Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal by Pierre-Rene Noth • Saturday, July 26, 1969
The vibrations, sound wave and social, were all good Friday night as Milwaukee’s first — and not last — Midwest Rock Festival opened a supersonic three day happening at state fair park.
The crowd, generally indistinguishable in costuming from the performers, turned up its own amplifiers in applauding balladeer Buffy Sainte-Marie. A Cree Indian hardly bigger than her guitar, Miss Sainte-Marie has a voice that comes on like the cavalry and the social conscience the pony soldiers lacked.
As she wound up her set with Where Have the Buffalo Gone, the bearded and braided fans wouldn’t let her go until she had also done her Universal Soldier. The first is a history of the Indian wronged, the latter a pacifist hymn pointing out that without soldiers there can be no war.
Total Mixed Bag
The festival’s musical program is what’s known as rhythm and blues, but it’s really the sound that’s a mixed bag — classical themes merged into jazz, jazz that suddenly turns to folk, folk that drifts into black and soul. It is not to be confused with the top 40 sound, not too affectionately known as “bubble gum rock.”
The affluent bohemians who paid $5, $6 and $7 per head turned on and tuned in to the “heavy” and “message” sounds of groups like Sweetwater and SRC. The countrified, commercial laments of The First Edition, once a very “in” bunch, were politely received. The Edition plugged their records and upcoming TV appearance between every number and to the flower power generation, the smelled of money hunger and sellout.
The sound system, despite occasional squawking and stuttering lapses, handled the load pretty well, and the higher into the grandstand you got, the better it was. Music is more hearing than seeing anyway.
The festival will continue Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings, starting at 2 p.m., with sounds like that of The Blind Faith, Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter. To the young, they’re the equivalents to what Stan Kenton, Frank Sinatra and Charlie Parker were to another day and time.
As many as 2,000 young people used counterfeit tickets Friday to get into the festival, officials said. The counterfeit tickets were discovered at about 6 p.m. — three hours after the gates opened.
Real tickets for all three days of the festival would be validated Saturday, officials said, upon closer inspection. They said the counterfeits were poor copies.
Crowd about 9,000
The crowd at the first night of the festival was estimated at 9,000.
The Pablo Light Show was erected behind the stage with some difficulty. A scaffolding collapsed before the festival opened, injuring one member of the Pablo crew. He was hospitalized with a leg injury.
Because of the large number of people attending the festival from outside Milwaukee, state fair park officials announced that the park could be used for camping by anyone living more than 50 miles away.