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Contest Winners - Purple Electric - Favorite Concert Memory
Meredith Karen Laskow is the Poet Laureate of Placentia Library District, and a jewelry designer. Her jewelry can be seen at http://www.meredithbead.com/ and her writing website is http://www.meredithlaskow.com/ She has been an active member of Boomer Women Speak forums since 2003.
Purple Electric - Favorite Concert Memory May, 1970: Hordes of devotees stormed the small theater. The show was sold out, but disappointed would-be concert-goers mobbed the ticket window and tried to shove their way in through the auditorium door. Police pushed them back. Luckily, my boyfriend had bought tickets earlier. He was a fan of the rock-and-roll icon, excited about seeing him live. We hooked arms and forged our way through the thick crowd.
Jimi Hendrix, at the Berkeley Community Theatre.
My boyfriend and I sported flowing, matching black and white peace sign scarves, wrapped around our foreheads bandanna-style and trailing in the back. I was garbed in a purple and orange mini-dress which he had designed for my birthday. He wore a turquoise paisley pantsuit and matching vest which I had sewn. Beaded peace sign earrings dangled below my long straight hair. We were the coolest couple in the auditorium - I thought so, anyhow.
Lighters flickered and thin rolled marijuana cigarettes were lit, behind the auditorium seats where the security guards could not see. Joints were passed from one person to the other, down the row of chairs whenever the guards faced away. Thick sweet smoke permeated the theater. The music started and the crowd screamed.
Jimi caressed his guitar and chords reverberated. Jimi shouted and howled, and the crowd moaned. Jimi moaned, and the crowd swayed. Bodies moved in languid circles, heads lolling and eyes closed. My platform shoes pounded the rhythm on the floor and my arms punctured the air. Jimi crescendoed. The crowd stood up. I stood up. We were dancing at our seats, then in the aisles.
"PURPLE HAZE..." Jimi wailed, and his electric guitar caterwauled in thunderous feedback loops. I danced almost in a trance, swept into the vortex of sound, and hurled myself onto the stage.
"...IS IN MY BRAIN." I was ten feet away from Jimi, my undulating torso sucked towards the hypnotic notes. Speakers buzzed my ears and washed through me like a primal explosion. My feet kept moving, moving, hips weaving, graceful arms grasping the space around me.
Several other people clambered on stage and joined the performance. Security guards snapped their attention from the continued search for drugs, to the spectacle on stage. Burly concert police surged towards the small cadre of dancers and forcibly removed us back to lower ground. Jimi never missed a beat.
Neither did I, nor any other revelers.
The majority of the concert-goers - and the band - were stoned or high on one substance or another. I didn't do drugs. The music surged through my blood faster than any needle, pill or smoke, and transported me to any reality, any nirvana I desired.
Four months after Jimi Hendrix performed in Berkeley, he died of a drug overdose in a stranger's apartment. For him, neither the music nor the adoring crowds were enough to quell his inner demons. For me, the music - and the memories - would always be enough.
Thanks for it all, Jimi.
‘Xcuse me, while I kiss the sky.