Allman Brothers, Edgar Winter Group, Mahavishnu Orchestra et al : Rock & Roll Nine, Hollywood FLA

ALMOST EVERYTHING about Rock & Roll Nine was good in some ways and bad in others. Celebrated on an isolated raceway in the swampy boondocks a considerable distance west of the innocuous little city of Hollywood, Florida — usually noted mapwise by an unconnected name floating in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale — it was supposed to be just another one of those twelve hour mini-festivals that have been enjoying some success recently.

But then Howard Stein seized the opportunity to cop the show from a couple of regional promoters who had put the whole thing together. In a way, it was a good thing he did, too, because due to a lot of local heat, it would’ve been practically impossible to pull Rock & Roll Nine off without a powerful and efficient organization like Stein’s, however, the same pressure which had practically handed the show to Stein (through the discovery that the tin-plated lean-to that local wags try to pass off as a concert hall was operating without a Certificate of Occupancy) end up killing the show in the long run.

There was this law on somebody’s books which said an outdoor concert, hence a festival, was required to obtain a permit some thirty days in advance, presumably in order to allow plenty of time to set up hassles like digging up the main access road to the site — which was done several years ago. Howard Stein had written permission from the county attorney to hold his festival, but the local Sheriff contested the attorney had no right to issue the permission and Federal Court agreed. It was the Sheriff’s move, but at the last minute he declared a Christmas truce or something, and remained content with just ruining the show financially. Rock & Roll Nine did, in the end, go on, but the uncertainty of the entire situation, the fact that all the people were subjected to frisking upon entrance, and a bill that was far from what you might consider star studded, really put a damper on the whole scene.

As far as the music was concerned, however, the concert/festival — or whatever you wanna call it — was a resounding success and a superbly organized one. Roxy Music kicked off around high noon to an enthused audience that trickled in steadily until four o’clock. Roxy, at the very end of a very disheartening American tour, could hardly wait to hop a helicopter back to Miami Beach. They had disappeared even before Jo Jo Gunne could finish their startlingly brief 35 minute set of rock ‘n roll, which was marred somewhat by the surprising tendency of Jimmy Randall’s strings to pop off the bridge of his bass guitar. Jimmy had just invested in a new Rickenbacker bass, and being unaccustomed to its feel, spent a good deal of his time facing his amplifiers and righting his strings, as the rest of the band proceeded as a trio.

Wet Willie succeeded Jo Jo Gunne, doing a very, very hot set of country blues. John Hammond followed, performing a fluid set of folksy acoustic blues while accompanying himself on harmonica. Next came the surprise appearance of the Elvin Bishop Group, substituted at the last moment for Dr. John — who got sick or something, and the crowd settled down to watch their funky, boogie type tunes, aided by an excellent boob solo by a braless, heavy-breasted chick in the audience who did one of those famous group “I’m really into it” numbers.

Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen did an unusually long set as night fell and the big chill set in. The seemingly endless process of 1950s rock ‘n roll was followed by the very intense John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Next came the Edgar Winter Group, whose outstanding high energy set was mildly overshadowed by the presence of Johnny Winter, clearly visible to the crowd as he stood in the wings with a guitar. Johnny didn’t come on until the second encore, however. He did ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘Mean Town Blues’ (the latter hampered by equipment difficulty) and then the entire Winter entourage piled into a couple of limousines and split without even sticking around to see the top act of the night. The revitalized Allman Brothers played with a new bassist and a piano with Greg alternating on guitar as well as organ, and received a mixed reaction. They did a very slow, exceedingly laid-back rendition of ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’, which was totally different from what the Allmans’ audiences had come to expect.

The local newspaper reported some twenty thousand people stopped by Rock & Roll Nine through the course of the day. This was slightly exaggerated, because the crowd never seemed to even approach fifteen, although the promoters had expected nearly fifty. I’ll bet you’re beginning to understand what I meant before by good in some ways and bad in others, because everything Rock & Roll Nine had going for it was balanced by a counterpoint, right down to the weather. It was a gorgeous, completely cloudless December 27th, with a radiantly blue sky, an ethereal breeze, and a bright sun that warmed the audience through the day, yet at night it became unseasonably cold and the temperature dropped into the forties. Even though this was probably better than conditions in some places the show was advertised, it drove a goodly number of the crowd to warmer surroundings. The first injury treated by the aid station that night was a girl who cut her hands clapping in the cold weather, even though people were hanging around in bikinis and no shirts during the day. Many of the audience started small fires, utilizing litter as fuel and a lot of really weird smoke swept into the performers as the concert progressed. However, most of the heat had been supplied by the security people who frisked each and every person who was considerate enough to purchase a ticket.

© Jim EspositoRock, 26 February 1973

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