Imagine a festival with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Sly and the Family Stone, Pentangle, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Moody Blues and The Doors along with many many others. On this day in 1970, the first of five days at the Isle of Wight Festival took place on a small island in England. Largely considered to be the largest musical gathering at the time (until the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973) the attendance is estimated somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 people.
This festival was from another time. Performances were constantly interrupted by political activists trying to deliver their messages to the crowd. Numerous musicians who were at the festival for their own enjoyment appeared on stage with other bands such as Zal Yanovsky’s appearance with his former bandmate John Sebastian (both members of the Lovin’ Spoonful).
The final day of the festival, Sunday August 30th was Jimi Hendrix’s final show in the UK. His performance, which is one of his finest, is now considered to be legendary. The Who performed “Tommy” in its entirety and later released their set as Live at the Isle of White 1970. The album, although not as good as Live at Leeds, features some great playing and is packed with energy.
Miles’ performance shows his band in a very transitional phase making yet another stylistic leap forward (much to the dismay of his loyal fans), toward a concept that revolved around extremely loose frames that were mere starting points for improvisation in an electric context. The lineup consists of Miles, Dave Holland, Chic Corea, Keith Jarret Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and Gary Bartz. This concert was one of the first live displays of his new style, which is wildly experimental. Incredible footage of Miles from his performance at the festival is documented on his DVD Miles Electric. Other performances can be seen in the film Message to Love. Both are highly recommended.
The following videos from the Isle of Wight Festival, show how great this festival was, and they’re in amazing quality. Jimi’s performance is absolutely mind-blowing with some of the finest guitar playing ever. We love Jimi over here, and this is simply one of the finest examples of his God-like abilities. Miles’ show paved the way for improvisational music, and exhibits the style heard on Tribute to Jack Johnson (read our article on Jack Johnson here). Click here to check out Jimi’s setlist from the show. Enjoy these videos which help us relive the incredible music that took place starting 39 years ago today.
Listen to Jimi perform “Freedom” at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970-8-30.
Jimi performing Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).
Here’s Jimi performing a scorching version of “Machine Gun”, a political song about the Vietnam war (for some reason it won’t allow this video to be embedded, but I urge you to watch it on youtube. This version contains one of his best solos ever played).
“In From the Storm”, the final song Jimi performed at the festival.
Miles jamming on the “Bitches” medley. Absolutely phenomenal.
Miles performing “Bitches Brew”, this performance is wild. Jam music at its finest. Listen to the jam that emerges around 6:00 with a heavy bass groove.
The Who performing “Naked Eye”.