Mount Pocono Festival, Long Pond, Pennsylvania July 1972

Mount Pocono Festival,  Long Pond, Pennsylvania July 1972
Authored By John Nicholson

Even by 1972 it was getting all too obvious that the 3 days festival wasn't much of a viable proposition. For a start it was getting to be impossible to get permission to put one on anywhere. The authorities were not hip to having 200,000 dopers arrive in a sleepy part of rural nowhere.

Accomodating so many people was a huge logistic hassle involving co-ordinating sewage, water, food and camping facilities. It was proving almost impossible to predict how many would turn up. Ticket sales were not even an indication, as thousands turned up on the day and gate-crashed.

There had been so many disasters that everyone was running scared. Yet there was a huge demand for the festival experience. The Woodstock movie had seen to that. Everyone wanted their own piece of history. But that was the 60s, man and even by 72, the 60s seemed like a different planet. You can't unknow what you know and by now, everyone knew that 3 days of love and peace was more likely to be 3 days of drugs, mud and bikers beating people up, followed by months of poisoned fields and rivers from the trash left behind.

So what was to be done? Businesses wanted to make some rock n roll money from this lust for festivals, but The Man wouldn't let them happen and even if they would, promoters were intimidated by costs and threats of law suits.

But a solution was at hand: the one day festival. The one-dayer had been held since 1967, but it was almost always in a sports stadium, a place more used to a big event happening. Such gigs were a bite-sized taste of festival life but were not a countercultural happening the way a 3-day event out in rural America was. 

However, it became clear that there was big money to be made in the one-day gig, so they became more and more significant to promoters and eventually, were the default format.

In a way, it was the answer to everyone's problems. It was A Gathering but one which didn't need accommodation. It was soon over and everyone could pretend they'd been to festival and go home with stories to tell of nudity and drugs, which was, increasingly, the important thing. By 1972 the desire to set up an alternative society was on the wane and the desire to get your rock n roll groove on, far higher as the rock business grew exponentially.

The Mount Pocono Festival, held in Long Pond, Pennsylvania on July 8 and 9 of 1972 was the first large-scale, successful single-day rock festivals not held in a stadium. As it was just 90 miles west of New York City, a large crowd was almost guaranteed. At least 50,000 ended up gatecrashing, even though the promoters had geared up for 125,000. The audience supposedly topped out around 200,000! 

Concert production was handled by Concert 10, Inc. First time concert producers Irving Reiss, vice president of the Candygram Company, and attorney George Charak put US$250,000 in escrow to avoid problems paying the artists faced by previous festivals. Good idea. This was more like Proper Business. OK there'd be no dropping flowers from helicopters, but everyone would get paid. They had learned mistakes from previous festivals and as such, began to set the template for later one day ventures such as the Cal Jams.

66 people were hired from Bill Graham's road crew in Dallas to maintain the sound system, so the quality of the sound was high. Again, this made sense. If you want the best, you go to the best, don't you?

300 security people backed by University karate clubs maintained order - what were they going to do - karate chop rebellious stoners? But at least they didn't draft in the Hell's Angels. Again, this is an important development.

The raceway's hospital was staffed by six physicians, eight nurses, along with 65 people from the Lackawanna County Drug Council to handle people who ate the bad acid; more lessons learned.

The concert was promoted with radio commercials on rock music radio stations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Concert ticket prices were set at US$11, with 90,000 tickets sold in advance of the show, everyone was gonna make some bread. It was a success before anyone even took to the stage. People were taking notes. This was how you do it.

The July 8 concert was scheduled from 1-11 p.m. but due to many interruptions for rain, it actually ended at 8:45 a.m. on July 9. The weather remained virtually the only thing that a promoter couldn't control in advance, But hey, rain was now part of the festival brand, right?

Black Sabbath and Badfinger were scheduled to appear, but cancelled. According to Don Heckman of the New York Times, Edgar Winter's band received the greatest reaction from the audience, with long, bluesy rock jams like Tobacco Road

It all kicked off with a band called Mother Night, a short-lived soul band. Next on was Claire Hamill, from Middlesbrough. It must've seemed a long way from Teesside.

After her were Brit blues band the Groundhogs and 1972 festival faves Ramatam - with Mitch Mitchell on drums. A band called Bull Angus - terrible name - were up next. Then came the very excellent Cactus. Edgar Winter made it onto the stage by 10.00pm. Then the heavens opened again.

It was 4am before ELP played. They were followed by the Faces, Humble Pie, the J. Geils Band. The last group was Three Dog Night who played before 8am in the morning in swirling mist and fog to less than 15,000 people. By then almost everyone had got high, come down and gone home.

Festival veterans looked upon this new one day gig as a departure from the 'true' festival spirit. It most certainly was less of a Gathering of The Tribes. But it wasn't the 60s now and newer fans who had seen the Woodstock movie ate it up.

For them it was a chance to get stoned, get wet, see some bands and walk a few miles back to their car with stories to tell when they got home. It was the start of the commodification of the festival spirit, turning it from a freakydeakyville happening into official and very commercial money-making enterprise.

Rock was growing up. The wild days were already being put behind it and rebellion and freakdom was being repackaged and resold for the price of a ticket to a one-day gig. Some saw this as progress, others saw it as the end of the counterculture and the start of the culture of counting.

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