Originally published in the Milwaukee Sentinel by Dean Jensen • Saturday, July 26, 1969

Milwaukee’s subterraneans arose from the underground en masse Friday — drawn out by the opening of the first annual Midwest Rock Festival at State Fair park. The show began in the late afternoon while the sun was still spilling its honey. And as it slowly slipped down and down, the approximate 10,000 grand stand denizens got higher and higher. Among the spectators were several hundred who got through the gate with counterfeited tickets, according to the festival producers. Even as they watched the U-Haul trucks being unloaded of the amps and fuzz boxes that elasticize, pulverize and most of all amplify the lollipop guitars, the crowd seemed incredulous that Milwaukee was posting a major rock festival. After all, it was only a week ago that the National Polka festival was held here. The evening’s queen was Buffy Sainte-Marie, a beautiful, coffee skinned Canadian Indian with raven black hair that fell in a torrent to below her green micro-miniskirt.

Folk singer plans endowment to proposed Milwaukee Indian center. Page 10.

The folk singer seemed as though she was sermonizing as much as singing when, in her haunting throaty plaint she told of the “Universal Soldier.” A sample: “He knows he shouldn’t kill, but he knows he always will — kill you for me and me for you.” And when Miss Sainte-Marie sang her moving composition “Until It’s Time for You To Go,” the listener is painfully aware of how Nancy Sinatra and Claudine Longet destroyed the sheer beauty of that piece of poetry. With the exception of Miss Sainte-Marie, there was little soft selling by the performers. 

Groups Toss Equipment Into Audience

With The SRC group caterwauling in the background, lead singer Scott Richardson was screaming “Somewhere It’s Quiet.” Richardson smashed at least two tambourines to pieces by pounding them on the mike stand. And when the SRC finished its set, Richardson slung another tambourine into the crowd and the percussionist tossed away his drumsticks. Especially well received was the First Edition, which is currently riding high on its top selling record, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” — a pretty piece of music with not too pretty lyrics about a maimed Vietnam veteran. Kenny Rogers, lead singer of the First Edition and a first rate blues singer with a lot of husk and bark on his voice, scored with a solo “Sunshine.” With ever-changing, rainbow colored amoebalike projections being splashed on a screen behind them, The Pacific Gas and Electric and England’s Led Zeppelin groups were in command of the stage during most of the hours of darkness. The music of both groups was heavily injected with “acid” songs and drove some of the spectators to phonetic highs. Another group which had a similar effect, without the aid of the psychedelic light show provided by Pablo from the Filmor East in New York, was the Sweetwater — a group with an electric flutist and a violist, who played his instrument guitar style. The Shag, a group that got its start in Milwaukee and now works mainly on the west coast, received a hearty welcome home. The festival will continue from 10:30 a.m. through 10:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Among the featured performers for Sunday will be blues singer Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull, Jeff Beck and the Bob Seeger System, and Joe Cocker and the Grease Band.