Sacramento Pop Festival 1967

Sacramento Pop Festival 1967
Authored By John Nicholson

Held at Hughes Stadium, 3835 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento on Sunday October 15th 1967. The line-up for this one-day festival was Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Hamilton Streetcar, The Hour Glass, Jefferson Airplane, New Breed, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Spirit, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Sunshine Company

Because 1967’s Summer of Love became so associated with San Francisco, it’d be easy to assume the freaky and the deaky had not leaked out into the rest of the state just yet. But this wouldn’t be true. The focus was on the Haight Ashbury groovers, yes, but people were getting wide and experimenting with altered state and alternative living elsewhere and one such place was Sacramento.

Just because Sacramento wasn’t San Francisco, and just because the big newspapers weren’t covering local hippies, that didn’t mean that behind the scenes its young people weren’t affected by the events percolating 'Frisco. 

People involved in the local hippie scene recall that only in Plaza Park, which is now known as Cesar Chavez Plaza, did large numbers of long-hairs congregate in public. There, says Gus Kaplanis, a newsletter publisher and former owner of the underground newspaper Aardvark who in 1967 was a history major at Sacramento City College, “you’d see groups of kids and young adults walking around. You know they’re not working and probably not going to school. But they’re having a good time, sitting around, playing guitars. It’s an easy life. You’d see hippie vans converted. You know they were living there.”

Clement’s first impressions that it was a backwater might have been true, but only up to a point. Imbibing the winds of change blowing from the Bay Area, both the local music and art scenes thrived. The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were among the slew of top draws the Memorial Auditorium and other local arenas managed to book. Tickets cost about $2.50. 

In October, the City College’s Hughes Stadium hosted a huge rock festival called, simply, Sacramento Pop which had Airplane as headliners and other scene makers such as Spirit, Gregg & Duane in Hourglass and Captain Beefheart in support.   

“We brought everybody here,” says Russ Solomon who ran Tower Records in the town and worked as a concert promoter, as well as a record-store owner. “We played Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Sly Stone. We didn’t get the Beatles. But we had two Rolling Stones concerts here in the ’60s. You could get the Stones for $25,000. It was a different age, a great age.”

Communes sprang up in the foothills around Nevada City; several Bay Area idealists, including the poets Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, had recently bought a large plot of land. Within a couple years, Ananda Village, a large yoga commune that followed a swami called Kriyananda, would split off from this original group of back-to-the-landers and, on 600 acres of beautiful rolling hills, create one of the country’s largest, and ultimately most durable, experiments in alternative living. It is still there to this day, still offering pathways to enlightenment and spiritual awakening. I bet they serve a good lentil curry.

While the gig held in Hughes Stadium was an early big show outside of the usual SoCal and NoCal locations, more significant was that the very fact it happened at all and in doing so helped coalesce the hippie scene and long term alternative living communities in the area.  Far out, cosmic and solid.

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