Monterey Pop Festival 2017—Day Two Review

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Monterey Pop Festival 2017, where it’s still OK to wear some flowers in your hair (Photo by Alexis Moore)

Day two of 2017’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Monterey International Pop Festival featured none of the acts that performed at the original event; instead the focus was on contemporary stars such as Norah Jones, Jack Johnson and Dr. Dog.

The show, taking place in more beautiful Northern California weather, kicked off with one of the festival’s few British imports, Jacob Banks. Direct from Birmingham, Banks built a strong reputation as an artist to watch when he became the first unsigned artist to appear on the BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. His music combined heavy guitar riffs and Zeppelin-like drums with blues and gospel influences for a tight set of primarily ballads with a token reggae song thrown in for good measure.

The North Mississippi All-Stars took the stage next, with a keen awareness of the legacy of the festival. “Anybody got any Owsley,” asked lead guitarist Luther Dickinson, referring to the famous brand of LSD made by Owsley Stanley, noted psychedelic chemist and the Grateful Dead’s former soundman.

Related: Read our review of Monterey Pop 2017 day one

The band includes Luther and Cody Dickinson, sons of the late, renowned producer Jim Dickinson of Big Star fame. Proud bearers of the Southern blues-rock tradition, the versatile trio slammed through a blistering version of originals and blues classics like “You’ve Got to Move,” the Mississippi Fred McDowell song also covered by the Rolling Stones.

Watch the All-Stars perform at the festival

It was not just a family affair; friends were welcome too, with G. Love guesting on harmonica for one song and another famous rock ’n’ roll offspring, Duane Betts, son of former Allman Brother Dickey Betts, joining on guitar for the entire second half of the set. Instead of a traditional Monterey Fest cover, the band paid tribute instead to its roots with a cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn on Your Lovelight” and their finale, an incredible version of the Allmans’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” with Duane Betts equaling his father’s improvisational guitar mastery with ease.

Read our coverage of day three of Monterey 2017

Lou Adler, who co-produced the original Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, takes in the 2017 version (Photo by Vinnie Longobardo)

Up next was Jackie Greene, a favorite of the jam-band crowd. Greene (who has performed with Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir and has released a number of eclectic solo albums), fronted a five-piece band at Monterey that played a set of straight-ahead rock in the vein of Crazy Horse and the Stones. It’s hard not to like a band that keeps a Jerry Garcia doll on the keyboard, but nothing in Greene’s well-received set seems destined to set the world on fire.

If a band were to fill the role that the Buffalo Springfield did at the original festival, it would have to be the next act to perform, the new indie group JamTown, featuring G. Love, Donavon Frankenreiter and Cisco Adler. Like the Springfield, JamTown features multiple lead singers and songwriters who take turns leading the band. They were definitely a case of the result being greater than the sum of its parts, with a sublime performance that was the highlight of the festival so far.

Dr. Dog, the Pennsylvania-based, quirky but melodic indie rockers who mix strains of psychedelia, progressive rock, new wave and Tex-Mex in complex, but catchy compositions, was next, with a rousing set that had the audience up and dancing the entire time. Their set often offered surprises: What other group would place a Meddle-era Pink Floyd breakdown in the middle of an otherwise  melodic song?

When My Morning Jacket leader and Monsters of Folk member Jim James took the stage next, he had obviously decided that his tribute to the Summer of Love would be in sartorial form, attired in a long bright pink coat. His songs were a weird combination of metal stomp and synth washes, with hip-hop and R&B influences. James’ four-piece band and backup singer served him well on slow jams that were dreamy and rockers to which James brought a theatrical stage flourish and a strong voice. James’ tribute to the original Monterey Festival came in the form of a cover of “For What it’s Worth” that was much truer to the sound of the original than the jazzier, improvisational version that Eric Burdon did a day earlier. Another touch that harkened back to the 1967 show was the feedback-laden exit move reminiscent of The Who’s finish to their Monterey debut, minus the smashed gear.

Related: The Summer of Love, by those who were there

Norah Jones at the 2017 Monterey Pop Festival (Photo by Vinnie Longobardo)

As evening approached, the mellower side of the festival was on display with a set by the eclectic Norah Jones. The singer and multi-instrumentalist, whose father was Ravi Shankar, one of the stars of the 1967 fest, was backed by a five-piece group including a pedal steel guitar player for a few songs. Her set ranged from blues to country to rock and back again, with an audience sing-along tucked into her jazzy hit “Don’t Know Why.” Starting on piano for the first few songs, Jones channeled Patsy Cline in the country numbers, then strapped on an electric guitar for some uptempo country and funky swamp-rock songs that even ventured onto jam band territory. For her Monterey tribute, Jones covered the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” (granted, it’s a song they recorded way after the original festival, but, hey, they were there). Reimagined as a hauntingly beautiful honky-tonk ballad, it was a perfect closer to a set that made up in musicianship what it lacked in passion and engagement from the slightly reticent singer.

Watch Jones perform a stunning version of “Don’t Know Why”

Jack Johnson at Monterey Pop 2017 (Photo by Vinnie Longobardo)

Closing out the night, former surfer and all-around mellow dude Jack Johnson took the stage and played his folk and reggae-inflected hits to an adoring crowd who sang along with every word. Johnson’s set was punctuated with guest appearances, first a duet with Norah Jones on the Band’s “I Shall Be Released,” followed by a drop-in from Jim James for a rendition of “Rocky Raccoon” (see below) and, later in the show, a duet with G. Love on “Rodeo Clowns,” with Frankenreiter joining them for a song as well. As the last act of the night, Johnson was the only artist allowed an encore, emerging solo with his guitar for a couple of acoustic songs.

Watch Jones and Johnson perform “I Shall Be Released”

Watch Johnson and Jim James cover of “Rocky Raccoon”

Check out our roundup of the last day of the festival, featuring two performers who played the original, Booker T. Jones and the Dead’s Phil Lesh and his Terrapin Family Band.

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