Summer Jam

It’s been 36 years now since Chuck, Albert and I decided to go to Watkins Glen for the rock festival that was billed as “Summer Jam” in 1973. The promoters had expected 100,000 people at the most, but as the week drew down it was obvious that something was happening and we just “had to be there”. Chuck had been to Woodstock, and I was fascinated with his experience there, so there was no way I was going to miss this! By the time the actual concert started on Saturday, there were 600,000 rock & roll fans there, a record for attendance at a single event.

We got there on Friday and got closer with the car than I expected we would. Roads were clogged and in some cases blocked. There were cars parked alongside the road up to 30 miles away. We ditched the car somewhere near the raceway, I remember thinking “I have to remember where the car is”, and walked in. The fences were down and everyone was getting in for free by that time. State cops were around, but being friendly and there was no trouble. We worked our way to a place that was actually pretty good, relatively close to the stage, on a slight slope and planted ourselves. Except for a few trips to find water, we pretty much stayed there. A trip to the line of 1000 porta potties could take you an hour or two. I had packed in my backpack a blanket, space blanket and a jug of wine. I guess that’s all I needed, what more could you want? That night when it rained, I just covered up with the space blanket.

As a music event, it wasn’t all that memorable. The experience was the thing for me. The Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, and The Band were all great bands, but being a part of what to me was an important event in my life was better than the music. The sound check on Friday night turned into a 5 hour long concert in itself with all three bands playing. It was a less politically charged and more laid back party atmosphere than other previous events. The war had ended, Watergate was in full swing, we just wanted to have fun and party and listen to music. It was the last of the rock festivals of it’s kind. The only regret I have is that we left early, I guess we wanted to beat the crowds getting out, I don’t remember.

Not conclusive proof that I was there, but it sure looks a lot like me at that time.