The past few weeks, I was truly touched by the spirit of Jimi Hendrix as I learned "Purple Haze" as the first song I played on my new electric guitar. I couldn't dream that last week, I would be touching Jimi Hendrix's flesh and blood at West Fest on October 25! Leading the world's largest guitar ensemble was Leon Hendrix, Jimi's younger brother!
After the guitar ensemble, Leon stood around backstage telling stories about watching Jimi learn to play the guitar, and all the blues musicians his older brother really loved, especially Robert Johnson.
Although there were bands playing all day at two different stages at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park on a gorgeous, sunny day, what made the weekend for me was the guitar ensemble. I arrived in the dark at 7 a.m. and helped register participants at the table set up by Steve Roby, the author and historian whose book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix, is due out next year. Steve is the guy in the blue shirt behind the Jimi sign on the table, in the middle of the photo, and if you watched the video tutorial I posted a few weeks ago, you'll recognize Brian, the guy with the goatee, as one of the "Purple Haze" teachers:
People came from all over to participate in the ensemble. And although Halloween was a week away, some even dressed like Jimi to pay proper homage:
People were playing all kinds of guitars. I even saw a ukulele. The youngest participant I saw was a ten-year-old girl with a little acoustic guitar. While waiting for the event to begin, I met Colin and his dad who were there celebrating Colin's thirteen birthday. What a great way to ring in the teen years! I gave him a guitar pick my dad just sent me from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.
The ensemble began promptly at ten a.m., preceded by a Native American blessing by the American Indian Movement leaders. It was a beautiful prayer for the day just as the sun was starting to come out full force. My husband, who was working in one of the backstage tents, said the group had spent some time in meditation prior to coming out on stage, to set the intent of helping people connect with mother earth.
Then, things started rocking as they counted down from stage and everyone around me busted into "Purple Haze":
After playing the main part of the song, we jammed out for about ten more minutes while they played pictures of Jimi on the big screens.
The rest of the day was filled shuttling back and forth between the two stages to catch as much music as possible. Highlights of the day included seeing Ann Cohen, widow of Allen Cohen, poet and publisher of the San Francisco Oracle, read some of Allen's poetry on the East Stage; touring the Love Bus (see photo below); hearing from afar Tony Saunders, Michael Hinton, and Joli Valenti play "Get Together," by Joli's father, Dino Valenti of Quicksilver Messenger Service; and watching the awesome energy of these Taiko Drummers:
I hope you enjoy some more photos from one of the most beautiful days I've ever experienced in San Francisco!
Even a Blues Brother showed up!
Clearly, I found my "Purple Haze" soulmate...
Garfield and Tomi.
Tomi was at the original Woodstock in 1969!
Winner: Best shirt of the day!
Chrissy Costello, artist of
"I Want You! For the World's Largest Guitar Ensemble"
Hanging with some original Haight-Ashburyites backstage!
The Love Bus owner, Scott, and the artist, Perry,
chilled inside (and on top) while people toured their creation.
I think he got the memo.