Thursday, October 22, 2009

Central Park, Fremont, CA, June 18, 1967: "Banana At Noon" Free Concert New Delhi River Band/Wakefield Loop/others (canceled?)

After the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967, the idea of free public rock concerts as a means of expanding consciousness and generating hip solidarity took hold throughout the West Coast. Throughout the Spring and early Summer of 1967, there were numerous free concerts, styled as Be-Ins and Love-Ins or other fancifully named events. Local authorities were tolerant, amused or threatened, depending on the circumstances. Among the most high profile events were a "Love-In" in Griffiths Park in Los Angeles (the first of several), Be-Ins in Manhattan (Tompkins Square Park) and Vancouver (Stanley Square Park), all on March 26. Numerous less famous events were held in various places, including San Jose and far flung outposts like Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Be-In phenomenon largely ended with its commercial result, the Monterey Pop Festival, held on June 16-18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. After a final burst of free concerts in Golden Gate Park and Palo Alto, using Fender equipment borrowed from the Monterey event, rock music blossomed into its full commercial flowering, and free concerts became just another promotional tool. Throughout that Spring, however, hippies and bands in many communities tried to have their own events with various results. The canceled free concert at Central Park in Fremont, scheduled for Sunday June 18, 1967, offers a case study in how the conditions that allowed Be-Ins in some places like San Francisco and Palo Alto couldn't always be repeated, even just a few miles away.

The clipping above is from the Friday, June 16, 1967 edition of The Fremont Argus, headlined "Hapless Hippies Hamper Happening." The first sentence says "Fremont's first happening may not happen at all." Whatever the back story may have been, the event seems to have been conceived by Fremont local heroes Wakefield Loop as a fund raiser for a local school for the mentally handicapped called The Dawn School. The featured act was Palo Alto's own New Delhi River Band. The New Delhi River Band, who were popular in the South Bay due to their regular performances at The Barn in Scotts Valley (and whose full story is forthcoming) were a swinging blues band whose memberships included future New Riders of The Purple Sage Dave Torbert and David Nelson.

The New Delhi River Band was quite popular in San Jose and thereabouts--they had played the San Jose Be-In on May 14--, and Fremont's peculiar geography made it near the South Bay scene around San Jose as well as the self-consciously hip Berkeley scene to the North, without quite being part of either. The New Delhi River Band were playing with  Wakefield Loop at Yellow Brick Road, Fremont's new psychedelic venue (at 37266 Niles Blvd), on Friday and Saturday (June 16-17), and appeared to be ending the weekend with a free Sunday concert. Other bands on the bill included Wakefield Loop's friends and rivals The Collective Mind, as well as a group whose name I can't read and the promise of a surprise San Francisco guest. Who the guest band was supposed to be can only be speculated upon, since the concert never took place, but the highest profile San Francisco bands were all much further South at the Monterey Pop Festival, held the same weekend and culminating Sunday night.

The city of Fremont seems to have initially given approval for the event, but according to the article at least, got cold feet at some of the language in the poster. Miraculously, a copy of the poster survives on the site of the lead guitarist of Wakefield Loop. The poster, drawn by Loop lead singer Cheryl Williams, including tiny lettering that said "bring incense, apples, love beads, food and flowers to share." This seditious language was supposedly enough for the director of the putative beneficiaries (The Dawn School) to disassociate itself from the event, causing the City of Fremont to reconsider permission to use the park for the event.

None of these explanations are believable; it sounds like local bandmembers got permission, and someone in City management saw a Be-in on TV and became nervous, and found some pretense for interfering with the event. The implication of the news article is that the show would not take place, although a guerilla event was not out of the question. Wakefield Loop guitarist Denny Mahdik is quoted in the article as saying a crowd of 150 to 200 was expected; the City clearly feared many more. The city's assumption was somewhat naive, since many of the likely fans were already in Monterey, but they had no direct way of knowing that. Fremont, about halfway between Berkeley and San Jose, both of whom had successfully had free outdoor concerts at city parks, wasn't quite ready for the psychedelic revolution yet.


  1. Corry, actually, this Fremont event, BANANA AT NOON, did occur ... Denny would have to be the one to discuss any "interface" issues with the City officials involved, as he was the one on the firing line, so to speak.
    But the bands did play through the afternoon, including us, of course ... Ed Dorn's band, HEDGE ... Don DeAugustine's band OF AN UGLY NATURE ... as well as the others you mentioned.

  2. Also, my recollection of the "surprise band"'s identity was SOPWITH CAMEL, who Yuri Toropov (our manager) had also managed at the time. However, The CAMEL had very recently changed management and negated Yuri's influence to have them play ... I think I remember Bill Sievers (CAMEL guitarist) telling me that they wanted to relocate east to NY. The CAMEL was soon defunct, however ...

  3. And, as a side note, when in the City, I sometimes borrowed Bill Siever's old blond Fender Esquire guitar. In fact, I was using it when we played the Muir Beach gig we were speaking of earlier (thanks as always, Bill!)

    I remember Don D and myself having to hitch a ride coming down Oak St, going to the East Bay, and we got picked up in a heartbeat simply because of the band-name stenciling on the tweed guitar case :)

  4. Last point, Corry ... until I moved up here to Alaska, I had a post-mortem newspaper article (either the Daily Review or the Argus) that gave the BANANA AT NOON event a thumbs up ... and it had a couple of photos attached, as well. Unfortunately, I cannot find it now.
    You might find the article in their respective archives ...

  5. Ok Ok, more stuff ...

    Corry, the "unreadable band name" you mentioned on the poster is THE LONDON COLONY ... now that I think about it, that might have been Ed Dorn's band name at the time ...

  6. Ed, you are a bloggers dream, all your comments are great. I will look around for the Argus/Review follow up. Nice to know the event happened. Did the Sopwith Camel actually end up playing?

  7. Dan, sorry about calling you "Ed" there--I slipped. Your set of 60s Fremont photos at Flickr is completely amazing--do you recall anything about playing with The New Delhi River Band?

  8. No, the CAMEL never played. I don't think it was ever much of a possibility, which is why it sounded so mysterious on the event poster.
    I think Yuri was working on getting someone right up till the end, but I recall, in those days, the typical reaction to "Fremont" in general being pretty negative ... I suppose you can see why, based on the article you posted here. Indeed, I distinctly recall the term "Freakmont" being applied more than once in conversation :)

  9. Regarding recollections of New Delhi, no, not related to this particular event. You know musicians: we all stood around yakkin' about gear and other bands, etc. And we played with them numerous times, so it all gets blurred these days.

    My clearest recollection of them was several of us standing outside of the Yellow Brick Road previous Friday or Saturday night having a quick toke. Couldn't begin tell you who it was anymore, though ... what a bunch of mavericks we all were :)

  10. Corry,
    Both Bethlehem Exit and NDRB played for us at the Bold Knight. I remember Torbert and Herold as really nice guys. Have you run across any reference to Tim Abbott playing with either of these groups? I thought he did at one point but could be mistaken.