History

Hendrix at Devonshire Downs

HendrixIn honor of the 38th anniversary of a landmark moment in Los Angeles rock and roll lore, here's some YouTube video of Jimi Hendrix jamming on stage at Devonshire Downs in the middle of the Valley. Hendrix had been the headline act at the opening Friday night of Newport '69, the first big rock festival held in Los Angeles. He played so poorly, reportedly due to an LSD-spiked drink, that he vowed to return to the stage on Sunday. His set with Buddy Miles, Eric Burdon and a bunch of other name musicians lasted a couple of hours and prompted Times critic Pete Johnson to write that people seated near the stage "may have heard the best performance of their lives."

Others, not so much. Newport '69 had a great lineup — the Byrds, Marvin Gaye, Joe Cocker, Ike and Tina Turner and many others — but it lacked a great sound system. Also missing were food, water, bathrooms and other accommodations for the estimated 200,000 fans who partied at Devonshire and Zelzah in Northridge over the weekend of June 20-22, 1969. Most didn't pay the $7 admission, but either hopped the fence (eluding the swinging clubs and chains of Hell's Angels and L.A. Street Racers, who provided "security") or danced in the streets. At night they crashed in surrounding front yards. Buffy Sainte-Marie urged everyone to stay happy, but on Sunday afternoon police trying to clear the suburban neighborhood met with rocks and bottles; 15 cops and more than 300 civilians needed medical treatment. Shocked city fathers banned future rock festivals, but two months later Woodstock pushed Newport '69 out of the headlines.

Nashville artist Tracy Nelson, who was on stage with Mother Earth during the Hendrix jam, told me a few years ago that many of the musicians who were there still talk about "Devonshire Downs," as the occasion is known. Here's the longest Hendrix footage on YouTube, and some 8mm film of the scene shot by two boys.


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