Monday, September 3, 2007

40th Reunion of the Summer of Love Review, for Premiere Radio

Spent nine hours Sunday with the tie-dyed masses.

Here's a review I wrote for Premiere Radio network, you'll be able to hear on classic rock stations across the country.

I kept wondering....what would a 40th reunion of music sound like in 1967?

The 1927 artists would have included George Gershwin, Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, the Carter family, Bix Biederbecke (who has a yearly festival in his name in Davenport, Iowa) and Blind Willie McTell.

The big tunes? "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover" and "Aint' She Sweet."

SUMMER OF LOVE: 40 Years Later

Sunday's celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love drew more than 50-thousand people to a nine-hour concert at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Although many of the era's big-name artists are gone -- either dead or retired -- the music of the late 1960s is holding on strong.

With drummer Fito de la Para as the only original member, Canned Heat ran through such durable boogies as “On the Road Again.” Marty Balin and Paul Kantner fronted a Starship of much younger members, including singer Diana Mangana, who did her best Grace Slick impersonation, but never quite captured the anarchistic fire of the original on “Somebody to Love” and “Volunteers.” A reformed Moby Grape, with the late Skip Spence’s son Omar in its ranks, delivered an off-kilter, unpolished set that included “Fall on You,” “805” and “Hey, Grandma.”

Country Joe McDonald stretched his "Fish" cheer until the words stopped making sense. “What’s that spell?” he asked hundreds of times after giving the infamous four letters to the crowd. It went from absurd and ironic to surreal. His former bandmate, Barry “The Fish” Melton, now a Yolo County public defender, provided one of the day’s strongest sets, with a band that sounded more like 1967-era Grateful Dead than any of the day’s performers. He was joined by Banana of The Youngbloods on keyboards and former Blues Project drummer Roy Blumenfeld.

Lester Chambers, who made his name in the '60s with The Chamber Brothers, handed over cowbell chores to his son Dylan, saying that he’d had to have spinal surgery after years of hammering percussion.

Some of the Bay Area's biggest stars of 1967 were not represented. Carlos Santana was in New York, doing promotion for his upcoming tour and album, while the closest onstage connection to the Grateful Dead was the introduction of former Jerry Garcia collaborator Merle Saunders, who is recovering from a stroke. The New Riders of the Purple Sage played, with former frontman John Dawson making a rare appearance. The singer-guitarist, who has been recovering from his own drug battles in Mexico, paid respect to the late Dead guitarist, saying, “Jerry couldn’t be here. He sends his regards.”

Sets were kept brief, to three songs, leaving the stage to be filled by between-set nostalgia from D-Js, poets and Woodstock clown Wavy Gravy. The vibe was almost pure 1967, with tie-dye and marijuana smoke everywhere. The crowd at Speedway Meadows stood almost shoulder to shoulder, amid portable A-T-M machines and booths promoting such things as hippiegourmet-dot-com.

M-C Paul “Lobster” Wells jokingly promised that there would be sections for wheel chairs and walkers at the 50th anniversary gathering of the tribe, but there were already plenty in sight Sunday. Much more surprising was the number of people in their teens and 20s dancing to the music, wearing flowers in their hair, passing joints and singing along with tunes created decades before they were. –Brad Kava

1 comment:

lannytdi said...

Kevin Sawyer was the original drummer of Canned Heat. Frank Cook replaced Sawyer prior to recording the first Canned Heat album on Liberty Records, and Cook can be seen playing drums with Canned Heat in the film "Monterey Pop". Fito de la Parra replaced Cook when Cook left Canned Heat to join Pacific Gas & Electric (the band, not the public utility).