The Broadside, Cambridge, Mass., August 18, 1965, Vol. IV, No. 13.
|And from a lone mike on stage, the thin plaintive cry of a harp sobbed "Rock of Ages!' "Rock of ages, cleft for me..." it sang, over and over, the same simple chorus, the same refrain, and the audience fell in step. It was a plea, a hymn, a dirge, a lullaby. Twenty times, thirty, more, and always the same beseeching, stroking, praying, pleading; then slower, softer, and, as the supplication trailed away, the park was empty and people were on their way home.
Thank you, Mel Lyman.
ON THE SCENE with Robert J. Lurtsema
It was, a grey day. The earth was on the dark side of the moon, and tempers were honed hollow. Two hours before noon, and already a web of heat dripped into Newport like wet dust. Since, for many, less than half a night's sleep separated the concert and the Saturday night bash, the turnout was laudable. But come Hell's high water, they were gonna sing out the glory of God and make his presence known. The Cape Breton Singers sang, the Moving Star group moved, Rev. Gary Davis revved, Roscoe Holcomb, Beth Van Over, Jean Ritchie, the CRVB... somehow it was a listening concert, not a stomper, not a clapalong. Son House came on stage, a small smile, an apologetic chair shuffle, then "This Little Light of Mine." It was like he'd hired God for a backstage crew. "I'ma-gonna let it shine," he sang,.and right on cue, the sun burst thru and the day turned from grey to gold.
Things picked up. The New Lost City Ramblers helped Cousin Emmy get her pushcart humor on and off the stage, and the Chambers Brothers found the beat that fit the morning's pulse and made it swing. I'd been looking forward to the panel talk, but the heated discussion was lost in thoughts of a cold beach, a cold shower, a cold beer--and the words sweltered in the sun.
The afternoon concert promised to be the best of the weekend, and many had driven in from out of State. But for many others, this was their fourth day of hot lines, dusty fields, the same clothes, eating on the run, too little sleep and too many unmissable workshops going on at the same time. And now there was too much heat.
The Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers were brilliant. Hamilton Camp was as elfin as ever. Pat Sky sparkled, JohnKoerner stomped out his best version yet of "Duncan and Brady," and the audiencestomped for more. But the clouds were rolling in earnest now, hot squalls of dust whirled across the stage, and wind whipped thunder in the mikes. Even hastily devised shields of sponge couldn't keep Kathy and Carol from being lost in a lack of amplification. Mimi and Dick came on with the festival's busiest back-up men, Fritz Richmond and Bruce Langhorne. The skies couldn't wait.
Peter Yarrow exhorted, "It isn't raining!" and, to applause that could be heard even above the rain, "The concert will go on!" Joan Baez, Bernice Reagan and the CRVB joined the Farinas. Half the mikes were shorted out, but the concert went on. It was a grey day, and this was the celebration. The audience, with clothes clinging, shoes soggy, hair stringy, danced and sang, living up every last drop of rain. The squall eased, and people hesitantly sought wet chairs to watch the concert grind to an anticlimactic halt. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in danger of plugging into electrocuting amplifiers, could not appear, a huge letdown to many who had come specifically to hear them. But it was announced that the evening concert would start fifteen minutes early, and they could be heard then. The heat was settling in again as people left to grab a bite before returning to the field. For many, there was little more than a glass of beer to help forget their still soggy shoes.
The saxophone wail of the Butterfield harp split a clarion thru the humid night to the hundreds in line outside the park, and the evening concert was on. Perhaps it was too big a start. Those struggling in the wake unfurled their brightest sails. Then the amplified sound was back. Bob Dylan was on stage; and outside the grounds, standing on top of cars in the parking lot, the overflow chanted "Dylan."Then, as the music drowned out his voice, changed to "We want Dylan." Inside the park, .'Maggie's Farm" gave way to "Like a Rolling Stone," and the reaction was "Where's Bobby?" Then he was back with a guitar and "Baby Blue" and a harp and "Tambourine Man," and things were -right again. The idol was reinstated.
Finally it ended, because it had to end. Maybe I only imagined the tension as the audience, quelled by the field lights, stirred toward the gates. Maybe there was no cause for concern.
And from a lone mike on stage, the thin plaintive cry of a harp sobbed "Rock of Ages!' "Rock of ages, cleft for me..." it sang, over and over, the same simple chorus, the same refrain, and the audience fell in step. It was a plea, a hymn, a dirge, a lullaby. Twenty times, thirty, more, and always the same beseeching, stroking, praying, pleading; then slower, softer, and, as the supplication trailed away, the park was empty and people were on their way home.
Thank you, Mel Lyman.