Colorado HippieFest Leaves Audience Dazed and Confused

Article Contributed by Angela Gattuso | Published on Sunday, July 27, 2008

Second in radio station Kool 105's summer concert series, Tuesday night's HippieFest at Fiddler's Green drew less of a crowd than the preceding Chicago/The Doobie Brothers show, but boasted a more lively audience with a far greater mix among age groups. Though older adults and some true old hippies made up the majority of the shockingly small audience, small children with their parents and small packs of teens, young adults, and neo-hippies too made up a fair portion of the crowd. With such acts as Jack Bruce of Cream and Eric Burdon and The Animals headlining the festival, it would be expected that an evening of music from such artists would draw in a good amount of people, or at least enough to fill the venue. At 6:30 though, when the show was scheduled to start, an abundance of seats across the entire venue remained empty, many of which would stay in that condition for the remainder of the night. As the main acts of the concert approached as the sun further set and night began to blanket the sky, more seats slowly were being filled, though overall the show did not attract anywhere near a full audience. With the general admission lawn area being closed off and it becoming more apparent that the audience would grow no more, many people in the audience freely meandered about the venue, moving to open seats rather than their ticket designated ones, making for a better seat and a closer look at the 60's decorated stage. For those in attendance, dancing, alcohol, singing along, and occasional puffs of the thick white smoke that so was a part of defining the hippie generation, created an atmosphere and scene of a good time. Good times aside though, the musical entertainment of the evening was centered on those popular classics everyone knows and loves, but with far too short of a performance from each band, ending the night with a sense of disappointment and a feeling of un-completeness.

Kicking the evening off even before the sun was fully set behind the stage was Jonathan Edwards. Dressed in orange pants, Edwards came onto stage with nothing else than a harmonica and acoustic guitar. His vocals the third piece of his instrumentation, Edwards performed the majority of his set simply as such - vocals backed with guitar and harmonica. Making a comment along the lines of how he had written one of the songs during the first time a war was brought to us through lies and deception, and making slight drug references the majority of the audience could relate to, Edwards got his audience laughing and enjoying themselves. Ending his set with an a capella song, Edwards' set was much enjoyable and showed that still today he holds talent as a musician and finds joy in what he does. After Edwards' too short performance of around twenty-five, Badfinger took to the stage for a set of the majority of their most successful singles.

What started out as sounding too heavy with the bass and not enough action from the lead guitar, Badfinger's set took a turn after their first song, improving the sound among the guitar and the band as a whole. Though their sound and performance greatly improved, making their set more enjoyable and the music sounding ever more like the original recordings, Badfinger's time on stage too flew by with amazing speed, immediately making way for the next set. By the time Jonathan Edwards and Badfinger had finished their sets, the energy level among the audience had slowly began to pick up after each song and performance. When Woodstock performer Melanie came on stage after Badfinger though, that energy level again dropped and audience focus was taken away from the stage and instead put on personal conversation.

A little old woman with gray hair, Melanie's performance was appreciative and admirable for her touring and playing her music still today. However, with what seemed to be random stories and bits of information during and in-between songs, and slightly whinny vocals, Melanie's performance was all together slightly bizarre and failed musically to grab the audience and draw them in. At one point, Melanie took notice to this, commenting that there was much talking, people walking about, and that the audience needed to get refocused, something that never was really fully achieved during her time on stage. Getting more near the main acts of the evening, The Turtles followed up Melanie's set, having greatly picked up the energy level and brought the audience to their feet for the first time that night.

Filling in for the missing radio DJ's at the beginning of the evening, the two lead vocalists of The Turtles had already met with the audience before their set. The humor the two displayed in entertaining the audience before acts and during set changes carried over during their set as they talked back and forth between songs. This in combination with their catchy, upbeat, sing along music, The Turtles' performance proved fun and enjoyable among the greater majority of the crowd as people freely rose to their feet and danced as lights panned over them and across the stage. With the energy level again raised and the audience size at its fullest, much conversation and excitement filled the air after The Turtle's set as anticipation mounted for Jack Bruce to take the stage.

Having done much solo work after his time with Cream, Jack Bruce has a large repertory of songs behind his name and still today achieves great success in his name as a bass player. As part of HippieFest though, Bruce's set stuck to classic Cream songs and left his solo act behind for the night. With as many hits as Cream had, it would be easy for Bruce to have played over an hour set. However, to the disappointment to of the audience, Bruce's set lasted no where near as long as many would have liked for it to and only consisted of about four or five of Cream's biggest songs. His set may have been short, but what Bruce made of it as bassist and vocalist reaffirmed his notoriety as a bass player and gave a performance that put forward everything he had to offer. Opening with "Sunshine of Your Love," Bruce easily got the audience up and moving immediately with the song's all too familiar bass and guitar introduction melody. Another great song, "I Feel Free" was performed with great interaction between vocals as Bruce and a backup vocalist recreated exactly the upbeat intro to the song. The replication of the recorded version of the song only continued as the song carried on, the audience still singing and swaying along. Displaying his talent and success as a bassist, Bruce played an extended introduction to "Politician," circling over the hypnotic, re-memorable bass line many times before getting into the vocals of the song. With lights on the stage, psychedelic patterns moving across the large backdrop, floods of color moving across the audience, and the slow, heavy bass sound of the song, an atmosphere straight out of a 60's concert was then created for a near five minutes in the modern world we live in. Already having played a great set, Bruce further established his musicianship with a fantastic, extended version of "White Room." Great instrumental breaks filled the song as still the audience was on their feet and Bruce was playing just the same and as great as ever before. Ending with this song, as the house lights came up for a set change, a slight silence fell over the audience. Bruce's set acknowledged some of the greatest Cream songs and were played with the highest enjoyment and talent, but his performance felt anything but complete, leaving his audience in a mixed state of excitement, bewilderment, and disappointment.

After a fair amount of the audience left for the night and a quick set change, Eric Burdon and The Animals came out as both the second headlining band and the last band of the night. Now an old man with white hair and a changed body shape, Eric Burdon and The Animals played a great number of their biggest songs, and they didn't let their age slow them down the slightest bit. Though years of performance and lifestyle have taken a toll on Burdon's voice, it no longer being distinctive as it was before nor being as low pitched, his vocals displayed great power and variation. Among every song, from "Don't Bring Me Down" to "When I Was Young," Burdon at points let his vocals go with yells of excitement and passion in his singing. At other times, Burdon would simply make smaller changes in the tone, inflection, or dynamics of his voice and singing, giving the songs a slightly different sound, feel, and meaning than their original recorded versions. Among other changes in their live performance was the absence of an acoustic guitar in "San Franciscan Nights." Making up much of the original song, especially during the chorus, and its use in the addition of accents and ornamentation in giving the song a more down-to-earth feel about it, the acoustic guitar instrumentation in absence was instead played by the keyboards. Unlike the more slight changes in Burdon's vocals, this change in live performance of musical instruments gave the classic old song a more Eastern musical sound. In addition to more of their big songs such as "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," The Animals too did a unique cover of Rolling Stones song "Paint it Black." As was the case with Jack Bruce, The Animals had played a great selection of their biggest and best songs, though so many more could have been played, and they ended their set with one of their most successful songs of all: "House of the Rising Sun." As a spotlight went down over the keyboardist and the rest of the stage fell black, the song started off with a short piece on the keyboards of old blues music rooted in the South. A short tale unfolded as Burdon stepped into the spotlight and both the keyboardist and Burdon wove their way with the rest of the band into a passionate, high energy performance of the song. During the whole of The Animals' set the full audience was again out of their seats having nothing but good times. The people in the audience weren't the only ones though, for up on stage Burdon too was running, jumping, and dancing about the stage. Though their's too was a short performance, Eric Burdon and The Animals played with a strong enthusiasm and passion that drew and connected the audience into their groove.