50 years ago this month, back in 1967, tens of thousands of weirdos, bohemians, hippies, bikers and other strange looking young people wandered into the sleepy fishing village of Monterey.
They came to be a part of an emerging counterculture and attend a 3-day music festival. Rule-breakers and protesters. Scenesters and revolutionaries. They were rewarded with some of the best live music ever made including the pyrotechnic U.S. debut of Jimi Hendrix, and high-energy performances by the Who and Janis Joplin.
50 years and hundreds of cultural trends & rebirths later, shocking the establishment is not such a simple affair. These days the young dreamers and skeptics have the lessons of these often self-indulgent and self-destructive pioneers to learn from.
This past weekend the Monterey Fairgrounds were home to the 6th annual Ink at the Bay tattoo festival with live music, a car show and artists from as far away as Switzerland and Brazil. Like the Monterey Pop festival this was a 3-day event that attracted a lot of folks whose appearance does not match the local population.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this and the 1967 festivals is the genuine sense of respect for the previous generations of iconoclasts. You could see it in the low riders and bombs at the car-show. Painstakingly crafted following traditional rules and techniques and presented with a great sense of pride by owners representing their families and car-clubs.
You could also feel it walking around the various tattoo artists’ booths with their portfolios of work – each different – but always with a generous influence of those artists who’ve gone before. Some of these portfolios seeming to be a history of tattooing itself, covering the main traditional styles and seldom veering from the tried-and-true.
It’s an interesting time to be young and creative. So many avenues for self-expression have been explored to the point of being irrelevant. To distinguish yourself these days requires not just the courage to appear or behave out of the ordinary, but to also show that you have the talent and you’ve put in the work. This festival’s most interesting quality might have been the sharing of creativity. While in ’67 the crowds came to be awe-struck by the Jimi’s and Janice’s, these days the crowd is made up of artists and crafts-people. In essence the entire Monterey Fairgrounds were the stage.