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Hendrix: The Gigs That Changed History – #8 Woodstock

Bethel, New York, August 18, 1969

Hendrix at Woodstock is a very different event from Monterey; almost a black light version of it. Like a lot of things – including Altamont – it hadn’t started out that way. In fact his appearance was almost an accident. After the breakup of the Experience the previous spring, he was up in Shokan, New York, putting together his second band and inventing a new extraplanetary sound. Shokan was only 50 miles from Bethel, where Woodstock was held, so it was a convenient – if risky – place to try out his new material and his new band, but then Hendrix was always a high-wire performer who fed on live current.

He was also a true believer in the hippie cloud-nine handbook. He’d named his new band Gypsy Sun And Rainbows, and thought of their sound as Electric Church Music. His opening number at Woodstock, Message To Love, is inspirational, almost a hippie gospel hymn, and he had intended to close his performance with the equally new and prophetic Valleys Of Neptune, switching to Hey Joe at the last minute. He intended his performance to be an optimistic message to his flock, with a few old favourites thrown in.

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