Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vibes of Satsop 1971 to rock today

Vibes of Satsop 1971 to rock today
Saturday, July 31, 2010 - 00:02



The Daily World

Rick Burgess remembers loading up his purple van with a bunch of high school friends and heading up East Satsop Road that Friday morning.

It was Labor Day weekend of 1971 and the first day of the Satsop River Festival and Tin Cup Races, a kind of funky name for a rock 'n' roll festival modeled after the legendary Woodstock.

"It was the summer before I was a senior. We thought we were going to Woodstock," Burgess recalled. "It was a great time -- until it rained."

One of the friends in the purple van was Tim Holderman, who was about to begin his junior year at Hoquiam High School.

Holderman is among the promoters of today's Satsop River Rock Festival, an all-day music extravaganza featuring 12 bands on two stages at Olympic Stadium. It will be topped off with performances by Wishbone Ash and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Burdon, two of the original acts to perform at the 1971 Satsop event.

His first impression of the original Satsop fest is not a sight you will see today ... for the times, they are a changin'.

"I remember walking in to Satsop and both sides of the road were lined with dealers with trunks full of weed," Holderman said with a smirk.

But Holderman, like most everybody you talk to who was at the original event, has one distinct memory -- the performance of the British guitar band Wishbone Ash.

Not even one of the headline names of the 1970s, Wishbone Ash was one of the early British pioneers of the twin lead guitar format that later became popular with bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Sonic Youth.

One of the founding members was Andy Powell, the only original member playing with Wishbone Ash tonight. Powell also remembers Satsop -- vividly.

"I remember flying in on a helicopter because all the roads were blocked," Powell said earlier this week. "I remember chaos, but kind of in a familiar way, because that's the way things were back then. It was just one of those frantic, kinetic scenes we had back then," he said with his charming British accent.

Powell also remembers the performance.

"I remember we played a blistering set and the crowd went wild. ... It was those wild days."

That performance made quite an impression on a bunch of Harbor teenagers.

"Well, I distinctly remember Wishbone Ash," said Holderman. "It was awesome. It was amazing!"

"It was like the stars lined up for Wishbone Ash," Burgess said. "It was a band that nobody had ever heard before, but talk to just about anybody who went to Satsop, and there was Wishbone Ash."


Former Harborite Maitland Ward knows a thing or two about solid rock and roll performances. Since leaving the Harbor, he's gone on to a successful career as a rock guitarist, backing the likes of Madonna, Sheena Easton, Kenny Loggins and Alan Parsons, just to name a few. He currently resides in Camarillo, Calif., but says he wouldn't have missed this "reunion" weekend for anything, and he'll be performing with the Grays Harbor All-Stars today.

He qualifies his statements about Satsop, saying his memories are somewhat fuzzy.

It was the 1970s, after all.

"Basically, it was like a disaster area after an earthquake or something," he recalls of the 1971 scene. "But people were having a good time and things were starting to get on.

"The memorable part was when Wishbone Ash played," he added. "When Wishbone Ash played, all of a sudden the lights were perfect, the sound was perfect ... and, all of a sudden, the whole place kinda went 'holy sh--' and sat up and noticed.

"And I really wasn't a Wishbone Ash fan," Ward continued. "I was a total guitar-god guy. If it wasn't Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, everybody else sucked. And Wishbone Ash wasn't like guitar gods, they weren't speed demons or anything. But their sound was so tight, and the songs were so hooky and the energy was so focused that night the people just went ape sh--."


Then the rains came later that night.

"Then the Hell's Angels came ...," Ward said. "The second night things started getting ugly. People were getting hungry and cranky and they were muddy, dirty and unhappy; it wasn't as fun of a vibe as the first night."

The event began to disintegrate into greater chaos that second day.

"One of the guys who worked with me at the radio station was the pilot, so we took his plane over," recalled longtime Harborite Stan Foreman, who's back in town to serve as master of ceremonies and to play with the Grays Harbor All-Stars today.

Foreman was a disc jockey at KGHO at the time. He would leave the Harbor in 1975 to embark on a 24-year career with Capitol Records. He's since retired to the resort golf community of La Quinta, Calif. Foreman is also the well-known founder of the legendary Harbor band The Beachcombers, which performed in one incarnation or another up until 2003. Several members of The Beachcombers, including lead singer Dave Reed, will also perform with the All-Stars.

"By the time I was ready to go up there on Saturday the roads were blocked, it had rained and a bus was overturned and some people were hurt, and I was, like, 'I'm not going in there,'" Foreman said with a chuckle. His radio station promoted the show, "but I never really wallowed in the mud or actually participated at that level."

Foreman believes the 1971 Satsop Festival was an historic event.

"Satsop was the last major festival of its sort held in the United States, especially in this state, because right after that the Legislature passed concert and festival guidelines that, in effect, said it's not gonna happen again."

Well, maybe not, but those once-teenagers behind today's event believe they can at least capture a bit of the essence of Satsop 1971 and pass that on to today's audience and the generations since.

"We were young and we were stupid and we did all the stupid things that young kids do," said Ward. "And the good part about it is, here we are almost 40 years later and we're all able to see how everybody has grown and what's happened in one another's lives. You know, we can bring our kids here, so it's really kind of unique. And I can't think of too many other situations where we can get in our cool time machine and go back and show our kids that, hey, we were kinda cool at one time."

David Haerle, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 537--3928, or by e-mail: dhaerle [at] thedailyworld [dot] com.