Beset by numerous backstage foulups and hindered by unseasonable rain, overambitious two-day conclave proved to be a folk Woodstock in more than the planned sense. Still, fans of the genre got a lot ofentertainment for their money, and all in all, the show — first under revived Concert Associates banner — was a good start, with inconveniences relatively minor and correctable.
Performances both days ran more than two hours over, thanks to some acts playing longer sets than they’d been assigned, and others (Judy Collins, Jefferson Starship and Peter, Paul & Mary most of all) taking too long to set up their equipment. Saturday’s concert began more than 30 minutes late.
Morning dampness after heavy rains didn’t stop the Saturday show, but the weather may have limited the walk-up audience, and the UCLA track-and-field stadium, a new venue for such shows, looked mighty empty. (Audience increased appreciably for Sunday’s show, where sunshine reigned).
Talent lineup varied from seasoned veterans to no-names, including a couple of local talent-contest winners, with everybody turning in fine performances.
Highlights were a couple of historic moments: former Greenwich folkie Lou Gossett joining Richie Havens for a rendition of Gossett composition and Havens’ hit “Handsome Johnny”; reunion of original lead singer Signe Anderson with Jefferson Airplane members Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner plus various ringers for folk-influenced set including “High Flying Bird” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” (some audience members seemed disappointed that Grace Slick wasn’t around to sing “White Rabbit”); and Roger McGuinn, who pulled in guests Bob Gibson (who had inspired him to learn 12-string guitar), Odetta, Tom Petty and Richard Thompson for various songs.
Len Chandler, another Village veteran who’s co-led local songwriters workshop for years, sang cute “Beans in My Ears,” his composition that was a hit for the Serendipity Singers.
Appearance of the Folksmen was met with mixed reaction, depending on who in the crowd was wise to the fact that trio consists of Spinal Tap members Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer; group’s material was OK, but everybody eventually got the joke when they performed theme from “Flashdance” as a rousing acoustic pop-folk number. Trio’s great visuals were largely lost on audience, seated too far from stage to see much of anything.
Booking covered pretty much the entire folk spectrum, with country music the only notable absence unless one counts Mary-Chapin Carpenter, who’s an unreconstructed folkie no matter how she’s marketed. She turned in a sparkling set, and took one of the event’s few encores — Havens won another by popular acclaim, though promoters were trying to the clear stage for next act.