Seattle Pop Festival, Woodenville, Washington July 1969

Seattle Pop Festival, Woodenville, Washington July 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

Held 25-27 July at Gold Creek Park, Woodenville, Washington. It was $6 for one day, $15 for all three.

Bands playing included Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Crome Syrcus, Bo Diddley, The Doors, Floating Bridge, The Flock, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Guess Who, It's A Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Charles Lloyd, Lonnie Mack, Lee Michaels, Murray Roman, Santana, Spirit, Ten Years After, Ike & Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge and the Youngbloods. 

That's a hot line-up for sure.

70,000 attended across the 3 days and it was promoted by Boyd Grafmyre, who had previously worked with the New American Community at the successful and highly groovy not-for-profit Sky River Festival in '68, also in Washington state.

This was one of the first not to use any regular or off-duty Police officers as security. Instead of getting the Hells Angels instead - a popular move at the time - he brought in 150 youth volunteers from the Black Panthers as they were better known. They were ticket collectors, maintenance and security.

Boyd chartered a helicopter to fly The Doors from Seattle’s airport, and rented a Cadillac convertible for Chuck Berry.

Sanitary facilities were inadequate, of course, even though the event was far more popular than anticipated, extra food and water was flown in. Nearby neighbours complained of traffic and the hippie atmosphere, or dope-smoke as we more traditionally call it. But, as ever, the fears of the naked freaks getting it on in the bushes were largely fantasy in the heads of the straight folks.

The whole weekend ran so smoothly that Grafmyre grossed over $300,000 in return for $200,000 spent. This hugely profitable success proved that if you did it right festivals could make you a lot of sweet, sweet green.

Chick Dawsey, who owned Gold Greek Park, was pleasantly surprised by the fans who turned up.

"I disagree with their movement 100 per cent," he said. "But some of us adults better get the hell closer to them. They respond very much to kindness, we older people better learn this. If they need a drink of water we, the establishment, should go out and offer it."

Hey that sounds like a straight dude getting with the programme to me. Cool. Oh and it wasn't really a movement Chick. But you weren't to know that back in '69.

Of the bands that played, naturally Zep were brilliant as the soundboard bootleg that has been available for decades proves. They stole the show. Santana, who were to be a big hit at Woodstock the following month, were also widely acclaimed.

In an August 30, 1969 article in The Daily Chronicle (Centralia, WA), Dorian Smith wrote

"The days were filled with contented euphoria. Airplanes flew over and dropped bundles of flowers or spelled out the words “LOVE” and “PEACE” in letters of smoke. Each night the black heavens were illuminated with a fireworks display, including Roman candles, sky rockets and bright red flares. The third day witnessed a giant balloon filled with hot air ascend approximately 50 feet. Guided by a ground crew which navigated the balloon with a rope, a lone aerialist in the balloon dropped roses one at a time on the cheering audience."

Sounds brilliant, doesn't it? All this and Zeppelin too.

This was a well-run, peaceful, very cool festival. Not bad for $15 man.

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