There wouldn’t be a Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza—or dare we say, Woodstock—without the precursor to them all, 1967’s Monterey International Pop Music Festival.
The historic rock festival kicked off 50 years ago today and ran through June 18, 1967.
Of course, the backdrop for the festival proved a unique time in history itself: 1967 marked the beginning of the fabled “Summer of Love”; the rise of the “counterculture” and hippie movement; and a period of rising tensions in Vietnam. The festival became a sounding board for many of the artists, who saw themselves as role models or messengers of a new world order. For example, David Crosby, performing with the Byrds (and later filling in for an absent Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield), controversially introduced the Byrds’ “He Was a Friend of Mine” by openly discussing his views about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The Byrds were just one of a highly eclectic lineup, which included established psychedelic-rockers like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service; East Coast folkies Simon & Garfunkel; and West Coast pop acts the Mamas and the Papas, Scott McKenzie, and The Association. But attendees were also treated to several little-known bands who wouldn’t be little known much longer: Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring newbie, Janis Joplin), the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Who—all of whom saw their stars rise exponentially after their performances.
It would also mark one of the last great performances by soul sensation Otis Redding, who would die in a plane crash just six months later.
Above all, Monterey Pop laid the foundation for future festivals like the aforementioned Woodstock. Fifty years later, the performances and images of that day, many of which we’ve collected below, are still as crisp as ever in our minds and imaginations. (There’s also a concert film, which can be found in snippets on YouTube—or in full, at a record store of your choosing.) And they’re even staging a three-day anniversary concert, featuring stars of today like Norah Jones, Father John Misty, and Gary Clark Jr. Legend Booker T. Jones is even circling back for a second helping.
Below, get whisked away to the Monterey Pop Festival in ’67.