In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien:
As a reward for their sufferings in the cause against Morgoth … the Guardians of the World granted to the (Half-Elven) a land to dwell in … There they founded the realm of Númenor … There was a tall mountain in the midst of the land … and from its summit the farsighted could descry the white tower (of Uttermost West) …
Professor Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings was one of the greatest successes to come out of England during the 1960’s, along with The Hobbit , the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
Numenor Productions was an idea by Allen Covey —
who promoted a series of ambitious concerts in and around Salt Lake City, featuring trippy Light Shows and touring Rock Bands from the West Coast during 1968.
Vernal Equinox Dance Concert — Fairgrounds Coliseum March 30, 1968
Buffalo Springfield heralded an upcoming age of Rock Superstars based in Los Angeles. Even their older records were steadily in demand on AM and FM radio stations, and Late-60’s fans were ready for the virtuoso instrumental jams they played in concert.
(Below) Buffalo Springfield at the Vernal Equinox Dance Concert — Left to Right: Neil Young; Richie Furay; Stephen Stills; and Jim Messina playing Bass. Drummer Dewey Martin is out of the frame. Messina produced their forthcoming album Last Time Around.
(Below) The “Front Line” of Buffalo Springfield on March 30, 1968 — Elusive Neil Young, Lead Guitar and Sometime Lead Vocalist; Richie Furay, Main Lead Vocalist and Rhythm Guitar; Stephen Stills, Alternate Lead Vocalist, Lead and Rhythm Guitars.
The Youngbloods had moved to San Francisco, after meeting in New York City, and were on tour supporting their (minor) hit Quicksand. They’d always worked hard, made excellent music on the road, made first-rate recordings in the studio, and their most popular years were ahead of them.
H.P. Lovecraft were also based in San Francisco, after forming around the Chicago area. Their first album had been well-received by the public. Everyone had a lot of fun with the cosmic ambiance created by the group’s namesake — an author of Horror and Fantasy who passed away in the 1930’s, but whose works were steadily gaining a broad-based popularity which had previously eluded Lovecraft during his career in the pulp magazines.
Light Shows co-starred with Rock Bands during the so-called Psychedelic Era
Jerry Abrams Headlights was based in San Francisco as well — filmmaker Abrams personally chose the massive domed arena known as the Fairgrounds Coliseum next to the Jordan River in Salt Lake City for his vision of a lighting extravaganza.
The entire north end of the Coliseum will be covered with screens rising three stories high to the dome of the structure, thus surrounding the people with lights that are guaranteed to properly affect any head in the house. Six people operating some forty feet of gear will immerse half of the Coliseum with strobe lights, liquids, films, slides, and crystal images.
Dance of the Occult Moon — Fairgrounds Coliseum April 13, 1968
Blue Cheer were a power trio, based in San Francisco, who were enjoying a major hit with their loud HEAVY version of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. Their equally Heavy album Vincebus Eruptum would sell very well for another year — especially among record buyers who later purchased the Iron Butterfly’s In A Gadda Da Vida, and Led Zeppelin I.
Clear Light were a group of generally well-respected studio musicians from Los Angeles. Drummer Dallas Taylor would tour with Crosby, Stills, and Nash in the future, and bassist Doug Lubahn had recorded with The Doors. Both bands shared names with famous types of LSD — there were reasons why those days were called the Psychedelic Era.
Word of mouth made Jerry Abrams Headlights a major draw after the Buffalo Springfield concert, and their multiple-story light show was legitimately considered the co-star of this ear-splitting event, which made Numenor’s reputation throughout the Intermountain USA. Tourists traveled from the West Coast to see these spectacles.
Numenor Productions hired Salt Lake’s competent Holden Caulfield as “warm up act” for the Dance of the Occult Moon. They played Alternative Rock with their own entertaining style that worked well in large arenas.
More about Light Shows and Rock Concerts:
Light Shows Turn On — March 29, 1968
Dance of the Desert Prophet — Fairgrounds Coliseum April 27, 1968
Canned Heat’s second album Boogie with Canned Heat was a surprise hit, and would continue to sell for years — they would later achieve major airplay on the radio with songs by Alan Wilson, and perform at Woodstock in 1969.
Canned Heat was based in Los Angeles, but they employed Blues scholar and songwriter Alan Wilson from New York on harmonica and rhythm guitar. Henry Vestine was in his prime, burning up the huge space with extended solos on lead guitar, backed by the thunderous drums of Fito de la Para and Larry Taylor’s powerful bass. Robert Hite was a friendly MC/Lead Singer with a voice that matched his vast weight.
Notice who had second-billing — Jerry Abrams Headlights was an experience nobody wanted to miss.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were well-rounded musicians who would stay together for decades and create important records in the future. They’d previously had a minor hit called Buy For Me The Rain, but didn’t play THAT song, at least during the second show. Old Timey music and Folk idioms were very welcome among Alternative audiences at the time, so these good-spirited professionals had no trouble entertaining the crowd.
Numenor bought advertisements in the Electric News and Daily Utah Chronicle to reach their young patrons:
The Electric News was published out of the Cosmic Aeroplane, Salt Lake’s fist “Head Shop.” Numenor also hired the excellent Smoke Blues Band to open this Dance Concert. They were also associated with the Cosmic Aeroplane. Singer Richard Cordray was a partner in the Desolation Row sandwich shop around the Cosmic corner at 9th East & 9th South, which continued on as part of Salt Lake’s growing Alternative community.
Smoke played a fine opening set for the friendly audience, and contributed to Salt Lake’s music scene for the rest of the decade and more. Jerry Mische had a great night on piano, and was reportedly invited to travel with Canned Heat.
(Note: While setting up the ad above, an unknown staffer at the Chronicle somehow mis-identified “Dance of the Desert Prophet” as “Occult Moon Dance Concert,” which happened two weeks earlier, and compounded the error by including “Holden Caulfield,” the group who opened that previous show.)
It’s A Beautiful Day — Fairgrounds Coliseum May 10, 2010
“Its A Beautiful Day” was the perfect name for a Dance Concert during the Psychedelic Era, but it was also the name of this lyrical and unconventional band — based in San Francisco but with roots in Salt Lake City. The audience was impressed by bandleader David LaFlamme’s electric violin and the wonderful songs. (See the articles below).
The light show was by Electro Luminescence instead of Jerry Abrams Headlights. Local stalwarts Smoke Blues Band and Holden Caulfield shared the bill with It’s A Beautiful Day.
No widely-distributed poster is known to exist for this concert, but the show was attended by people who heard advertisements over the local radio for about two weeks.
The group It’s A Beautiful Day would repeatedly return to perform in Salt Lake City, and co-starred in many concerts and festivals around San Francisco, the West Coast, and the USA. Their eponymous first album is considered a classic of Progressive Rock.
Quicksilver Messenger Service — Valley Music Hall September 7, 1968
Numenor’s last concert was NOT held at the Coliseum — Numenor booked the Valley Music Hall north of Salt Lake City proper and hired Garden of Delights for the light show. The golden age of those visual spectaculars was fading away, although nobody knew it yet. Progressive disc jockey Michael G. Kavanagh was Master of Ceremonies and said words to the effect of “We may have found our space …” but it was not to be.
This show starred San Francisco’s magnificent Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Lead Guitarist John Cippolina rivaled contemporary masters like Jimi Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton in his ability to make his instrument ring and sing with electronic special effects erupting through the brass horns in his amplifiers.
Singers Gary Duncan and David Feiberg were handsome men with good strong voices. Much of their at first material were Folk standards like Buffy St. Marie’s Codine, or Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. Greg Elmore was a show in himself, with his flowing blond hair, beard and intensely concentrated playing across a large span of drums.
Cippolina was as handsome as anybody, with hair that wouldn’t quit. The girls couldn’t turn their eyes away from him standing at the back. He hardly moved, but he was busy working his pedals, bending his whammy bar, and caressing the strings of his guitar. His long solos were masterful, as were the occasional counterpoints with Duncan.
The constant rotation of the theater-in-the-round stage beneath Valley Music Hall’s enormous central dome disturbed the performers, so Quicksilver took a short break while the crew stopped it from turning. The audience all moved to one end of the half-full auditorium. When Quicksilver returned, they concentrated on songs from their first album, climaxing with Cippolina’s keening guitar work on The Fool.
Local group Leaves of Grass were booked to open the evening.
Research for this article conducted by Steve Jones. Posters courtesy of Charley Hafen Jewelers and Gallery. Color photographs from 35mm slides © Ross Terry and used by permission. Additional photography, scanning, and digital processing by Michael Evans. Short eyewitness concert reviews of Quicksilver, Canned Heat, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Smoke Blues Band by M.E.
We actively request your contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories about the Cosmic Aeroplane and related enterprises — please contact our blogmeister: Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian.