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Published: 2016/12/29
by Rob Johnson

"Voodoo Child": How Jimi Hendrix Helped Start the Jam Revolution

O.T. —ORIGINAL TAPER

If there is one personality that is fairly unique to the jamband culture, it is the taper. These audiophiles spend lots of time and money capturing the ineffable so that those fleeting moments of Eternity found at good live shows can be savored over and over again. They fret about the best possible setup of mikes and gear, constantly in pursuit of the perfect sound. Hendrix could be their patron saint. By all accounts, Jimi Hendrix was downright fanatical about recording virtually everything he ever played, which is why "new" music of his continues to be released over 30 years after his death. The same obsessive documentation fetish will allow the Dead and Phish to continue releasing shows "From the Vault" until the sun grows cold and dies, and we are all richer for it.

Here are five favorite shows that are with us today thanks to the efforts of the taping community…

1) Los Angeles Forum, 4/26/69—Possibly the greatest show Jimi ever played, and not just for the “Voodoo Child/Sunshine of Your Love” sandwich mentioned before. Mind-melting versions of “Tax Free” and “Spanish Castle Magic” are every bit as good.

2) Maui, Hawaii, 7/30/70—The famous Rainbow Bridge show with hundreds of tripping freaks in a volcano in Hawaii. Besides the coolest venue Jimi ever played, this show features right-on versions of some of Hendrix’s most overlooked material. Tunes like “In From The Storm” and “Freedom” stand up well to classics like “Voodoo Child” and “Stone Free,” both of which are awesome. The highlight may be yet another segue-fest, “Dolly Dagger”>”Villanova Junction Blues”>Jam>”Ezy Rider.” This show proves that Hendrix was kicking ass up to the very end.

3) Royal Albert Hall, London, February 1969—A couple of shows at this legendary venue were filmed for a movie called "Experience." Both the movie and the soundtrack are out of print, but I remember my old vinyl copy of the soundtrack well. “Room Full Of Mirrors” featured Chris Wood of Traffic on flute, and a really great version of Bleeding Heart stood out as well. I’m sure there are more nuggets from this run that deserve to be heard.

4) San Diego Sports Arena, 5/24/69—“I Don’t Live Today” and “Red House” are possibly the best versions of these songs, truly awe-inspiring.

5) Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, 2/1/68—The last show Jimi played at the original Fillmore before he became too big for such venues. This must have been a very bluesy show, as Hendrix shared the bill with John Mayall and Albert King. Hendrix also shared the bill with Jefferson Airplane from June 20-25, 1967. Most shows at the Fillmore were taped, so there is a good chance that high quality copies of these shows exist somewhere. If these early shows were properly released, they would reveal a lot about the formative stages of Hendrix’s genius.

HIGH PRIEST OF THE ELECTRIC CHURCH

Dick Cavett: I have heard you use the phrase "Electric Church" as an ambition you have. Now, are you speaking metaphorically or poetically, or do you really want to..?

Jimi Hendrix: Well, it’s just a belief I have, you know? We play electric guitars, and everything is electrified nowadays, so if the belief comes into a person through electricity…that’s why we play so loud! We play for our music to go into the soul of a person and wake up something that’s sleeping there. There are so many sleeping people nowadays!

Perhaps the most important connection between Jimi Hendrix and the jamband movement is their common belief in the spiritual power of music. Jimi was fond of referring to his shows as an "Electric Church." When he played outside, he would refer to the shows as "Sky Church." The same idealistic belief in the sacred power of music to transform consciousness is shared by Deadheads, Phishheads, Allman Brothers fans, Sector 9 fans. Virtually any band that fits in the jamband category, by definition, has fans that look at each show as a religious experience.

To be more specific, Hendrix’s Rainbow Bridge show, where an announcer urged the crowd to recognize themselves as "cells in the body of the planetary being," shares a strong resonance with Phish’s Big Cypress Y2K extravaganza. Both took place in beautiful, sacred places that are about as different from concert halls as possible. Both produced some of the most remarkable music of the artists’ careers. And both were overtly spiritual in tone. Phish actually considered a Hawaiian site for Y2K, making the connnection that much stronger.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so naive that I think all jambands and their fans are strictly devoted to higher consciousness. A lot of the time, they are just strictly devoted to getting high. But even so, there is a truly religious devotion that surrounds this scene. Sector 9’s name comes from Mayan cosmology, and they go to great lengths to align each show with whatever spiritual forces are strong on that day. I have read an interview with Trey Anastasio where he talks about having a religious experience at a Dead show in Hartford that changed his life. The Allman Brothers’ concept of "The Brotherhood" even sounds like a religious order.

And that’s why I love this scene so much, and love this kind of music so much. It means something, dammit! It’s not just some Top 40 pap put together for no reason other than making some producer fat and rich. It is music that is made in the name of harmony and unity, and that comes through in the music and is reflected in the people who make up the scene. The feeling of true kinship and community that is felt at a really good show is what most religions are all about: Togetherness.

This is also extremely creative music, and part of Jimi’s legacy is that willingness to try new things and break new ground. When Hendrix first started, many people scoffed in disbelief at his revolutionary techniques, claiming that he was just "out of tune." Many jambands face similar criticism from people who automatically dismiss anything that doesn’t follow conventional wisdom.

We know better, though. In any art form, there can only be progress when the rules of the game itself are challenged. Hendrix knew that, and young bands like Sector 9, The New Deal, and the Disco Biscuits have proved it again with their "trance fusion" sound. Whether it's the Disco Biscuits jamming to Akira or Phish jamming from midnight to dawn, Jimi is looking down and smiling, because we are ALL Bold

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