Rock, Bach, blues and jazz are all hallmarks of the thriving (and historic) music scene of the Central Coast. | Cover collections
Local stages were on fire – literally and figuratively. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire. A young Bob Dylan, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding have all ignited their careers here. Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell performed at the Big Sur Folk Festival.
From the Carmel Bach Festival, founded in 1935, to the Monterey Jazz Festival, co-founded in 1958 by Jimmy Lyons and jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason, the institutions now considered major forces in the Central Coast community – and in the world – had humble beginnings and focused on community.
Even the famous 1967 Monterey Pop Fest – which made household names of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and introduced Otis Redding to a crossover audience – was relatively free form. case, inspired in part by the concerts that Jefferson Airplane and Paul Butterfield performed the previous year at the Jazz Festival. (See story, p. 25.)
The venue for the jazz festival, a departure from smoky nightclubs, was modeled after the setting of the Newport Jazz Festival, which was hosted in 1954 by legendary promoter George Wein, who just died earlier this year. But the medium was significantly different; Newport was originally funded by tobacco heiress Elaine Lorillard.
Here, “Fifty-nine local businesses all injected $ 100 each. It was the starting capital, ”said Monterey Jazz Fest artistic director Tim Jackson. “Dave Brubeck ended up performing for Monterey City Council to get Monterey City Council to accept the approved zoning.”
The festival was world class from the start, however – the opening night featured Dizzy Gillespie’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and performances by timeless greats Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. One of Jackson’s favorite memories since joining MJF in 1992 was the tribute to Miles Davis with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and other Davis sidemen, held that same year. But at first, “it was definitely more of a basic thing,” Jackson admits.
The Big Sur Folk Festival, hosted by Joan Baez’s friend Nancy Carlen, was held in Esalen from 1964 to 1971 (it moved to the fairgrounds last year, along with Richard and Mimi Fariña and the Beach Boys .) The film Celebration in Big Sur, on concerts organized a few months after Woodstock, features Baez, the Fariñas, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Stills went into a memorable crash with a rowdy.
And locals with long memories may remember the time in May 1963 when Baez introduced his young friend Bob Dylan at the Monterey Folk Festival held at the Fairgrounds. (Dylan’s set wasn’t well received until Baez scolded the crowd, joining him for his closing number, “With God On Our Side.”)
The same spirit of improvisation also marked the beginnings of the Carmelite art scene, when artists, musicians, and writers fled San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.
The local music scene would change steadily in 1924, when a talented pianist named Dene Denny and her partner, artist Hazel Watrous, moved from their Russian Hill apartment in San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
This dynamic duo, local equivalent of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, tried their hand at theater productions at the Golden Bough Theater before helping to found the Carmel Music Society and, in 1935, the Budding Bach Festival (see story , p. 30).
The initial costs of the eight “Summer Series and Bach Festival” concerts were paid for through ticket sales, with the remainder being collected by Denny and Watrous, as well as a large donation from wealthy local patron Noel Sullivan, according to Carmel Impresarios: A Cultural Biography of Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous, by James W. Gordon, former Bach Festival playwright.
“At a city council meeting on July 9, a motion was presented to appropriate $ 100 to help defray the cost of the Bach Festival,” writes Gordon. Another note in the book: when they arrived in Carmel both were registered Republicans but by 1926 Denny was an overt socialist and Watrous a Democrat.
“These are people who clearly loved and cherished the beauty of art in all its configurations,” said Scott Friedlander, executive director of the Bach Festival. “If there is anything that we are trying to preserve, it is to create or recreate opportunities to come together to experience music with joy and to enjoy the emotional uplift that comes with that experience.”
“These women were determined to have this community organize a music festival,” adds Scott Seward, spokesperson for the Bach Festival. “The first year was the 250th anniversary of Bach’s birth, so it fell naturally and it sounded good. But the following year, they actually thought about calling it the Mozart Festival.
This year’s festival will be the last of artistic director Paul Goodwin’s 10-year distinguished tenure (see article, p. 34).
“It’s been a year,” says Friedlander. “Our last live concert was in July 2019. This season was planned for a few years and we went through every scenario, from another cancellation to moving the entire festival outside. What can I say ? We managed to keep the lights on. ”
THE BAY OF MONTEREY REGION HAS LONG BEEN A RICH SOURCE OF ARTISTIC INSPIRATION.
To name a few: in 2016, John Wineglass, composer-in-residence of the Monterey Symphony, collaborated with the Symphony on “Big Sur: The Night Sun,” a massive work featuring a drum made from of a sequoia. Wineglass also spent time at Glen Deven Ranch, a property that spans a redwood-lined canyon and magnificent Big Sur summit owned by the non-profit Big Sur Land Trust, which also co-sponsored in 2012. a commissioned residency, leading to guitarist MJF Bill. Frisell’s Big On composition, an album inspired by his passage to the top.
Saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s 1992 album Big Sur Notes was inspired by the days he lived along the coast, on hiatus from the jazz scene after his breakout performance of “Forest Flower” at the jazz festival won him crossover concerts.
“We were young idealists – not thinking of that freezing afternoon, and certainly not of making history. The FM radio was a lot freer – they played my music, Ravi Shankar and maybe the Doors or Dylan in sequence, ”Lloyd recalls via email. “Someone said I should play Fillmore – when I asked who was playing there they said Muddy Waters. I said sure. The audience went crazy and didn’t want to let us out of it. the scene.
“I get flashbacks of the wonderful public vibes that day when I go to the fairgrounds [for MJF performances],” he adds. “But I have a beginner’s mind and as I take the stage I’m in the present with a different group of musicians. We are determined to find these notes that will take us into the stratosphere. “
Minimalist composer Philip Glass confessed that the natural beauty of the surroundings was key to his decision to hold his Days and Nights festival in Monterey County, which debuted in 2011. The Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley , with a steady rotation of musicians at the peak of their career as rising star instructors, and the now 11-year-old Cali Roots Festival also offers regular, albeit very diverse, programs for music lovers. Recently, it has become the center of the stage for the new Ballare Carmel dance troupe and its resident artists.
But the bulk of the work of booking regular events has fallen on the Sunset Center in Carmel, the Golden State Theater in Monterey, the Fox Theater in Salinas, and local clubs, bars and restaurants, including Deja Blue, the new blues establishment. dashing from Seaside. Right after Monterey Pop, in 1969, Seaside had a rock club at the Del Rey Theater, also known as the Resurrection Theater, on the corner of Fremont and Broadway. Quicksilver Messenger Service played there two consecutive nights (July 18 and 19, 1969) for $ 3 a ticket. It is alleged that former Fort Ord Army soldier Jimi Hendrix also performed there with John “Broadway” Tucker.
The bohemian spirit, which so attracted those who lived in San Francisco a century ago, is alive and well in Big Sur at the Henry Miller Memorial Library, which featured performances by everyone of Patti Smith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Father John Misty, Joanna Newsom and the Fleet Foxes, while equally cool performers perform regularly at the Fernwood Resort and Bar.
Since 2001, the West End Celebration in Sand City Festival has brought together everyone from Maria Muldaur and the Medflies to Santa Cruz-based Jackie Green from Salinas, to local hero Rushad Eggleston, to Johnny Rivers and the former Monkees member Michael Nesmith, who made history when he shot the first rock video in Sand City around the corner from his Videoranch headquarters.
“At the very beginning, the scene was a flatbed truck at the end of Ortiz Avenue,” says longtime West End organizer Stephen Vagnini. “The Big Sur Natives performed” and their percussionist was dating a woman who ran an international dance troupe. “They came out to play with nothing but paint. The last thing I remember is that the chief of police came on the scene, swirling his baton.
All these years later, they still keep things funky – the crowds are bigger, but mostly local, as old friends meet and greet each other at the annual comeback.
“Big isn’t necessarily better,” Vagnini says. “We might not have the big concerts here, but the community events are more intimate. Do you remember this book Small is beautiful? I really believe it.
While the Monterey Blues Festival has had a rocky road, Seaside’s free Blues in the Park series has been booming for 33 years.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, blue-eyed soul singer Chris Cain covered Elmore James’ classic, “You Gotta Move,” and the multiracial, multigenerational crowd responded similarly.
Another secondary advantage: no audio or video recording is allowed.
Turn off those cell phones, go out and dance.
The road continues indefinitely, with a few winding bends.