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Starting a teenage riot in the desert with Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers

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A wonderful first-hand account of the 1969 Palm Springs Pop festival by my friend, the great rock ‘n’ roll photographer Heather Harris.

The Palm Springs Pop Festival, April 1, 1969, a music event a tad bigger quantitatively than the more celebrated Monterey Pop Festival of the same era although smaller by many triple digits than the later that summer Woodstock, was peopled by some eight thousand strong in drug-fueled hippie-dancing young souls. It was my first time attending a show that blocked off the front of the stage from the audience or photographers like me. I was as determined then as I am now to get good live shots, so I just tore down the chicken wire, entered the rarified area and took the following photo of The Flying Burrito Brothers, (left to right the legendary Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge and Sneeky Pete) all accoutered in their infamous custom Nudie suits, Gram with cannabis leaves and pills, Sneeky with pterodactyls etc. I only got this one shot of The Burritos because suddenly eight thousand people rushed forward to join me and I was terminally jostled from any further photography. It was uncomfortable amongst the new surging throngs, it was cold in the desert night air, the two bands we wanted to see had canceled, we’d seen the remaining other acts before, and my friend was starting to get drugsick, so we left. But apparently those pushing stagewards continued in their spirit of surging and mobbing, and eventually rioted throughout tony Palm Springs all the way to the Taquitz Falls park. It was one of the first instances in failure of concert crowd control ending in rioting, quite some months before Altamont, and I, dear reader, may be responsible for its inception. Later I would find access to stage photography limited by far more than chicken wire fencing, instead by micro-managing control freaks associated with the acts, and that has proven in long run a far more formidable obstacle to good photography than any 8,000 person riot behind me.

 
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(C) 1969 Heather Harris
 
Myself, I adore The Flying Burrito Brothers. So much so that I had their brilliant pedal steel player, the late Sneaky Pete Kleinow play on the first Medicine record. Here’s a great clip of them lip-syncing the first song from their first album :

 
HOW I STARTED A RIOT 41 YEARS AGO WHILE PHOTOGRAPHING GRAM PARSONS AND THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS (fast film blog)

 

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment