Pullin’ ‘Tubes: Celebration of Life – The Forgotten Festival

A quick primer of well-known music festivals from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s might looks something like this – Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Altamont, Summer Jam and the Atlanta International Pop Festival. Much like today’s saturated festival landscape though, there were dozens of fests that didn’t quite have the cultural impact – for better or worse – as the ones mentioned. In the June of 1971 an ambitious eight-day music festival called the Celebration of Life was set to take place in McCrea, Louisiana, a town located on the east bank of the Atchafalaya River. The lineup was as impressive as they come with roughly 70 acts set to perform. The bill featured the likes of Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, the Beach Boys, Ike & Tina Turner, Sly & The Family Stone, B.B. King and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Some 50,000 (with a reports of up to 150,000) concert-goers descended onto the small Louisiana town, only to find themselves dealing not only with brutally hot weather, a lack of food, water and medical facilities, but also strong local opposition to festival. Oh, and not to mention the fact that promoters were scrambling to get permits, build the stage and had essentially lied about the bill, not actually booking many of the bands – just advertising that they would be there. Yet some 40-plus years later, the story of this ill-fated disastrous fest is barely a footnote in music history.

All in all only seven of the 27 acts that were advertised actually showed up. Chuck Berry, Stephen Stills, WAR and John Sebastian were among those that performed, with the festival shutdown after its third day. A new 25-minute documentary called McCrea 1971 by Nick Brilleaux and Scott Caro is set to tell the tale of this somehow forgotten festival. Let’s check out the trailer…

For more on the Celebration of Life Festival, check out these two blog posts for a detailed description of what went down.

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7 Responses

  1. I would likt to have a conversation with others that were there, did my 1st LSD and ome good stories to tell.

  2. We did acid too…lost one of my friends in the crowd (it was his first trip) I went on stage with Sly & the Family Stone and had him paged lol

  3. I was there!Lost my boyfriend& mygirlfriend!Didnt drownin the river!!!Had a GREAT time in the river!The tourists were flyin over the river to see the naked freaks!Alot of us were kinda naked!I had on a suede bikini bottom&nothingelse. People r always asking<"who played?" All I remember is Chuck Berry& The James Gang!Worked on the free kitchen:slept in a barn with a bunch of other freaks.I walked around with a bag full of solarcaine.Sure there was VD.Didnt notice personally.Left in the back of a semi with a new friend,slept in a plantation house,: ended up in Detroit.Thats another story.Had a great time!!!!

  4. The early sound system set up could only play cassettes and they only had 2 cassettes, Stick Fingers and another album I hope someone will remember and post. The 2 albums played over and over for 2 days before the festival music started to play. Back then it was pretty hard to find any psychedelics but not there, that’s why so many people were there but don’t remember much, LOL. I didn’t take any money or food so I really appreciated the locals who brought out red beans and rice for free, it was delicious, thank you Louisiana folks. A lot of people still needed stuff and there were vendors selling stuff at unreasonable prices. One afternoon a couple guys stood up and yelled, “We’re going to raid the concession stands – let’s go!”. A whole bunch of us got up, started dancing in a line, and broke off towards the stands where stuff went flying. I needed cigarettes, I grabbed a few packs, and that’s all I took. Skinny dipping was fun, it was hilarious to see how different people were reacting. I was 19 years old, out of the military, nothing to do and I wanted to go to a pop festival,it was great.
    If you know the other album, please let me know

  5. I was there! Confronted and held hostage for several hours by a Cajun old man with a shotgun, while we were sneaking through the woods to crash the festival. My friend and I were separated, but eventually it was all OK, and the old man vowed to help us get in. When he finally stopped and told us how to go the rest of the way, we followed his directions slam into the police encampment. Cajun humor I suppose. Unbelievably the police ignored us and we proceeded on in. Our first Summer out of High School. For us it was a hoot; mud, mosquitoes and all…

    There’s one event I’ve not heard anything about in my research for documented memories, and maybe it didn’t really happen. We had a pocket full of LSD and tripped pretty much our whole time there, but I seem to remember one night with spotlights moving over the crowd and an announcement of a baby being born in the crowd. I wanted to go look and pay my respects, but my friend wouldn’t let me go. I mean he literally was gripping my arm and wouldn’t let go. He later admitted to having a bad trip. I also seem to remember there were fireworks going on at the same time.

  6. I was there with a friend & I had just turned 19…I had pitched a floor-less Army pup tent that night in the dark. It turned out to be on top of an Ant Hill… We had thought the ants where there because we had brought some KFC Chicken and had eaten it there that night. When I shook out my tent/floor blanket, I then discovered a Red Ant hill was in the middle or my ten….I guess “what’s a picnic without Ant’s”….It was a crazy few days, but I got to see Chuck Berry and Ted Nugent and his Amboy Dukes.. Most people were walking around naked..they called themselves “Mud People” as they soaked on the banks of the muddy river and had made a mud water slide….I did not do so, as I did not want to show off-lol-again… One guy was walking around with a “Watermelon” rind about 8 by 12 inches wide and long, tied to his waist with baling twine..In the middle of it he had carved out a spot for a Carrot that was about 10 inches long.. By the end the Carrot was drooping…..Remember, there was no “Viagra” back then….My most memorable experience besides the Ants and he Carrot Dude, was a girl running towards the river one night yelling “Mitchell is Melting.”.. I spent my days under a large school bus as it was to damn hot to be out in the direct sun..It may have been an overall scam, but I have great memories of it..Thanks Chuck and Ted for making it all worthwhile!!.. Oh, to be young again!!! ..WT 

    1. Wayne

      Did you get a t- shirt from concert? if not, know how to get one. if not know how to get the design of t shirt?

      thank you

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