Well I don’t know how much rest anyone got the night before the concert. It was late when we called it a night and dawn crept up early. From there on it was the fire drill routine. Get to Sac State, get keys to the gym, let the crew with the portable stage in, help cover the gym floor with a tarp, watch Jimi’s equipment truck arrive with his equipment and that of The Soft Machine an English psychedelic progressive rock/jazz band traveling with him, and a bunch of light show equipment from a German light show company whose equipment wasn’t compatible with American electricity. That was ok though because we had our own light show which we set up behind the stage to light up the transparent screens we hung from the rafters. Then more equipment and the PA system arrived as The Creators, our opening band showed up. Two of the members of that band, also in our club, assembled the PA system while we set up the rented super trooper spot lights to front light the stage. Fortunately since we’d already had Big Brother and the Holding company with Janis Joplin we had a good idea how to get it all set up although it must have looked like a completely unorganized bunch of hippies as we went about our tasks; but we got it all ready to roll.
We got the key to the box office and several of us got that set up and ready to open well in advance of the concert and began counting the money we’d taken in from ticket sales on campus and from Tower Records Tickets. We had a lot as sales had been good and as soon as we opened there were people buying what we had left.
Two cops had been hired and about twenty minutes after we opened the doors to let people in the Fire Marshall showed up. The sight of the rapidly filling gymnasium brought a startled look to his face and I know he wanted to shut us down for being over capacity. However, he sucked it up and told me he’d have to go back and check some regulations and if he found any violations he’d return. He never came back! The cops were cooler, the two we’d hired had worked the Janis Joplin concert for us and they saw that it was a total hippie show with the same audience that was at that one, so they didn’t anticipate any trouble. That was before the heavy duty drug onslaught, although no doubt some chemical concoctions from guys like Stanley Owsley were mixed in with the happy smoke, I mean Jimi did sing “Purple Haze” so it was fitting!
Anyway, the cops knew that except for an occasional bad trip people were there to party and rock out to someone most of them had never seen, but had heard about! It was going to be a party not a riot!
The first bizarre thing that happened was one of the light show operators had placed some tiny brine shrimp in a mixture of mineral oil and food coloring in clear plates and put it on an overhead projector. The shrimp would swim around and when projected on the screen there was a vivid image of a swirling mass of color with little things darting to and fro. The problem was that after testing it the operator forgot to shut off the projector and the poor shrimp got cooked! Needless to say they scratched that from the show.
The second thing was the drummer for The Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, only wearing a loin cloth, had a massive migraine headache backstage right before they were set to go on. He lay writhing on the floor everybody held their breath. There were no medical personal around, we never thought that far ahead, but with cold towels applied to his head and encouragement from his band mates, Jimi and all his guys, he rose like a boxer getting up off the canvas and took the stairs up to the stage and magnificently leaped over the front his drums with loin cloth flying and began pounding the hell out of them.
At that point I had to go back to the box office and settle up with Gerry the road manager for the rest of the money we owed on the contract. It was strictly a cash deal with Gerry and I sitting at a table with a stack of cash and counting it out. Hell we didn’t even have the door locked, but you know, one just didn’t worry about that in that era. We heard the Soft Machine finish and the applause of the crowd so Gerry and I stopped counting and headed back to the dressing room which was the Men’s locker room in the gym complete with two complementary six packs of beer a stack of clean towels!
The crowd was excited to see Jimi and the energy was way up and walking through them behind the bleachers was amazing. It was a giant buzzed feeling, something was about to happen.
Inside the dressing room Jimi, Mitch and Noel were standing around waiting. The girls from the Parking Lot were there with cameras and had taken pictures and there were some other people there but it was totally the calm before the storm. Hardly any conversation. Gerry was the guy who led them up to the stage so when we got there he gathered them up and headed to the stage. Everyone else took off to get out front and shortly after Jimi hit the first note in a totally quiet gymnasium and you could hear the crowd accepting it, Gerry re-appeared and we went back to the box office to take care of the rest of the business.
From the time we re-entered the box office until we finished the only sounds we could hear were the screaming guitar riffs from Jimi, the distinctive sound of Jimi’s vocals and the booming bass and thudding drums amid the cheers and wild applause of the excited crowd. Then as suddenly as it began there was a final smash of a drum ending it all. For a moment there was total silence then and explosive roar and Jimi was gone and the bright gymnasium lights came on revealing several thousand people standing and trying to decide what they’d experienced. Gerry and I shook hands and took our respective sacks of cash and set about our after show duties. I saw Jimi once again, thanked him, shook hands and just like he had entered our lives he tipped his hat, smiled his magical smile and disappeared into a moving crowd of colorful English characters as they got into the waiting vehicles and sped off to another adventure.
After that show they banned rock concerts in the Men’s Gymnasium but for those several thousand people who had been there, the mention of Hendrix at Sac State still brings smiles to their faces!!