Monterey International Pop Festival existed before Woodstock. The event, which took over the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California, in June 1967, was a watershed point in music history. The event had the first big public performances by Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, Janis Joplin, The Who, Otis Redding, and sitarist Ravi Shankar over the course of three days, and served as one of the first major demonstrations of hippie culture. When Hendrix took the stage on June 18, he quickly established himself as a future icon with his incomparable guitar playing and decadent stage outfit, which included a ruffled yellow shirt layered with a black and white lace vest, complete with his signature bandana wrapped around his brow. One of the highlights of his unforgettable set was his rendition of “Hey Joe,” his cover of the rock standard that he’d released six months previously.
Hendrix was in his element from start to finish, from the initial guitar notes to the sound of his deep voice. It’s almost as if the musician is having an out-of-body experience as he gets lost in the music. At one point, Hendrix began playing his electric guitar with his teeth, astonishingly without missing a note. But that wasn’t the only unexpected moment, as Hendrix finished the performance by playing the guitar on his back, demonstrating his talent level to be next level. Hendrix brought his show, which featured “Foxey Lady,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Purple Haze,” and a version of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” to a really dramatic close by setting fire to his instrument.
“The worst thing about Monterey was we found out from one of our ex-roadies that Hendrix was gonna steal our act,” The Who’s Peter Townshend remembered in an interview on how the band famously shattered their guitars onstage during the festival. “Jimi was out of his mind on acid and wouldn’t discuss who went on first,” Townshend’s bandmate Roger Daltrey stated. “It wasn’t that we didn’t want to follow him; we just needed to finish our act first,” Townshend explained. “Hey Joe” was a rock standard that Hendrix frequently performed live before recording and releasing it as a single. Despite failing to chart in the United States, “Hey Joe” is regarded as one of the legend’s best and hallmark songs. His festival performance of “Hey Joe” was included in the 2002 box set The Complete Monterey Pop Festival.