Feb 23 2024

By John McDermott & Steven C. Pesant.

24 HOURS IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL - The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Ottawa ‘68

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s appearance in Canada’s capital city – Ottawa, Ontario on March 19, 1968, was part of an extensive US tour organized in support of his recently issued second album, Axis: Bold As Love. The guitarist arrived in New York on January 30, 1968, and immediately took part in a press reception organized by publicist Michael Goldstein. Goldstein dubbed the event “The British Are Coming” and made The Experience, as well as the other groups in the Michael Jeffery/Chas Chandler stable available to journalists and photographers at the Copter Lounge atop the Pan Am building in Manhattan.

The Experience performed sixty concerts in sixty days during the first leg of this tour.

Following the media hoopla in New York, The Experience flew to San Francisco where their tour began in earnest at the Fillmore Auditorium on February 1. Eight shows over the course of four memorable nights at the Fillmore and Winterland Ballroom launched the tour in grand fashion.  From San Francisco, The Experience ventured across the US, performing at a mix of clubs, colleges, and medium sized auditoriums. Despite the growing popularity of Are You Experienced, issued the previous August by Reprise Records, Jimi’s US distributor, The Experience had only begun to develop a national following.  As a result, limited finances eschewed the comforts of a tour bus and made leasing a tour airplane unfathomable.  Instead, the group, guided by their faithful road manager Gerry Stickells, made much of their journey across the country in a rented station wagon.  In what can only be described as a remarkable test of their endurance and enthusiasm, The Experience performed sixty concerts in sixty days during the first leg of this tour.

Jimi Hendrix’s Diary entry for March 19, 1968
Courtesy Museum of Pop Culture / MoPOP

Five weeks into their dizzying tour itinerary, The Experience arrived in Ottawa to perform two shows at the city’s venerable Capitol Theater.  Ticket demand for The Experience’s appearance saw what was originally the first and only show at 8:30pm scheduled that night—sell out. With excess demand, promoters hastily negotiated a second show on the night which was scheduled for an early 6:00pm start time with The Soft Machine opening on both shows.

As he often did when performing two concerts in one evening, Jimi varied his set lists.  He maintained some staples such as “Fire” and “Foxey Lady” in each concert, but in the evening’s early performance, of which a partial recording has been discovered, newspaper reviews reveal that he featured “Red House” and “I Don’t Live Today” along with the surviving records of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Fire,” and “Purple Haze.”  These songs, apart from “Red House” and the last two, were not revived for the second show, but in their place came “Spanish Castle Magic”, an energetic reading of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and the lengthy instrumental workout “Tax Free”.

Newspaper advertisements promoting The Experience’s concert in Ottawa 1968

Experience concerts bore little resemblance to seamlessly produced present day rock events.  In 1968, a Jimi Hendrix concert was truly a counter cultural gathering, fueled in large part by the support of underground radio and college newspapers.  The concerts themselves were miles away from today’s rigidly structured events which more often resemble a Broadway production than a traditional rock and roll show.  

Technically, while on tour, Jimi lacked virtually everything from amplifiers capable of withstanding his sonic demands to adequate stage monitoring [during this era, Mitch was often without any monitoring whatsoever].  There were no light cues or pyrotechnics timed to announce Hendrix’s arrival onstage. Jimi simply walked out, greeted the crowd, and would quickly tune his guitar.  During the performance, technical demands and other challenges were either solved on the fly or not at all.  This hasty work invariably took place in plain view of the audience.  Jimi’s Ottawa performance was no different. As he and his crew struggled to overcome a variety of technical difficulties, Jimi peppered the crowd with his sly wit.

Headlines from The Ottawa Citizen following The Experience’s Concert

If a desultory [and now rather humorous] review of Jimi’s performance, printed the following morning in the Ottawa Citizen, can be believed, The Experience sold out the second concert of the evening. It is this inspired second show performance that is subject of the Dagger Records’ exclusive album release: The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Ottawa.

The concert at the Capital Theater took place four days after the March 15, Clark University performance issued as the second Dagger Records release in this series.  Like that show, The Experience were in top form throughout.  The grinding toll of their first major US tour was masked by the group’s upbeat demeanor and spirited performance.  Most important, coupled together with Live At Clark University, Live In Ottawa provides a compelling and detailed look at The Experience cresting at the peak of their friendship and unity.

Live In Ottawa features the earliest live version of “Tax Free” released officially.

There is much to be relished in this raw, two-track mixing console recording. Jimi’s train whistle feedback announces his powerhouse rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”  A stinging “Red House,” Jimi’s own blues masterwork, is even stronger.  Live In Ottawa also presents the earliest live version of “Tax Free” issued to date.  Here Mitchell and Redding push Hendrix insistently throughout the song’s complex arrangement.  

The expanded introduction to “Hey Joe,” a precursor to the more elaborate efforts which would follow in the weeks and months to come, is wickedly clever and no doubt a salve to Hendrix’s restless creative spirit.  The guitarist loathed having to replicate his hits in the same manner night after night.  It is alterations and embellishments such as these which made every Jimi Hendrix performance so unique.

More than three decades later, it is performances such as these which reveal just how exciting it was to have a witnessed The Jimi Hendrix Experience in concert.

How and why the concert was recorded is somewhat of a mystery.  The performance was not professionally recorded, as were later Hendrix performances at Woodstock and the Fillmore East.  Nonetheless, Jimi was obviously well aware of a tape recorder capturing the proceedings.  During his set, he made mention of it onstage, exhorting the crowd at one point to cheer so that the group’s girlfriends wouldn’t think they had bombed in Ottawa!

Photos and Newspaper ads for The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Ottawa 1968
Photos: Ian McLeish / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

It is possible that Jimi himself recorded this performance on his own Sony reel-to-reel tape machine.  He frequently made recordings of various jam sessions and club performances for his own enjoyment.  It is more likely, however, that a member of the Capital Theater stage crew documented the performance for posterity.  All of Jimi’s performance is presented in its original running order.  “Wild Thing”, the final song of the evening, cuts out just as Jimi tore through the song’s unforgettable opening chord sequence.  Apparently, the tape operator loaded his reel-to-reel tape machine with a 2400-hundred-foot spool of blank tape.  Such a spool would provide slightly more than sixty minutes of recording time at seven and a half inches per second.  The recording begins with the introduction of the group by CKOY radio personality Nelson Davis and continues until the spool runs out. Lost is the balance of “Wild Thing”, but most of us know what happens at the end there …

First Experience: Three More Songs

Since this original release of Live In Ottawa in October 2021, three previously unreleased live recordings of The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing during their first set at the Capitol Theatre have been discovered on a newly found tape.  The three, previously unreleased songs include The Beatles’ hit single “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” along with two classic Hendrix anthems including “Fire” and “Purple Haze.”  These additional tracks have since been added to the Dagger Records exclusive album, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Paris & Ottawa 1968 released in September 2008.

Late Night Experience: Café Le Hibou Coffee House

Following The Experience’s performances at the Capitol Theatre, Jimi Hendrix later attended the performance of Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell at the quaint Café Le Hibou Coffee House (521 Sussex Street).  Mitchell who was amid a two-week residency at the venue was just days away from releasing her debut album, Song To A Seagull.

Club Pass for Le Hibou Café plus Newspaper Ads promoting Joni Mitchell’s performances.

The bookings for both shows were coordinated by Harvey Glatt, who was a co-owner of Le Hibou, and local show promoter involved in arranging The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s show at Capitol Theatre. 

“My name is Jimi Hendrix … could I tape your show?”

In arriving to the venue for the second set; Joni Mitchell recalled meeting Hendrix before the show with a simple introduction: “My name is Jimi Hendrix and I was just signed to Reprise, the same label that you’re on. Could I tape your show?”  

“Sure,” said Mitchell.

Hendrix situated himself in front of the small stage, propped the recorder on stage, put on a set of headphones and started to record the 25-year old’s acoustic performance. Joni once recalled that “Jimi didn’t put the recorder there and back off. He engineered it all the way through.”

Sadly, the following day, the tape recorder and tapes were stolen …

Jimi Hendrix’s Diary entry for March 20, 1968
Courtesy Museum of Pop Culture / MoPOP

In 2002, local archivist Ian McLeish was asked to review a bunch of tapes from his late friend Richard Patterson’s collection.  Patterson—a drummer from the band The Esquires—collected recordings of local Ottawa-based bands and amongst the collection of tapes was one labeled – Joni Mitchell Recorded Live At L’Hibou Café Mar/68. How Richard got his hands on that tape remains a mystery.

McLeish—who also attended Hendrix’s concert earlier that fateful March 19, 1968, evening, also snapped a few photos of Hendrix in concert (a few of which appear above)—eventually reached out to Reprise Records with news of the tape find. 

Joni Mitchell’s “The Dawntreader” as recorded by Jimi Hendrix (March 19,1968)

Eventually, on November 12, 2021, Reprise Records released the 5-disc box set Archives – Volume 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) featuring the original Hendrix recording, lovingly restored—featuring the complete two-set, 14-song performance as recorded by Jimi himself in simply stunning quality.

Three unforgettable shows and three rare and unique recordings … now that’s a 24 hour adventure in the capital.


1. Killing Floor 6:07
2. Tax Free 10:51
3. Fire 3:38
4. Red House 9:20
5. Foxey Lady 5:32
6. Hey Joe 6:19
7. Spanish Castle Magic 7:48
8. Purple Haze 6:51
9. Wild Thing 2:49

Buy Now


Live At The Olympia Theater
Paris, France (January 29, 1968)

1. Killing Floor 4:32
2. Catfish Blues 8:46
3. Foxey Lady 5:29
4. Red House 4:24
5. Drivin’ South 9:24
6. The Wind Cries Mary 3:55
7. Fire 4:16
8. Little Wing 3:40
9. Purple Haze 5:59

Live At The Capitol Theatre
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (March 18, 1968 – First Show)

10. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2:16
11. Fire 2:16
12. Purple Haze 5:15

Buy Now