Legendary California music festival (pre-Woodstock) that launched the state-side careers of several performers, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Check out Mama Cass being absolutely blown away while watching Joplin sing. Here there be REAL acid rock. Written by
Raymond Clay <email@example.com>
I have a confession to make. I did not know anything about the Monterey International Pop Festival nor about documentary made by the famous filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker until last Saturday when I turned on my TV and it was showing on MHD channel. Even more, I only caught the last 20 minutes of the film but what I saw and what I heard during the great finale simply mesmerized me. The last performance in the film belongs to Ravi Shankar, the legendary sitarist who along with Alla Rakha on tabla and Kamala at taboura plays 18 minutes long composition called "Raga Bhimpalasi." Along with The Who, Ravi Shankar was introduced to America at the Monterey festival. Eighteen minutes of Raga Bhimpalasi, the final scene of the Monterey Pop film, was an excerpt from Shankar's four-hour performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival his first public concert in front of a new generation of music fans.
What started as slow and exotic sensuality, built up into blissful frenzy duel between sitar and tabla. It is incredibly creative and intriguing how Pennebaker shot the Shankar's performance and made it as much a visual delight as it was a sound. For the first seven minutes, we only hear the sounds of music and see how the audience reacts on the unusual exciting Eastern chords and rhythms, we don't see the musicians. The director moves his camera from one young face in the audience to another, from different rows and different angles. Then, he slowly turns the camera toward the stage and moves it extremely close to Ravi and Alla, so close that we are able to see their faces and the hands, and you would think that Shankar has not two but six hands, just like the Indian God Shiva because it is impossible to believe that such multitude of sounds and emotions could be achieved with two hands only. In the last minute of Shankar's performance, the camera moves aside letting us see the musicians and the totally fascinated and conquered listeners that give the genius performer the long standing ovation, and he thanks them back. While witnessing the incredible act of music born and performed in front of me, I only wished this moment never end. After the scene (and the film) was over, the first thing I did was to find out what I saw and to order the DVD on-line. Only when doing research, I learned about the Monterey International Pop Festival that was a three-day concert event held June 16 to June 18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. The celebrated Woodstock happened two years after Monterey, in August, 1969.
My Criterion "Monterey Pop" DVD arrived surprisingly fast, and I was able to enjoy all performances recorded by D.A. Pennebaker's team that used newly newly-developed portable 16mm color cameras equipped to record synchronized sound. Sound was captured by Wally Heider's mobile studio on state-of-the art eight-track tape. To see and to listen to the talented and famous musicians, many of whom were just in the beginning of their careers was an unforgettable and joyous experience. Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, and Otis Redding, all became the celebrities after their first major public performances during the first and sadly the last Monterey International Rock Music Festival. Summer of Love started that weekend, forty one years ago at the small town of Monterey, CA, and that summer made Monterey immortal.
More than once I thought I wish I was there and could be a part of the magic festival. I know that the Monterey Pop will be one of my favorite DVD's and I will return to it over and over again.
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