Jun 28 2024

Rob Lewis.

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

In the late sixties I was only a youngster and never saw a Hendrix concert.  However, in 1968, on my twelfth birthday, my older brother gave me a copy of Axis: Bold As Love.  For the duration of the sixties, and throughout my school years in the seventies, my appreciation for the timelessness of Hendrix’ music grew.  My interest took a much keener approach in 1996 when Ben Valkhoff persuaded me to research Jimi Hendrix’ shows in the Midwest for his extensive series of books, Eyewitness: The Illustrated Jimi Hendrix Concerts.  Eventually I became a major contributor to Valkhoff’s Eyewitness books and to a variety of other Hendrix related books and publications.  I often enjoy reflecting back on the turbulent late sixties because Jimi Hendrix was an integral part of it all.

A close look at Hendrix’ short time spent in Wisconsin reveals that it all started and ended in Madison.  The small city of Madison figured into The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s tour itinerary twice—1968 and 1970 were two very different years—with the small club scene slowly evolving to large stadium size venues.  Both of the Madison gigs proved to be standout performances.  In 1968, Wisconsin’s State university system was rated as the sixth largest in full time enrollment in the United States.  Madison was one of the largest schools around at the time. Surrounded by lakes, this picturesque cityscape is rather hilly, with the Capitol building dome towering at the highest elevation.  Madison’s 33,000 university students and local citizens had the opportunity to “experience” Hendrix at his best.

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

Newspaper ads for the February 27, 1968 performance

In the midst of touring what seems like countless cities, The Jimi Hendrix Experience had finished a successful engagement at the prestigious Chicago Civic Opera House on February 25, 1968.  Booked at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, the band took the next day off in Chicago before leaving for Wisconsin.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a small venue called The Factory, prepared for a sold-out rock concert.  The Experience arrived by plane to play two shows in Madison on February 27, 1968.  A hired stagehand at The Factory, Scott Varney, recalls the calm before the storm.  “I remember it was a big hype.  Everyone was talking about the shows that were going to go on there.  It was very lulled during the day at The Factory.  The stage was not set until their equipment guy came.  We loaded the stage with stuff.  I personally carried in about twelve to fifteen guitar cases.  I noticed why he did that later on … why he had extra guitars.  Most of them were Fender.  One Gibson Flying V case and the rest were all Strats.”

“The Factory was a small sweaty place … that’s what Jimi kept referring to it as … a small little sweaty place. He liked the club feeling.”

~ Vic Buff

The Factory was located at 315 West Gorham, near State Street, very close to the University of Wisconsin campus.  Harvey Scales, who performed at The Factory regularly, remembers, “The Factory was in a real liberal part of the state.  People in Madison would walk by Jimi and just say hello and keep on walking … that type of thing.  That is why [I believe] Jimi really liked Madison.”  The venue was owned and run by the local promoter, Ken Adamany, who brought Jimi to Madison.  Phil Dutcher Enterprises was also involved in the promotion of The Jimi Hendrix Experience booking in Madison.  Vic Buff explains, “Ken Adamany was running that place.  He owned it …  proprietor and all of that.  He had lots of acts in there.  It was a small sweaty place … that’s what Jimi kept referring to it as … a small little sweaty place.  He liked those places.  Where you get close to the people, you know.  The auditoriums are kind of a sterile thing.  In concert on a big stage, he felt like he was under glass.  He liked the club feeling.”

A hotbed for rock music, The Factory only existed for a short time.  From late 1967, until the Spring of 1968, it flourished.  In the beginning Otis Redding was a big act booked to play there on December 10, 1967.  However, Harvey Scales remembers, “My band opened up for Otis Redding at The Factory, but then we heard the news about his fatal plane crash in Lake Monona just miles away.”  Some of the other bands that played there were Steve Miller Blues Band, Moby Grape, Wilson Pickett, and Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  The very last band booked to play at The Factory was The Cream, but the club was closed, and it was cancelled.  The small club scene was popular during this time in the sixties.  Similar venues like the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, or The Scene in Milwaukee, were small but accommodating for the rock concerts of the day.  Brad Cantwell, the local poster artist who created the Madison concert poster, recalls that the club’s name “Factory,” was well deserved.  “It was real plain and not adorned.  Nothing was really painted, paneled, or plastered and it was all just a big concrete frame of a building.  It was a factory where there used to be big equipment and machinery.  It had a room off of the main room and there were a lot of pillars in the way, so if you were in the back, in the wrong spot, you wouldn’t be able to see the stage or anything.  Still, it had an intimate quality.  They had a back room with a small snack bar, a few couches to sit on and games, like pinball machines.  No liquor was served.  As I remember that room had a big parachute that hung from the ceiling and that was the only real attempt at trying to soften up this big concrete box of a place.”

Scott Varney, who was busy with his stagehand duties, remembers when Jimi Hendrix first arrived at the rear entrance of The Factory.  “It was kind of quick.  I wasn’t expecting him to come so early.  He got there about two hours before the show started.  It was still light outside.  I wasn’t expecting it, so it was kind of a shock when I saw him.  He was the nicest guy.  I said, ‘Mr. Hendrix, do you mind if I take your picture?’  Jimi just said, ‘No, no problem.’  That’s when he struck that pose in front of the garage door.  I only took one shot of him.  Then about 10 or 15 minutes later Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding came in and it was the same thing.  It was no problem for them to pose for a picture.  They weren’t stuffy or hung up on anything.  They seemed like real nice guys just out making music and having a good time.”

A total of 3,000 people were in attendance that cold winter night to see Hendrix.  The first show was scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. but ran slightly late.  The second show was slated for 9:30 p.m.  England’s Soft Machine was the opening act.  Mark Boyle’s Sense Machine from London provided a light show, but only for Soft Machine.  Tickets were $3.50 in advance and $5.00 at the door.  Scott Varney remembers, “It was real low key in the back.  About an hour before the show Soft Machine played one set and the place just exploded.  It was about 45 min.  to an hour and then Hendrix came out.” Brad Cantwell got a chance to attend the shows after his concert poster was accepted and advertised in town.  Brad remembers, “I was given thirty-five dollars for drawing and creating the original Factory poster in 1968 and given some tickets.  I went with my wife.  To me, Soft Machine’s music did not seem to be suited for the opening of a Hendrix show.  The crowd was so willing to see Hendrix come out that I don’t think they were interested in the Soft Machine.”

“The sound was excellent.  They had their own P.A. and that worked very well.  The size of the hall and the height of the ceiling lent itself well to good reverberation. It was like controlled reverb that was added in a studio or something like that.”

~ Scott Varney

The Jimi Hendrix Experience took the stage for the first show.  Scott Varney explains what happened next.  “The sound was excellent.  They had their own P.A. and that worked very well.  The size of the hall and the height of the ceiling lent itself well to good reverberation and added to the sound that was projected out from the amplifiers.  It was like controlled reverb that was added in a studio or something like that.  I remember Jimi used his Gibson Flying V and he had it up on stage the whole time, along with about five or six other guitars.  He changed guitars periodically for different songs.  I don’t remember a set list, but it seemed like they played a lot off of the first album, with longer and more embellished songs than the original album tracks.  When they were playing, I remember I couldn’t get around people.  I was over by Noel Redding on the side of the stage taking photos and I could not even get to the other side of the stage.  When Jimi was playing his solos, the way he filled the bass lines really filled the rest of the music along with the drums.  They worked together so well.  A very full sound for three pieces.”

Brad Cantwell tells us more about the unique experience he had at the concert that evening, “I had to stand way in the back on a folding chair to be able to see the stage during the first show.  It was a great show, but it was hard to see.  When the first show crowd started to leave the manager of the club walked over to me and told me that Jimi Hendrix wanted to speak to me.  He told me that Hendrix was real impressed with the drawing I had done of him and the idea that I had used in my design.  Then the manager asked me if I would please come back and meet Hendrix and I thought it was a joke!  

“However, I was soon ushered back to the backstage area behind the stage and into the band’s dressing room.  They were sitting on a couch drinking Johnny Walker Scotch and the three of them were in this tiny room.  I had shaved my head the day before, my wife and I had both cut our hair.  She normally had real long hair, but had it cut very short, and I shaved my head, so when I walked into the room to meet Hendrix, I had a completely shaven head.  I was real scared and was probably shaking from nervousness.  Hendrix jumped up and shook my hand with his big, huge hand, you know, and held on to my hand and just kept shaking it and looking me right in the eye.  He was complimenting me the whole time, encouraging me, and telling me how much he really dug my drawing … that I should keep up with the drawing and my involvement in art.  In fact, there was a big stack of these posters there and he said he was going to take them with him and hang them up at his hotel rooms everywhere he went.  After that Hendrix signed a poster for me.  On the poster he wrote, ‘Thanks for the poster scene, be groovy.  Jimi Hendrix.’  The other two members of the band autographed it for me, and Hendrix handed it over to me and said that he was, ‘going to use the poster for inspiration and that it really impressed him.’  The manager then ushered me out of the room and placed me directly in the front row! When the rest of the crowd came into the club for the second show, I had a front row seat on the floor in front of the stage.  Between me and a few other people that worked there, no one else saw both shows.  The stage was just a plain and simple plywood riser, about a foot high off the floor.  It was just enough to get them above the heads of people, so people in the back could see.  Standing room only except for the one bleacher of old wooden auditorium seats that were off to the side.  It was open seating with folding chairs way in the back.

“The second show was a great deal more animated … and freer.  He seemed to play more of his own favorite stuff, more solos, and long extended runs on the guitar.”

~ Brad Cantwell

“The second show was a great deal more animated … and freer.  He seemed to play more of his own favorite stuff, more solos, and long extended runs on the guitar.  It was definitely the better of the two shows, not just because I was up in the front, but he just seemed like he opened up more, felt better and he relaxed more after the intermission.  I remember Hendrix crashing his guitar into the speakers and setting his guitar on fire right in front of me.  He was only a few feet in front of me when he got out the lighter fluid container and lit matches.  I don’t think it was his good guitar that he burned, but it was white.  He was sitting on top of the guitar, like you see in some of the films.  Eventually he stuck the neck of the guitar into the speaker cabinets and started making his guitar feedback and howl.  At the end of the show Hendrix threw his guitar up and over the top of the amplifiers and walked off stage.  It was a momentous occasion and just overwhelming for me.  I’ve seen hundreds of rock shows since and that was definitely the tantamount rock ‘n’ roll experience of my life.”

“For years that was the high point of my musical career … listening to him play that night.  Meeting him was a dream come true.  It changed the way I thought about music. There wasn’t too much to compare him to at that time.  Every show Jimi did differently.”

~ Vic Buff

To corroborate some of the events that Brad remembers, Scott Varney recalls similar things, “Jimi did smash up a perfectly good Stratocaster.  He was playing it, broke it up, and lit it on fire.  It was like, ‘Wow … I’ll take that guitar!’ [laughs] I think the second show was better because it was a little longer, but it was beautiful to see the first show too.  For years that was the high point of my musical career … listening to him play that night.  Meeting him was a dream come true.  It changed the way I thought about music.”  Vic Buff says, “There wasn’t too much to compare him to at that time.  Every show Jimi did differently.  Like lots of bands, Jimi always had the drums to go back to … Mitch doing leads and throwing stuff out … Jimi catching it and riding off of that.  Mitchell and Hendrix would always have the bass to come back to.  That was a little bit different than most solos.”

Brad’s last memories are of Jimi’s limo. “After the show we were outside and saw Hendrix come out of The Factory building.  I was looking down the alleyway and saw Hendrix getting into the limo for his ride that was taking him back to the hotel or airport.  It was a thrill to see him outside of the stage area.  The fact that I had talked to him earlier and gotten a compliment from him made it real special.  At eighteen years old, anything like that is a bigger thrill than it would be if you were older … by virtue of it all being so new and cutting edge.  He was really avante garde.”  The limo took Jimi back to the Ramada Inn Motel, near the highway.  Vic Buff remembers, “The limo left Jimi with me at the Ramada.  We both decided to find our way to a party that was happening somewhere.  With no car, we had no luck getting a ride from anyone.  There were people driving around the parking lot to see Jimi … like he was a spectacle to watch, I suppose.  As we start walking toward them, they drove past us without stopping and we just kept walking with our thumbs out.  The highway was close by.  We were surprised when a State Trooper stopped and gave us a lift.  I’ll never forget riding down the highway in the back of the State Trooper’s highway patrol car with Jimi. [laughs] They dropped us off at someone’s house where the party was.”

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

Poster design & newspaper review from February 27, 1968 performance

The red, white, and blue Factory poster in 1968 had mirrored faces and an image of Abraham Lincoln.  Hendrix had asked Brad why there was an Abraham Lincoln in the drawing and Brad really had no explanation for him.  Asked about it today and Brad explains, “I had a first drawing which was much more psychedelic and never made it into the final poster.  When I was searching for images to put into this commercial version of the drawing I had done, Abraham Lincoln was about the only thing that made it into the second version of the drawing.  There was no real answer to give Hendrix, but Lincoln freed the slaves, and he seemed like a symbol for the times.”  Brad’s approach to his poster artwork appears similar to some of the San Francisco poster artists of the late sixties with its psychedelic presence.  Jimi must have liked something about the style and design of that poster, but for him to say that it was an “inspiration” was flattering for Brad.

“Hendrix the guitar machine strikes again and again and again… it’s his sound, you watch it and feel it, a sound rising through many dimensions …”

~ Bury St. Edmonds (The Daily Cardinal)

The Factory shows must have been great musically.  I have never heard of the existence of a surviving tape, so I can only imagine.  There was, in fact, a reel-to-reel tape recorded of The Factory shows, but after about a year it was stolen from its owner and has never been recovered.  Ben Valkhoff’s new book, Eyewitness: The Illustrated Jimi Hendrix Concerts 1968 has a rough outline of the setlist for the second show at The Factory, alleging performances of  “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?,” “Tax Free,” “Red House,” “The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp,” “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Foxey Lady,” and “Wild Thing.”  This setlist bears a close resemblance to the one used the very next night, February 28, at The Scene in Milwaukee.  Fortunately, a tape exists of that show.

In the spring of 1970 Jimi Hendrix came back to Madison on his “Cry Of Love” tour.  Brad Cantwell remembers, “Because I had done the poster in ’68, the same people contacted me when Hendrix was going to play here in Wisconsin, May 1970.  I had quite a long time to do the drawing … it wasn’t such a hurried-up thing this time.  I thought I did a real nice portrait of him, using cross-hatching and B&W pen and ink.  I submitted it and the first draft was accepted.  They printed it in a one-color separation, color scheme, and I was able to offer some input and told them I wanted it printed in brown ink, with a flesh-colored background, so they did that.  I thought it turned out to be a real attractive piece of artwork.  I was real proud of it.  Everywhere I went, practically, I saw my own posters on telephone poles, and in stores, … it made me feel like I was being appreciated for something and that the art I was doing was being validated.  That’s always hard for an artist … it’s hard for an artist to judge their own work.  I wanted to be known or seen as an artist.  I didn’t want to be thought of as just a college student or an auto worker, which is what I was doing.”

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

Poster design & newspaper review from May 2, 1970 performance

The Dane County Coliseum poster depicted Hendrix as somewhat of an American Indian, something that was very characteristic of him.  The head and shoulders drawing must have gotten a reaction from Hendrix.  Brad Cantwell did not meet Hendrix in 1970, as he did at The Factory, to discuss his poster art with him.  He attended the concert with his wife and brother just like everyone else.  Paid another $35 for his artwork, Brad was also given some tickets for the Milwaukee concert where he sold his posters for 50 cents apiece.  Essentially, the exact same concert poster was used for three separate dates, (the Milwaukee concert the day before Madison, the Madison concert, and the St. Paul, Minnesota, concert the day after Madison).  Only the typed information was changed.  With the artwork printed in brown, on a pale orange background.  Now, more than thirty years later, this poster is very rare and beautiful.  The flyers distributed on the streets were identical but printed in four different colors.

The Experience began in Wisconsin at Bruce Hall in the Milwaukee Auditorium on May 1.  Hendrix mesmerized the “Brew City” crowd with a stormy version of “Star Spangled Banner.”  During this weekend Milwaukee was engulfed in a widespread revolt against “The Establishment.” The UWM Post newspaper wrote, “A three-day May Day festival is being sponsored on the east side by the Youth International Party (Yippies) and other Milwaukee youth movement groups, including the Students For A Democratic Society (SDS) here, according to a Yippie press release.  A few days later the UWM Post wrote, “A weekend May Day festival on the east side led to several confrontations between participants and police, nine arrests and minor property damage.  Seven arrests were made on Sunday…”

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

Backstage with The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s road crew (Madison, Wisconsin. May 2, 1970)
Photo: Steve Braker / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Madison was in the throws of a student anti-war movement with demonstrations on Mifflin Street and on the university campus.  Peace activists rallied hoards of students in the streets for action.  Freedom activists were demanding the release of the jailed Black Panther leader, Bobby Seale.  On the same day as this concert, Saturday, May 2, the Nixon administration signaled a huge offensive against areas in Cambodia.  Madison responded quickly on Bascom Hill where police repelled tear gas into a crowd protesting the invasion of Cambodia.  The Kaleidoscope newspaper editor, John Kois, was arrested for selling underground antiestablishment literature, but in the end, he was released.  The “truth” about our society was being debated by everyone and even militant actions were seen as solutions.  On August 24, 1970, a bomb went off at the Army Math Research Center and killed Robert Fassnacht, a brilliant young physicist.  The unsuspecting researcher was sitting at his desk late one night, and BOOOOM! Hendrix could not have picked a more turbulent time to come to Wisconsin.  In fact, the next week students were killed at Kent State.

Concerts East and Concept Nine presented The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Dane County Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin on May 2, 1970.  The Coliseum was a dome-shaped arena located at 1881 Expo Mall East.  The support bands, Savage Grace, and Oz, opened up for The Experience.  A sold-out show, tickets were $3.50, $4.50, and $5.50.  The soundman in charge at the Coliseum was Harry McCune from San Francisco.  A very good audience tape recording of this concert has been in circulation among fans for years.  The 84-minute tape reveals a very high-energy performance with Hendrix in a good mood throughout.  Hendrix was on fire and the band worked well together.  With Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass, The Experience was a hybrid of both the ‘original’ Experience and the Band Of Gypsys.  

The Hendrix concert was scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. and the 5,000 fans who attended began arriving before nightfall.  Brad Canwell was with his wife again.  “We went to a hippie commune,” he explains.  “They were real typical late sixties counter-culture people.  The three of us left the party to go straight to the coliseum.  My younger brother was just thrilled because it was his first outing into this type of adult world.  I’m sure he remembers it as one of the big events in his life … just getting to see Jimi Hendrix play.”

“There was a lot of tension and electricity in the hall from the anticipation of hearing Jimi Hendrix, and the presence of cops all over the place.”

~ John Mayer

John Mayer, a Milwaukee teen, remembers, “I went to the Jimi Hendrix concert with my friend, Steve Cohen.  We didn’t have tickets and just decided out of the blue that ‘we gotta go, man.’ We hopped a bus to Madison and made our way to the Coliseum.  It was a madhouse.  There were thousands of people milling about outside because the cops wouldn’t let them in … then all of a sudden, the doors opened, and people started streaming in.  We walked along the side of the building and motioned to someone to open up a side door, the door popped open, and we flew in and started running down the hallway … came to a door, went in and found ourselves in the front row! There was a lot of tension and electricity in the hall from the anticipation of hearing Jimi Hendrix, and the presence of cops all over the place.”

Hendrix returned to Madison with Marshall stacks instead of the Sunn amplifiers, he had at The Factory in ’68.  He still brought along his favorite Strats, a Gibson Flying V, and a host of effect pedals.  Mitch Mitchell, on the other hand, carried along his pregnant wife, Lynn.  She came with him on the Wisconsin leg of the tour and sat on the stage in a large chair just behind Mitch’s drum seat.  At both Wisconsin concerts, the Auditorium and the Coliseum, the audience saw this pregnant woman sitting just behind Mitch and Hendrix.  (Eventually Lynn gave birth to a daughter, Aysha, when Mitch was away on the last European tour in September.)  Equipment-wise, Mitch was now using a larger double bass drum set.  Billy Cox was replacing Noel Redding on bass, despite rumors that Noel was coming back to reform the original Experience lineup.  A solid player in his own right, Cox was perfect at holding down the bass lines.  John Mayer recalls waiting in his seat, “I remember staring at the wall of amps.  I had never been to a rock concert before.  It was awesome to look up from the seats at all that equipment.”

When Hendrix and company took the stage, Mike Allen began filming his amateur 3 minute and 5 second, color 8mm silent film.  Allen explains, “I could walk right up to the stage and stand directly in front of Jimi, with no hassle!” Jimi was very animated.  It was like a slow-motion ballet at times with Jimi’s body slowly orbiting the stratosphere.  With his eyes closed he often appeared to be somewhere else, out of our realm.   A red bandanna with white polka dots was worn around his head of hair.  With Jim Morrison style black leather pants, he had a bad boy image, but more like a black Elvis.  The now famous “Berkeley vest” was worn over a ruffled flowery blue blouse, which was typical fashion for Jimi.  In the film you can see Hendrix puffing on a cigarette and strapping on his white Stratocaster as he begins his banter with the audience.  You can see the red lights glowing on the amps in the purplish dark background on the stage.  With a spotlight on him, Jimi says, “We’re all feelin’ fine.  How you doin’?” John Mayer remembers, “After awhile the house lights went down and the stage lights came on.  The band filed in, and Hendrix grabbed his guitar, which I recall was white and already plugged in.  He started tuning it up and playing a bunch of licks … he fiddled around for a while and then tore into the first song.” The music began with an enthusiastic version of the song, “Fire.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Madison ’70
Stream a bootleg recording of The Experience’s May 2, 1970 concert via the Jimi Hendrix YouTube Channel

Getting into some newer material, Jimi introduces a song, “This next one is called ‘Room Full Of Mirrors.’ Hendrix then dedicates it to anyone who might have, “been through this trip one way or other, the ‘Room Full Of Mirrors’, when you get so high that’s all you can see is you…” Hendrix is trying out his newer material, but he lands on his feet every time with applause and acceptance from the audience.  Another new song, “Hear My Train A Comin’,” is referred to by Jimi as a slow blues, but it turns into a fiery number.  Mayer remembers, “the volume was beyond belief.  It took me awhile to be able to ‘hear’ anything … then I started to recognize the different songs he was playing.”

Jimi switches to his Gibson Flying V guitar before starting the next number, “Red House.”  The Gibson’s mellower guitar tone can be heard on the audience tape clearly and it is [reportedly] the only time he ever explored this song with the Uni-Vibe.  The silent film shows only the blue and red floodlights illuminating the stage, leaving Hendrix in a darker purplish glow.  The exquisitely played version of “Red House” slows the pace down nicely.  The next song, “Lover Man,” is also played on the Gibson guitar for a jazzier feel.

Jimi changes guitars again, opting for his black Stratocaster this time.  He checks his tuning one more time, and counts, “1,2 … 1,2,3.”  As the song “Message To Love” played on, some fans would have recognized it from the new Capitol Records, Band Of Gypsys LP.  “Ezy Ryder” followed, but as Jimi introduces it, he forgets to mention the motion picture movie like he usually does.  “Greeeezy Slider,” as Jimi calls it in a joking manner.  He is not altogether in some of his rapping, but his playing more that makes up for it.  Despite being a brand-new song to the audience, they still greet with ample applause.

“[Machine Gun]: Dedicated to all the soldiers in um … Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and oh yes, Viet Nam … and Cambodia.”

~ Jimi Hendrix

“Machine Gun” was another song from the Band Of Gypsys LP and it obviously had relevance to what was happening in Madison.  Jimi dedicated the song saying, “Dedicated to all the soldiers in um … Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and oh yes, Viet Nam … and Cambodia.” Jimi touched a nerve in the audience with his poignant words and artillery fire notes.  This song was about Viet Nam.  “Machine Gun” segues right into “Star Spangled Banner” with Jimi making a distinct connection with the audience, as everyone is now on their feet raising their hands with the familiar V-shaped peace symbol.  John Mayer remembers, “’Star Spangled Banner’ was played as an unaccompanied solo full of passion and fury.”

The American anthem gives way to “Foxey Lady,” and most likely some of Hendrix’ stunts.  The audience cheers and claps to this crowd-pleaser.  The medley of songs ends, and Hendrix says, “The cat’s gettin’ ready to run us off stage now, so like … for the freedom of Bobby Seale…” Hendrix dedicated “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” to Bobby Seale, chairman of the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther party.  Seale was on trial for murder charges stemming from his Black Panther involvement, which were later dropped.  This was a headline story in 1970.  Jimi had been approached by the Black Panther party many times.  Vic Buff comments, “Race was not an issue with Jimi.  He was transparent.  A lot of times race came down on him.  I think he was more Indian than anything else, in spirit and the way he acted.” 

ONE NIGHT STAND – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Play Madison, Wisconsin 1968/1970

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s performs in Madison, Wisconsin. May 2, 1970.
Photo: Steve Braker / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” begins with the familiar wah-wah pedal guitar riff, and the band launches into a stormy version of the song.  The song slows down and an interesting drum solo by Mitch emerges.  As Mitch cools down on his solo, Jimi begins to play the famous two-octave notes to start the final song, “Purple Haze.”  Everyone stays on their feet until the ending.  Jimi flosses his teeth on the strings of the guitar for effect and uses controlled feedback, for an impressive conclusion, and leaves with the guitar still humming after he says, “Thank you very much.”

The Madison Kaleidoscope, an underground newspaper, wrote, “Hendrix was coherent, pleasant to his audience, communicative, and musically superb.  With him were drummer Mitch Mitchell ‘sans the hairdo’ and Billy ‘the Gypsy’ Cox on bass.  It sounded just great, and the loss of Buddy Miles can only be applauded.  Hendrix stuck very close to the blues.  He played a few of his old tunes, several new ones and one that wasn’t quite finished.  Of course, the obligatory ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was performed, and it would have brought everyone to their feet, even if Hendrix hadn’t asked them to stand.  I had never heard it live before, but I must admit that it is one of the finest solo works for electric guitar ever performed.”

By all accounts, The Jimi Hendrix Experience had an extremely successful engagement at the Coliseum, ending with a standing ovation.  St. Paul, Minnesota was the tour’s next destination.

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