Two years before Woodstock — and precisely 50 years ago this weekend — the Monterey International Pop Festival created buzz about the hippie movement and kicked off what would become known as the "Summer of Love."
And, though TIME could be a little bit square sometimes, the magazine dutifully covered the news of the event, describing the atmosphere of the June 16-18, 1967, concert:
"I'm just blowing my mind!" cried a net-stockinged coed last week on the Monterey County Fairgrounds in California. She wasn't the only one. Around her, bedecked with beads, boots, faded Levi's, granny dresses, stovepipe hats, bells and tambourines, 50,000 members of the turned-on generation celebrated the rites of life, liberty and the pursuit of hippiness. That pursuit is by now a familiar national folkway, which, as often as not, is set to the beat of pop music. Indoors, it comes complete with pulsing lights, blinding flashes of projected photographs and whorls of smoke. Outdoors, it all seems more healthy, and in this instance, the seekers at Monterey had assembled not for a freak-out but for a tune-in — the first International Pop Festival .
The festival part was plenty festive . The throngs watched psychedelic movies, strolled through a mod midway of booths offering everything from underground buttons to paper dresses, dug the din of makeshift steel bands, and scattered over the grounds with guitars and blankets to strum, sing, socialize, or simply sleep. Onstage in the 7,000-seat arena, an English group called The Who set off smoke bombs, smashed a guitar and kicked over their drums. American Singer Jimi Hendrix topped that by plucking his guitar strings with his teeth, and for an encore set the entire instrument on fire.
While all musicians of all genres were represented, Lou Adler, the renowned Los Angeles record producer who organized the festival with singer John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, recently recalled how discussions about organizing the event "drifted toward the fact that rock ’n’ roll was not considered an art form in the way that jazz was," so the concert "seemed like a validation" to fans of the genre. In retrospect, Adler says, it's remembered as the event that made Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar household names.
Fifty years later, from Friday to Sunday, original performer and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh will be performing at the 50th anniversary concert — along with modern-day stars like Norah Jones, Regina Spektor and Jack Johnson, who will hope to replicate just some of the success of the concert that started it all.
"In all, with the high incidence of musical quality and the low incidence of violence and lawbreaking, it was a festival to make everybody happy," TIME remarked a half-century ago. "Well, almost everybody. There were complaints about the volume from as far away as Pacific Grove, six miles from the fairgrounds."