Memories of the free festivals
Remember when the summer meant great music for free? Hawkwind do. Dave Brock tells Terry Staunton about the fun, fear and flatulence of the original festival scene. On page 68, we learn about the next generation of outdoor ravers - the Ozrics, Levellers and more… Don’t worry about the brown acid, just don’t touch those extra-chocolatey After Eights
It’s easy to view the seeds of the free festival scene that sprang up in the UK during the late 60s as a snapshot in time. A gathering of tribes touting peace and love vibes, a movement that gained momentum largely through word of mouth on the periphery of the more structured “straight” music industry.
The imagery is alluring; loose-limbed ravers bedecked in frayed denim and kaftans, their unkempt long hair flailing through clouds of hashish smoke while similarly attired dudes on a makeshift stage thundered through yet another extended free-form improvisation. It’s a far cry from the cosy carpeted corporate sponsors’ tents that have become such a familiar presence on 21st Century festival sites.
Yet, were you to ask Hawkwind’s enduring mainstay Dave Brock, he’d suggest the free festivals’ beginnings stretch back a further half century and across a large body of water, to the streets of New Orleans in the 20s, when vibrant jazz echoed along every sidewalk.
“That would be the roots of it for me,” he says. “We were trying to emulate what they used to do in New Orleans, where you’d have jazz bands playing on the backs of wagons on street corners. There were proper clubs and bars where you could hear music, but the real action, the beating …
by Terry Staunton
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