2nd Quaker City Rock Festival, Philadelphia 1968

2nd Quaker City Rock Festival, Philadelphia 1968
Authored By John Nicholson

This was a significant early one-day rock show, taking place on Fri Dec 06, 1968 at what became the legendary venue, Spectrum, 3601 S Broad St, Philadelphia Pennsylvania 19148. It was put on by a company called Electric Factory.

Electric Factory Concerts was and indeed still is a Philadelphia-based concert promotion firm, affiliated with the former Electric Factory venue in the city. This was an important gig venue because there was no such place in Philly for rock gigs until they set it up. It was founded by Herbert Spivak, who ran the business with his brothers Jerry and Allen. They later hired Larry Magid to become General Manager, and he also became a co-owner of the company and a major dude in concert promotion in the region. So big that in 1985 they promoted the American Live Aid show. But all of that was well ahead of them in 1968.

The Electric Factory had been putting on gigs all year so they knew the demand for a big one-dayer was there. The first Quaker City rock show had been held on October 19th at The Spectrum because the event was too large for the Electric Factory.

The gig featured several artists such as Big Brother with Janis, Moby Grape, Vanilla Fudge, Buddy Guy, and The Chambers Brothers.

Because the club was successful, like many promoters in 1968 and 1969, they started to realise that there was gold in them thar rock n roll hills. From our position now, in the 21st century, this seems obvious, but back in 1968 it really wasn’t until later in the year. Loud highly amplified rock n roll played by long hairs and freaks was new. Very new. Even to clued up heads it was only about 18 months old, the general music fan was only just waking up to it all with hits by the likes of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and Blue Cheer’s Summertime Blues playing on the radio.

But in 1968, things were moving quickly. By the end of the year dozens of important rock and hippie records had been released and gone to the top of the charts, so it was more obvious that you could make serious bread by putting on shows. Hence the second show in December.

The full line up for this was Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, Sly and the Family Stone and Steppenwolf. All for $3.50. That is a really strong line-up. All those bands had hit albums and singles that year. CCR pulled out and were replaced by a band called American Dream, who would go on to release just one record in 1970, produced by Todd Rundgren, as it happens.

The great Al Kooper acted as the MC and played with American Dream too. The fact that news reports of the day only mentioned it in passing, and didn’t have any naked-hippies-freak-out-drug-fest headlines, illustrates that it passed without incident and everyone had a good time.

Larry Magid in recent years has said they basically “created the concert business” which is quite a claim in a country as big as America. They were certainly innovative promoters and had a significant role in birthing the touring scene for bands. So much so that even by 1970, the Electric Factory and The Spectrum were must-plays for every touring band of any size or reputation.



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