh-pits, non-lethal bodily injury and the awe-inspiring sounds of one of the heaviest live bands ever - Pantera. This was the first of several times that I would see them, the venue for this show was the (long-gone) Mirage in Minneapolis. Within two years they would move quickly from the clubs to filling arenas...chaos on a whole 'nother level.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
-Barren Cross Vocalist and Rapture Guitarist
(All images via NYCDreamin Archives)
Vintage Christian-Metal here, and good stuff too, Barren Cross and rapture. The ticket stub and newspaper article list the NorShore Theatre as the venue, but the show was moved to a roller-skating rink called "Faces", about a mile away, for some reason. The newspaper article appeared in the Duluth newspaper Tribune, I do not have the original date of publication, but it was probably just a day or so before the show. *Click HERE to see and read the newspaper article full size. When the image comes up, click on the bottom right corner to enlarge.
Several of my friends and I made the trip to Duluth for this show, including PriestFreakNo.1, his brother (who was in the back seat mooning hot chicks on the way to the show), our buddy BB (who was nursing a nasty cut on his hand from putting it through a window at a keg party a few nights prior at A's house) [who was also with us at the show], and about midway through the show his cut hand opened up and sprayed some poor girl's pants with blood), and a few others who shall remain nameless. If you were there you know who you are...or were. Whatever.
(Images via NYCDreamin Archives)
This was a great show. My friend "PriestFreakNo.1" managed to get a pair of complimentary tickets so that made it even better. I don't remember much about Fear Factory as I never cared for them much, but I remember Cluch being pretty good and then Sepultura came out and absolutely destroyed. And the best part is that they were recording the show. Most of it has shown up as b-side material and on remaster projects throughout the years so you can easily track down the material and see just how fucking awesome this show was. Mostly I remember being incredibly sore the following day as the show was one huge pit from the word go, and not many band could inspire a better one than Sepultura.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Tonight's music will be courtesy of some artists that appear on the CD. First up will be locals Paul Metsa and Sonny Earl. They will be followed by the main event, Mr. Ron Thompson, who plays some of the meanest slide-guitar I've ever heard. The man is unreal. If you click the link below, you will see a clip of him preforming at the 2007 Dave's BBQ Festival, and after just a minute or so, you can see why he was asked to return again last year, and to headline tonight's CD release show.
(I tried 3 times to post this clip straight to this blog but was unsuccesful, so you'll just have to click the link and watch it at Youtube. Sorry!)
...and for those of you in Manhattan with a taste for BBQ, you're in luck! You'll be getting your own "Famous Dave's" sometime soon!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
(Photo: NYCDreamin Archives)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The charge of assault filed by the Dictators lead singer Handsome Dick Manitoba against transvestite rocker Wayne County is reduced to a misdemeanor by a New York court. The case stems from an incident at CBGB a few weeks earlier, when County, responding to Manitoba's heckling and epithets, smashed him with a microphone stand, fracturing his collarbone.
Monday, March 23, 2009
(Photographer: N/A - Image via NYCDreamin Archives)
The first strike in history by post-office workers began on March 18, 1970. It quickly spread across the country, with more than 20,000 postal workers walking off their jobs and demanding higher wages. On March 23, President Nixon ordered National Guard troops into New York City to sort and deliver the mail. Two days later the post-office workers were back on the job, and Guardsmen were sent home. The postal unions began bargaining with the Government for an increase in wages.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
(Mpls/St.Paul) City Pages - 03/18/09
"The Temple of the White Elephant: Pachyderm Studios wants to save the world, but can it keep the lights on?" - by David Hansen
You may or may not know the name Pachyderm Studios, which is located in Cannon Falls, MN, about 45 minutes south of Minneapolis. But you DO know some of the albums that have been recorded there...
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
March 19th marks the 27th anniversary of the tragic and stupid small aircraft accident near Leesburg, FL that took the life of 25 year-old Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads. To read more about the accident from original documents, click the links below.
NTSB Accident Report Page 1
NTSB Accident Report Page 2
NTSB Aviation Report Page 1
NTSB Aviation Report Page 2
Handwritten statement of a witness to the accident
Autopsy Report Page 1 * Autopsy Report Page 2
Autopsy Report Page 3 * Autopsy Report Page 4
Department of Transportation Toxicology Report
(Unknown) Newspaper Account of Accident
Various Newspaper reports on the Accident
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A great 2007 BBC documentry I found on youtube. I just saw this for the first time and all I can say is "WOW!" Get a history lesson on how NYC came to the brink in the mid-70's. Watch the events that led to all of the city's financial problems. Watch then-President Gerald Ford basically tell the city in 1975 to "Drop Dead". Watch him learn that this might not be the wisest course of action for America in general. See the fires burn. See the garbage fester in the streets. Watch looters loot on the night of July 13, 1977. Watch the city descend to it's lowest depths and then slowly re-emerge, still the greatest city on earth. A wealth of amazing historical news footage. A must view for any NYC 1970's history buffs.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Linda, age 15, a runaway on the streets of New York City's East Village
"Way out on the "speed" drug Methedrine, a teenage runaway who calls himself Mandrake clowns in a bricked-in window."
A crowded crash-pad provides refuge for the night in New York's East Village. Girls take care of such apartments and often act as substitute mothers for runaways.
"Young girls in a world of panhandling and crash-pads...
...Bewildered mothers walk the streets looking for their children."
A great find this weekend, a near mint condition copy of Life Magazine, dated 11/03/67 containing an article on teenage hippie runaways, mostly centering on the scene in NYC's East Village. There are several more photos in the article than I've included here, these are just a few highlights...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This is Part 1 of a great 1979 documentry on gang life in the South Bronx. When the video is finished, mouse along the choices at the bottom of the screen and click on them to watch the other parts of the video. Unfortunately, PART 7 has been deleted from Youtube due to copyright issues. But even without it, this is a great look back in time.
Monday, March 9, 2009
(Image via NYMag.com)
Saturday, March 7, 2009
(Photo by: Lisa J. Kristal via CBGB.com)
"Wayne County and Tuff Darts Play at CBGB"
by John Rockwell
New York Times - 03/07/76
Wayne County has been something of a fixture on the New York rock underground circuit for the last couple of years, modifying his act slightly from the pure raunch of yore but still far too outrageous for commercial acceptability. Thursday night through last night he's been at CBGB's on the Bowery, and his performance suggests the need for discipline - artistic discipline that is.
Mr. County is a drag queen, at least on stage. But like so many underground rock acts that flirt with homosexuality, it's a little hard to tell weather he means to appeal to homosexuals or more likely, to shock and amuse heterosexuals. Mr. County comes out in full neo-Kabuki Mae West drag and dwells in his songs and his stage routines with all sorts of weirdness best left undescribed.
But the creepiness is much defused by the parodistic elements that loom large and heavy - most apparent in an at least initially amusing Patti Smith parody that Mr. County has been updating over the last few months.
There are two main problems. The first is that Mr. County is not a very interesting singer; one gets a little tired of that blunt but undistinctive hectoring after a while. Second, there really isn't enough control or sense of artistically telling form at work here. A drag act, a parody act, raunch-outrage act - all could and have been effective on the underground circuit.
But Mr. County has clearly reached the functional limit of his outrage. Now he either has to find ever-new audiences that will be titillated by him or he has to perfect his art for his old audiences. So far, he has done neither.
The other act on the bill is Tuff Darts, a quasi-parodistic punk-rock quintet fronted by Robert Gordon, the lead singer. Mr. Gordon said he was ill Friday night, but he managed to do the job. Tuff Darts makes a highly energetic, intensely controlled kind of basic rock, full of potentially commercial hooks.
The songs deal with the predictable themes of this sort of music - boots in the face, and like that - but do so with enough fervor and ironic distance to give a fascinated pleasure. Unlike Mr. County, who seems trapped in the underground, Tuff Darts has it's eyes fixed firmly on the aboveground of mid-American success.
Friday, March 6, 2009
(Photo: NYCDreamin Archives)
So I followed the psychic vibrations emanating from the club and crossed the street to see it up close for the first time. There were a couple of middle-age dudes hanging out front and I asked if one of them could take a photo of me on the sidewalk in front of the club. One agreed to shoot the photo and the other guy crossed his arms, smiled really big and stepped into the frame with me. Cool, whatever, right? Unfortunately, the guy taking the picture managed to get the camera strap right over my face in the photo. You can see the other guy just fine, but I'm completely obscured by the damn strap. I do not include this photo here, but it is part of the story I guess.
As I took my camera back from the guy, I asked if it would be possible to poke my head inside for a minute or two and take a look around. I said I understood it was only mid-morning, but this would be my one chance to see the inside of the club as I was only in town for a few days and was unable to attend a show. The guy that posed in the photo with me said "Sure, come on in." So we turned and I followed him through the door. As I stepped into the dimly lit club, my eyes took a second or two to adjust from the bright sunshine outside. As I gazed around the room, taking it all in, here comes this older looking guy walking right up to me. I recognized him immediately. It was Hilly Kristal himself, the king of this castle. The guy who let me in quickly explained to Hilly that he had let me in to look around for a minute or so and Hilly nodded his head that it was OK.
I introduced myself and told him it was quite an honor to meet him and to be allowed inside the club so early in the day. He was cordial, but I could tell it was something he had been told by countless thousands over the years. He told me to go ahead and take a QUICK look around. I really didn't want to overstay my welcome, so I walked through the bar and up to the stage. I reached out and touched it. I had to do it. I stood there for a moment, thinking of all the amazing (and not so amazing) shows that had taken place here. Then I walked back to where Hilly and the dudes from outside were standing and talking amongst themselves.
I again told Hilly how cool it was to meet him and thanked him again for letting me in to look around. Then I asked if he minded if I took a photo of him and he said, "Yea, go ahead." So I snapped the photo at the top of the post. I didn't impose to ask for an autograph, I never even thought of it actually. As I put my camera away, Hilly mentioned to me that it was almost lunch time. He told me there was a good place to eat nearby, and mentioned the name. I heard what he said, but was so discombobulated from the fact that I was actually talking to him, I forgot the name of the place almost as soon as he said it. He also mentioned that it hadn't always been so easy to find good food close by. "So much change in the neighborhood in the past few years. It's not at all like it once was down here," he said. I seemed to sense in his voice a longing for the old days when he was a younger man and his club was the center of the Punk Rock universe.
I shook his hand and said my goodbyes. He told me to come back and catch a show sometime. I told him I hoped that at some point in the future I would do that. And with that, I turned and stepped back out onto the street, my eyes immediately blinded by the sunlight. I started walking down the Bowery, amazed at what I had just experienced. I had gone down to there to take a few photos of the club and had wound up meeting the man himself. I continued wallking, no particular destination in mind, humming a Ramones tune...
Regretfully, I never did get to attend a show at CBGB and now the club and it's creator/owner are both gone. But I have a very brief, unexpected and cherished memory of getting a glimpse of both up close.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
To Be Continued...
(Photo: NYCDreamin Archives)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
(Photo: NYCDreamin Archives)