June 16-18, 1967: The Monterery Pop Festival was held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. Pete Townshend smashed his guitar, Jimi Hendrix lit his on fire, and the Summer of Love ignited.
More than 200,000 people turned out for a lineup of 32 performers at what the Encyclopædia Britannica called “the first commercial American rock festival.” It set the template for large rock festivals, most notably 1969’s Woodstock. Included on the bill were future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Animals, Booker T. & the MGs, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin (as part of Big Brother and the Holding Company), the Mamas and the Papas, Otis Redding, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Who. See the set list here
Also performing were the Association, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Country Joe & the Fish, the Electric Flag, Al Kooper, Hugh Masakela, Scott McKenzie, the Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Lou Rawls, Johnny Rivers, and Ravi Shankar.
Most of the artists performed for free so that revenue could be donated to charity. The festival boasted an innovative sound system which served as the model for the larger-scale PA systems of the future. The electronic music synthesizer developed by Robert Moog was also introduced at a booth at the festival.
Read a couple first-hand accounts from festival attendees here and here. Also check out John Bassett McCleary’s summary of Monterey Pop’s place in shaping the hippie counterculture in The Herald.
Then, in the next best thing to being there, check out the 3-disc DVD collection The Complete Monterey Pop Festival: The Criterion Collection. It extends the 1968 Monterey Pop documentary shot by D.A. Pennebaker. You can also check out the 2-CD collection Monterey International Pop Festival.