What’s the one gig you wish you’d been to?
I love this question. It tells you a lot about a person’s musical taste and is often a lot more revealing than getting them to list their favorite band or favorite album.
There are a couple of pretty standard answers as well. Led Zeppelin at the L.A. Forum, Woodstock, The Stones at Madison Square Garden in ’69, Live Aid, The Beatles at the Cavern, the Beatles in Hamburg, the Beatles at Shea Stadium… everyone wishes they’d seen the Beatles basically.
My answer? The California Jam 1974.
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series).
Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Earth, Wind and Fire
Seals and Crofts
Black Oak Arkansas
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Just look at that line-up! If that isn’t an all killer, no filler line-up, I don’t know what is. Eight great acts, all playing at the top of their game; for that "$10 in advance or $15 at the gate" ticket price, you got your money’s worth.
I’d quite happily have spent all day in the California sun (an abnormally warm day for April by all accounts) taking all of that in. But there’s one particular Cal Jam performance I’d have been front and centre for…
I’ve spoken about my love of the Purps – especially the Mark III Purps – in this column before. And the Cal Jam might just be their finest hour. The band was on fire that day – quite literally when amishap with a pyrotechnic effect caused one of Ritchie Blackmore's amplifiers to explode – and gave what is quite possibly a career best performance. I’ve watched the ABC Concert broadcast so many times and I’ve worn out VHSs and DVDs in the process. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a masterclass in hard rock performance. Watching it recorded is exhilarating enough, and I can only imagine what it must have been like in the flesh.
So that’s my pick. But what is yours? If you could have been to any one gig, what would it have been? More importantly, why do you wish you’d been there? Doesn’t matter if they’re legendary shows or local band gigs – we want to know about them. As always, share your stories in the comments!