We got to the Monterey County Fairgrounds late in the afternoon. It was a nice warm Indian summer day. I think this may have been the first event I ever attended where I was given a wrist band at the gate. The wrist band allowed us to stroll grounds and then to enter the arena where the main stage was.
The grounds where interesting. The offerings reminded me a little of Telegraph Avenue -- Telegraph Avenue in a more pastoral setting. There were lots of long-haired artisans selling macrame, homemade candles, t-shirts, and various kinds of artwork.
Further in, there was a side stage where local bands entertained the crowds on their way to the main stage. And throughout the grounds solo instrumentalists were positioned in odd spaces, noodling on saxophones, strumming on guitars. All very eclectic.
We had some time to kill before the main show got started, so we wandered about.
I stopped at one large poster board display that told the history of the festival. Pictures of Miles Davis's famous performance in 1963, Brubeck in '66, Sarah Vaughn in '74. In one corner of the display was a piece about the first festival in 1958. I was surprised to read that the Abalone Stompers were the first group to open the festival that year. There was even a small picture of Jake Stock -- a much skinnier Jake -- up on stage with his then trumpet player.
At the 79' festival the line-up included: Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, and the two Woodys: Woody Shaw, and Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd. I didn't know too much about Woody Shaw or Sonny Stitt at the time, but I was huge fan of Dizzy, Stan, and the Thundering Herd. In my high school jazz band we'd played a few of Woody Herman's charts. I remember Blues for Poland the best.
When we finally went into the arena, I was taken back by the dimensions of the place. It was very long and narrow, like a skinny football field. There was stadium seating all round and then rows and rows and rows of seats on the ground level. I was disappointed to discover that our seats were located at the far back of the ground level. We weren't gonna be able to see shit.
The up side to sitting back in the boonies was that we were located close to the drinks booth. While we were waiting for the show to start I went over and ordered a couple of Bloody Marys for Mark and myself. I was into Bloody Marys in those days for some reason. Before the music started I think I may have even made a second run. This was in addition to a couple of beers I'd had earlier.
Seated next to us were these three women. Two of them were black women with beaded hair-dos. 1979 was the same year the movie 10, starring Bo Derrick, came out and beaded hair-dos were the rage. The other woman was a kind of pale bookish-looking blonde chick.
We sat there and started making conversation with the three. The blonde woman had an English accent. The two black women did not. Rather, they spoke with the standard urban American speech. They could have been from the area, or from SF or LA. I wasn't quite sure how the three all fit together, but they seemed to be friends. They seemed to be interested in us, or at least in Mark who was sitting closest to them.
It turned out that Dizzy Gillespie was the emcee that year. The first thing he did was come out center stage and blow this incredible riff on his bent up horn. When he was done, he did some hep-cat chit-chat about the line-up that night, talking up each of the performers.
Woody and the Thundering Herd started the show. From the distance, it was hard to distinguish the individual musicians. I just remember all that shiny brass reflecting the many-colors of the stage lights. The sound was loud -- long streams of thick saxophone chords -- high-pitched trumpets wailing through the air. That 70s era band music -- Maynard, Woody, Don Ellis -- was fun, but it could get a little monotonous as well. Before long, I was making my way back to the drink booth for another round.
When I got back to my seat, Mark was chatting it up with the three girls. I was informed that, after the show, the girls were going over to the Blue Ox for drinks. They wanted to know if we wanted to come along. Sounded good. I smiled at them. The blonde seemed particularly interested as she smiled back.
As I sipped my drink, I could really start to feel the effects of the alcohol kicking in. My head was starting to spin as the sounds of Woody's Herd pelted me. I needed to cool it.
Dizzy was now sitting in with Woody's band. Very cool -- the blazing trumpet of Dizzy Gillespie riding on top of all that horn power.
After a while, Mark leaned over and said, "Hey, the girls want to know if we want to leave now."
My friend Mark was pretty good at negotiating for sex and it seemed he'd struck up some sort of arrangement with the three women. I was game, but 1) I was really drunk, and 2) I really did want to stay around and at least hear Stan Getz.
Mark could tell I was vacillating. "We got our wrist bands. We can come back later if we want."
Knowing full well we wouldn't be coming back, I took one last look up at the stage and agreed to go. I didn't want to waste my drink, so I took a good-sized chug and then pitched the rest into a trash barrel as we walked out.
It was now dark. Walking back out into the main fairgrounds I could feel the British chick take hold of my arm. Normally my libido would have been all abuzz at the imminent prospect of sex, but as I walked, I was barely aware of her. My head was starting to spin violently; I could feel my equilibrium begin to falter.
"Are you ok, love?"
"I need to sit down."
We walked toward some benches, but before we got there, the heaves began. I staggered over to a tree, braced myself against it, and then fell to my knees. The girl came over and stood beside me. At that moment out it came, big broad gushes of Bloody Mary splashing all over the base of the tree.
"Oh, gawd!" She yelled. "Oh, fuck! The bastard puked on my foot!"
She kept saying oh gawwwwd in her English accent -- the way only the English can say it. She was pissed.
As she walked away I could still hear her saying it again and adding, "Gawwwd. How the fuck am I gonna get this shit off of me?"
They were gone.
Mark came over and stood there till I was done. Finally, I said, "I'm sorry I blew it for us."
"It's alright. You ok?"
"Yeah," I answered feebly.
I crawled a few feet away from the big red puddle of puke that I'd created and laid on my back, looking up at the stars. Appropriately, I could hear the soft sounds of Stan Getz wafting across the air from the arena. He was playing Corcovado.
Quiet nights of quiet stars
Quiet chords from my guitar
Floating on the silence that surrounds us
That was the only time I ever went to The Monterey Jazz Festival. For some reason it's just never really appealed to me after that.