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Aquarian Family Festival

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Aquarian Family Festival
GenreRock, pop, etc.
DatesMay 23, 24, and 25, 1969
Location(s)San Jose, California
United States
Years active1969

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The Aquarian Family Festival was a free three-day music festival, which was held in San Jose, California on May 23, 24, and 25, 1969. Some of the performers included Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Moby Grape, Joy of Cooking, Chocolate Watchband, Throckmorton, and Boz Scaggs among others. However, many of the "big" names who promised to play never showed up. The list below is believed to be accurate (note that Quicksilver for example was slated to play but probably did not).

The concert was held on the San Jose State University football practice field with the cooperation of the University's School Community Involvement Program (SCIP - pronounced 'skip'). Terms of the agreement with the University required that people could be present only during the performance of music. Because part of the purpose of the concert was to provide a safe place to stay for tens of thousands of people traveling to town to attend another concert being held in town about a mile away at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, music had to be performed continuously from the start at 12:00pm Friday until the close of the festival at 4:00pm Sunday afternoon. Thus the festival featured 52 hours of continuous music.

The festival was produced in 10 days at a total cost of $968.00 by approximately 30 people who were volunteers with the Institute for Research and Understanding whose Dirt Cheap Productions unit produced the concert. Assistance was also given by the musicians' cooperative Druid Corporation House and the San Jose Free University. Legal services were paid for by the band Led Zeppelin which did not perform at the festival. Independent sources estimated attendance at 200,000 people, with 80,000 spending the night on Saturday.

When Jefferson Airplane, appeared on Dick Cavett the Friday night of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, Cavett asked them if anything like this had ever happened before. Grace Slick replied "San Jose."


The Aquarian Family Festival was organized as an alternative to a commercial festival occurring at the same time about a mile away at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. The festival's promoter rejected an offer from the social service agency Drug Crisis Intervention (DCI) to assist in handling any drug related medical problems which might occur at the concert. He suggested that DCI should pay him to be allowed to provide this service to the festival crowd. In response DCI's parent organization the Institute for Research and Understanding voted at its weekly staff meeting on May 12, 1969 to produce an alternative free concert with the aim of providing the same music in a more open environment and allowing concert goers to spend the night as people were coming from all over the state and there were limited places for them to stay.

Northern California Folk-Rock Festival 1968[edit]

On May 18 and 19, 1968, the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival 1968 was held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California. During the festival a large quantity of PCP was passed from the stage to the audience. The man throwing the pills from the stage called himself the "Hogman." "Hog" is one nickname for PCP. The result was that over 1000 people required emergency medical attention at Valley Medical Center.

The concert promoter was later banned from using Santa Clara County facilities for any future events.

The Institute for Research and Understanding[edit]

The Institute for Research and Understanding was a nonprofit corporation providing social services in the San Jose Area from the beginning of March 1969 to sometime in mid-to-late 1971. It consisted of several divisions: San Jose Switchboard; Drug Crisis Intervention; San Jose Draft Resistance; and Dirt Cheap Productions.

2nd Annual Northern California Folk-Rock Festival 1969[edit]

The promoter of the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival 1969, Bob Blodgett, produced a "Second Annual" event on May 23–25. He was able to circumvent the County's ban through the use of a dummy organization. When the concert was announced John Bigler and Dennis Jay or IRU approached him about providing drug related medical services. His response was to say they could do so if they paid him. In response they put together a basic plan to produce an alternative concert. Permission was given by San Jose State University to use their football practice field to hold the concert with the stipulation that the audience could only be present when music was playing. There was no stage and no electricity at the site so a stage would need to be constructed and generators brought in to power the music and lights.

On Tuesday night May 12 at the regular weekly IRU staff meeting, John and Dennis described their conversation with the concert promoter and their proposal to hold an alternative concert. Some discussion followed of what would need to be done and how the staff would proceed. This was followed by a vote on whether to move ahead. The vote was unanimous in the affirmative.

  • Jimi Hendrix had been slated to play at the end of the festival but showed up so late that one of the generators was gone and the stage was being disassembled by the time he arrived.

Organizing the Festival[edit]

Members of IRU contacted all of the bands advertised as playing at the 2nd Annual Northern California Folk Rock Festival (NCFRF 2) as well as many other regional and Bay Area based national bands. Bands quickly began agreeing to play. However a clause in their contract with the NCFRF 2 promoter did not allow their performance at the AFF to be advertised in any way. When AFF staff contacted Led Zeppelin who was stated to be the Friday night headliner, they were told Led Zeppelin was not playing at the festival. By this time the NCFRF promoter was seeking an injunction to stop the AFF. Led Zeppelin provided attorney's fees for the IRU to fight the injunction in court. On Friday morning May 23, with the concert set to start at noon. The Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled in favor of IRU and Led Zeppelin. The NCFRF 2 promoter was ordered to give a full ticket refund to anyone who requested one and the clause in the contract baring advertising where else the bands were playing was stricken by the court.

Mark Wayne, an engineer who designed and built sound systems for many clubs and bands in the Bay Area including Tower of Power and Santana, designed and built (with assistance) a portable wooden stage large enough to allow one band to play while another band set up or broke down allowing continuous performance without interruption.

A local construction company donated two large portable generators to power the stage.

San Jose Free University's bread baking class baked 2000 loaves of bread for free distribution to the musicians and audience.

On recommendation or request of members of Big Brother and the Holding Company the Hells Angels were asked to provide security for the stage. There were only four acts of violence at the festival. All four were initiated by members of the Hells Angels, including the gang rape of one of the IRU's staff. This rape took place in a teepee that was erected in the middle of the crowd.

One problem at this festival was the somewhat widespread distribution of barbiturates (reds, yellows, rainbows) and subsequent problems when users combined them with alcohol. Repeated announcements were made from the stage about the dangers of mixing the two. Nevertheless, a number of festival-goers became unconscious and had to receive emergency medical help in order to survive the experience.

The bands[edit]

  • The Ace of Cups
  • All Men Joy
  • Birth
  • Beggars Opera
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Boz Scaggs
  • Chocolate Watchband
  • Crabs
  • Crow
  • Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band
  • Devine Madness
  • Denver
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • Elgin Marble
  • Flamin' Groovies
  • Frumious Bandersnatch
  • Gentle Dance
  • Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band
  • Glass Mountain
  • High Country
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Joy of Cooking
  • Last Mile
  • Libras
  • Lamb
  • Living Color
  • Linn County
  • Mother Ball
  • Morning Glory
  • Mad River
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Nymbus
  • Old Davis
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Red Grass, Green Smoke
  • Rubber Maze
  • Rising Tide
  • Rejoice
  • Sunrise
  • Sable
  • Sons of Champlin
  • Sounds Unlimited Blues Band
  • Sandy Bull
  • The Steve Miller Blues Band
  • Strawberry Alarm Clock
  • Stoned Fox
  • South Bay Experimental Flash
  • Throckmorton
  • Tree of Life
  • Weird Herald
  • Womb
  • Warren Purcell
  • Zephyr Grove

Festival staff[edit]

  • John Bales
  • Charlie Belden
  • John Bigler - President of the Institute for Research and Understanding
  • Michele Bigler - Secretary/Treasurer of the Institute for Research and Understanding
  • Allison Blanck (deceased - struck on his bicycle by a hit-and-run drunk driver)
  • Jeff Boodman - President of Drug Crises Intervention
  • Linda Boodman
  • Tina deBaum
  • Roger Desmond
  • Mark Felber (deceased)
  • Tom Felber
  • Arn Hancock
  • Leeann Hansen
  • Dennis Jay - President Dirt Cheap Production Company
  • Michael Kane
  • Kathy Kennedy
  • Tom Kilbourne - Throckmorton, Druid Corp, Electronic Acoustic Research (EAR)
  • Jerome Lackner, M.D.
  • Mitch Marcaux
  • Michael Moran
  • Chris Mosher - Lead singer Throckmorton (deceased)
  • Vincent Mow
  • Louis Mow
  • Dena Neman (deceased January 7, 2009 in Corvallis, Oregon)
  • John Patterson - President San Jose Draft Resistance
  • Reverend Richard Roundtree - Salvation Army - a.k.a. Super Turtle
  • Julian "Filefreak" Peters (deceased)
  • Jeff Posner
  • George Santos - President San Jose Free University
  • Gina Sauerwein/Musser
  • Dee Dee Steiber
  • Tom Terrific
  • Pat Villareal
  • Gary Watts - President San Jose Switchboard
  • Mark Wayne - Founder, Electronic Acoustic Research

See also[edit]

  • List of historic rock festivals
  • List of music festivals


External links[edit]

This article "Aquarian Family Festival" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles copied from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be seen on the Draft Namespace of Wikipedia and not main one.