Good times on Peter Britt's hill
Climbing Britt hill in Jacksonville, home of the music festival of the same name, serves as a sort of time machine passage for me.
It’s been a few years since I spread a blanket on the lawn overlooking the stage and lugged a cooler full of supper, a prelude to joy. To kick off my sandals, stretch out and wait sweetly for the engaging notes to carry me back — then lie back and look up through towering pines as the air cools, the sun sets and turns the trees to silhouettes against an indigo sky. I feel ready to revisit the experience.
I tried to recall which show was the last I’d heard. It could have been America, chronicler of my youth and sending the same great carefree vibes as when I drove my ’68 Mustang with the stereo’s blastometer turned up for “Ventura Highway.”
I’ve enjoyed them twice on the magical mystery hill. Creedence Clearwater Revisited transported me one year — took me back down where cool water flows, y’all. B.B. King, maybe. He and Lucille (guitar) sat center stage, Lucille crying backup to King’s convincing blues. It was among his final performances on this Earth. One summer, I’m unsure how in retrospect, but the B-52s rocked into my Britt experience, altering forever my appreciation for large hair and lobster.
Speaking of hair, facial and otherwise, how about those guys of the ‘70s groups! They knew how to grow it and show it. Most are unrecognizably shorn and shiny by comparison today. I wouldn’t know if they were the original members, because we rarely saw more than a nose back in those good old woolly mammoth days, but the sound, that’s what we want. And we want it the same so we can sing along.
This nostalgic detour brings me to the Britt Facebook announcement that the band Chicago will join us in rock majesty on Britt hill again this July. They visited three years ago. I promptly issued a prayer for a smokeless atmosphere. One cataclysmic fire in Chicago’s history is enough, after all.
I collected a fine stack of vinyl during my teen and young adult years, and Chicago claimed several inches worth, with their bold cursive lettering in various iterations on the cover. They’re in storage now. And to think how many great dance moves they witnessed and the throes of teenage angst they endured being played repeatedly in my room to the accompaniment of my tambourine. Chicago’s music was rock with horns. It was different.
In the summer of 1963 atop Peter Britt’s hill in Jacksonville, there appeared a plywood stage with tin-can lights. Portland conductor John Trudeau and his pal Sam McKinney had a dream. The Northwest’s first outdoor summer music festival had appeared. I was a little kid, but the festival grew to include other musical acts besides chamber groups, and I grew to thoroughly enjoy rock music.
Four years after Britt’s inception, seven musicians/singers joined together in Chicago, Illinois, calling themselves the Chicago Transit Authority. Now, 56 years later, they join purposes. It’s unbelievable that Chicago is still playing strong with some of the original members. They will temporarily lift us from the throes of our aging angst, remove our minds to green fields of grace and daisies, and remind us of our happy-go-lucky idiot phase. I can hardly wait.
Of course, the Britt Music Festival offers many other acts besides rock-revival bands for those who don’t understand that the ‘70s was the greatest, most creative era in the history of music. Check out their website at www.brittfest.org for the lineup as it’s announced or to become a member so you can buy tickets before the rest of us shmoes. We’re fortunate to have Britt.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer with flowers in her hair. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on her Facebook page.