A typical conversation with anyone reminiscing about Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1968 appearance at the Miami Pop Festival invariably turns to the disappointment that his headlining performance on the second of the two-day event was rained out. But even those clouds had a silver lining.
“I remember sitting next to Jimi in the limo on the way back to the hotel and … he was writing,” recalls the rock icon’s longtime sound engineer, Eddie Kramer. “I looked over and saw he was writing the lyrics to ‘Rainy Day, Dream Away,” which ended up on ‘Electric Ladyland.’”
The performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Miami Pop Festival, which took place May 18 at the thoroughbred track at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, is being celebrated in several ways.
On Nov. 5, Sony Legacy will put out “Jimi Hendrix Experience: Miami Pop Festival,” the first-ever release of the set, recorded at the festival by Kramer, which the label calls one of the guitarist’s “most sought-after performances.” The album includes “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” “I Don't Live Today,” “Hear My Train a Comin'“ and “Tax Free,” and will be available as a single CD and a limited-edition, numbered double 12-inch vinyl set.
At 9 p.m. the same day, PBS’ “American Masters” series will broadcast the nationwide premiere of “Jimi Hendrix — Hear My Train A Comin',” a two-hour documentary highlighted by previously unseen footage taken at the Miami Pop Festival. Fittingly, South Florida is one of the markets getting a sneak peek of the documentary, with screenings Friday through Sunday at O Cinema in Miami.
For Bob Smeaton, the director of the documentary, the Hallandale footage was a revelation. Not only because he didn’t know it existed, but for what it represented: Hendrix at the peak of his power.
“In the space of a year, he had gone from Monterey [Pop Festival], where he was unknown and tentative, to top billing at the Miami Pop Festival, where he’s super confident, smiling,” Smeaton says. “That year was his best year, and that performance … Look at him in his red trousers and his hat. It looks fantastic.”
Smeaton says it also represented a crossover moment for Hendrix, who most associated with long-haired Left Coast hippies.
“That kind of culture hadn’t reached Miami yet. [The Hallandale audience] was a bunch of short-haired white kids, not hipsters,” Smeaton says. “They’re watching him, saying, ‘God, that’s what all the fuss is about.’”
Neither Smeaton nor Kramer are aware of how the new Miami Pop Festival footage was discovered (a source said it became available through the Hendrix estate). But the audio tracks have been in a vault waiting to be "reinvigorated" by new technology, says Kramer, who was the studio manager on all three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums: "Are You Experienced," "Axis: Bold As Love" and "Electric Ladyland."
Kramer estimates is enough quality material for eight to 10 more albums. But he's in no hurry.
"Like Jimi, I'm a perfectionist. I have always felt a huge responsibility toward Jimi, toward his heritage, his family and his fans," Kramer says. "He played from the heart. My job is to do whatever I can to recapture that."
IF YOU GO
"Jimi Hendrix — Hear My Train A Comin'“ will screen 9 p.m. Friday, 9:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at O Cinema, 90 NW 29th St., in Miami. Tickets cost $10.50. Call 305-571-9970 or go to O-Cinema.org.
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