Sand City’s 16th annual West End Celebration doubles as Summer of Love’s last hurrah

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By Adam Joseph - Monterey County Weekly

Otis brought an infectious brand of Memphis soul. Janis wrenched hearts with raw vocals. And the gods made love when Jimi formally introduced himself to mainstream America.

Over that three-day period in 1967, Monterey Pop became a symbol for the Summer of Love and everything it came to represent, including freedom.

Before the summer of 2017 officially ends Sept. 21, Sand City’s 16th Annual West End Celebration will host a final tribute to the Summer of Love’s 50th anniversary, beginning with its annual Guitar Not Guns Fundraiser Kick Off Party. Friday headliner It’s A Beautiful Day, featuring founding member David LaFlamme and his wife, Linda, emerged from the Monterey Pop era. Their opening harmonization on “White Bird (In A Golden Cage)” embodies a wispy, free-floating spirit that leads into David’s melody on violin, weightlessly reuniting listeners with what was right and wrong with the world then – before the tune suddenly opens up into a full-blown, all-inclusive electrified jam that runs up to 10 minutes live. Original drummer Val Fuentes will be on hand as the band delivers material spanning their expansive career, intertwined with personal stories about living in San Francisco during the seminal Summer of Love. Local acoustic singer-songwriter Amy Warren and Monterey rock supergroup Wild Card open for It’s a Beautiful Day.

Saturday and Sunday at West End deliver two days of non-stop music, all free and open to the public. The band that accompanied Janis Joplin, Big Brother & The Holding Company, closes the deep and diverse weekend of live music on the Independent Stage 4pm Sunday. Two original bandmembers remain (drummer Dave Getz and guitarist Peter Albin), as does a lasting connection to Monterey.

“[The Pop Festival] was a turning point for Big Brother,” Getz says. “It really marked the beginning of Janis becoming a star.”

Joplin’s one-of-a-kind croons, backed by Big Brother’s electrified technicolor blues, conjured a lightning-in-a-bottle moment best uncorked with their song “Ball and Chain,” which D.A. Pennebaker captured with his Monterey Pop documentary. As far as magical musical moments, slide guitar extraordinaire Roy Rogers – appearing on the Independent Stage 4pm Saturday – recalls a 1990 recording session in particular: Rogers performed in the same room with blues greats John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal and jazz legend Miles Davis for the soundtrack to the film The Hot Spot, which earned a Grammy nod.

“Every time Taj and I see each other we refer back to that time, because it was so special,” says Rogers, whose blues band Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings will make their West End debut.

Rogers’ slide style, which employs open-tuning and blues roots, has made him one of the recording industry’s most in-demand slide guitarists since the mid-’70s, when he was tapped to perform on the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest soundtrack. Eventually, Rogers’ professional path led him to join John Lee Hooker’s Coast to Coast Blues Band and produce four of Hooker’s albums: The Healer, Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom and Chill Out. “Our relationship went beyond making music,” Rogers says. “John and I were family.” Rogers recalls one of many nuggets of advice he received from the legendary bluesman: “Your music must connect and communicate something to people.”

Hooker’s advice led Rogers to some unlikely collaborations throughout the years. The Manzarek-Rogers Band, a duet featuring The Doors’ late organist/songwriter Ray Manzarek, ranks at the top of the list. The pair recorded three records together; BBC is in the midst of making a documentary about their partnership.

Currently, Rogers spends most days working on an atypical new collaboration with renowned Brazilian flamenco guitarist Badi Assad and longtime buddy and stringed harpist/violinist Carlos Reyes. Rogers describes the String Shot trio as a Latin-blues-jazz combo. “It’s a real interesting confluence of musical forces that I’m very excited about,” he adds.