(Before we begin, some shameless self-promotion: every week a Popdose writer guests on the nationally syndicated radio show Overnight America with Jon Grayson. In the wee hours of this morning, that writer was me. Since you were probably sleeping, you can hear the interview here.)
A year ago, I wrote a post for the now-defunct WNEW.com about the July 1972 Concert 10 Festival, a daylong show held at the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Because there’s so little on the Internet about the festival (my post comes up first on Google when you search “Concert 10 Festival”), I have received a handful of comments and messages from people who were there, or claim to have been there. Since we’ve written quite a bit about rock festivals at this blog, here’s a reboot.
By 1972, the concept of the massive, multi-day festival was dead. Similarly dead was the belief (which was never especially widespread, although it did affect the planning of some early festivals) that the Spirit of Peace and Love would overcome prosaic site problems involving traffic control and sanitation. In early 70s America, racetracks such as Pocono and the various speedways that hosted the Atlanta and Texas Pop Festivals (and Altamont, for that matter) were the likeliest facilities for accommodating the massive crowds that wanted to camp out at a concert.
But even when promoters legitimately contracted with tracks, locals often rebelled. In the days before the Concert 10 Festival, with roads already jammed and law enforcement stretched thin by flooding in the area, the Pennsylvania State Police suggested getting an injunction against it. The local DA said, essentially, “On what grounds?,” and the festival went forward. Nevertheless, many locals believed the festival could have, and should have, been stopped. Days afterward, a columnist in the Stroudsburg Pocono Record blasted county officials for failing to do so. Two years earlier, local authorities had killed a six-day festival scheduled for nearby Walpack, New Jersey, not long after a festival scheduled for a ski resort near Middlefield, Connecticut, was halted by injunction. The columnist refused to accept the county’s assertion that authorities didn’t learn about the festival in time to act, and he blamed racetrack owners for wanting a big payday to salve ongoing financial trouble. A couple of weeks after the festival, the local paper denounced as censorship a proposed county ordinance that would have granted officials the power to decide whether a festival was “good” for the area. (When one of them suggested an injunction against a Johnny Cash show scheduled for the racetrack in August, locals disagreed loudly.)
My original post describes the scene on concert day—the hellacious traffic, the open sale of drugs, the garbage left behind, and the horrified reaction of locals. That post has attracted some interesting tidbits from readers who claim to have been there. One says, “I have no idea who said drugs were for sale. It’s simply not true.” In that case, the local paper reported it. He also says, “I heard through the crowd that five babies were born.” This is almost certainly nonsense—Woodstock was twice as large and three days longer, and although there were rumors of births at that show, nobody has ever been able to prove anybody was born there. “When it rained, the Groundhogs were on stage. They played until their amps caught fire.” Perhaps. “Emerson Lake and Palmer began at about 3AM Saturday with ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.'” Doubtful: Given that ELP was in the midst of the massive world tour later documented on Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, it’s more likely they opened with another Aaron Copland number, “Hoedown.”
My research named the following acts on the bill: Three Dog Night (who closed the show), Rod Stewart, ELP, Humble Pie, Black Sabbath, the J. Geils Band, Badfinger, and Edgar Winter, although one commenter says neither Black Sabbath nor Badfinger played, and another says he remembers Mountain there. (Newspapers were notoriously bad about listing rock festival lineups in their reporting.) There were undoubtedly other, lesser bands on the bill; the Groundhogs and Mother Night are two we know of. A number of concertgoers remember less about the music than they do about the looting of an ice-cream truck, the traffic jam before and after, and the muddy conditions.
The last mentions of the Concert 10 Festival in the local paper are at the end of July, when the traffic chaos it brought was contrasted with the smooth operation of two auto racing events that brought massive crowds to the raceway three weeks later. Never mind that an auto race is not a rock festival and a rock festival is not an auto race. The Pennsylvania 500 and Schaefer 500 races on back-to-back days proved to the locals that they could run a big event, if the hippies would get out of the way.
And with that, the Concert 10 Festival faded into history.