Jimi Hendrix Experience
Atlanta Pop Festival

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Even with the challenges of putting on a rock festival in the Deep South, the apparent success of the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival prompted promoter Alex Cooley to stage a second festival the next year over the Fourth of July weekend. The location was changed from the Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, Georgia, to a soybean field adjacent to the Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, Georgia. Instead of Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin, who topped 1969's bill, the designated headliner and, according to Cooley, "the first artist I went after," for the second Atlanta Pop Festival was Jimi Hendrix. Recorded a mere two months before the guitarist's untimely death, Freedom: Jimi Hendrix Experience Atlanta Pop Festival captures Hendrix's July 4, 1970 Atlanta Pop set in front of the largest American audience of his career. It also doubles as the soundtrack for the documentary Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church.

At the time of the Atlanta Pop Festival, Jimi Hendrix was a hot commodity on the festival circuit, having conquered both 1969's Denver Pop Festival, followed by his legendary appearance at Woodstock. In the summer of 1970, the Cry of Love band that included Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums was selectively being billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Atlanta Pop Festival was no exception. Hendrix himself, however was in a state of constant transformation. He had just opened his Electric Lady studios in New York, and was anxious to spend time laying down new ideas. At the same time, he had touring obligations, which whisked him away to Europe just a few weeks after the Atlanta Pop Festival, never to return to the U.S. again.

The fieriness of Hendrix's set shows no indications of a fading artist; it was the guitarist at his creative peak. He heartily embraces his past hits with punchy run-throughs of "Fire," "Foxey Lady" and "Purple Haze," while dazzling audiences with newer songs like "Lover Man," "Room Full Of Mirrors," "Message To Love" and "Freedom." There are stretches of bluesy jams on "Red House" and "Hear My Train A Comin'" and then to cap off the Fourth of July performance, "Star Spangled Banner" is reignited with a funkier tone initially, before swimming against the tide in all its feedback glory, like a screaming banshee in heat. From there, it dovetails into another promising new song called "Straight Ahead." Clearly, had Jimi Hendrix lived, there were would been lots more new music, much of it landing on posthumous LPs, rushed released shortly after his passing.

The music of Freedom: Jimi Hendrix Experience Atlanta Pop Festival is also featured on Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church, a documentary about Hendrix's Atlanta Pop Festival set and the circumstances surrounding it. The film premiered on Showtime in September, and the DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions (with extra footage) will see release in time for the holidays. The film depicts the Atlanta Pop Festival as the 'Southern Woodstock' that brought a thriving rock culture to the tiny rural village of Byron, Georgia. At the same time, it turned out to be one of Jimi Hendrix's greatest performances.

~ Shawn Perry

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