In the spring of 1968, the Miami Pop Festival became the first major multi-day rock festival to be held on the East Coast in the wake of 1967's groundbreaking Monterey Pop Festival. The Jimi Hendrix Experience had been the breakthrough act that wowed audiences at Monterey, so promoter Michael Lang (who would help put together the Woodstock Music and Art Fair a year later) persuaded Hendrix to headline the Miami event. Hendrix, who was recording Electric Ladyland at the time, brought along recording engineer Eddie Kramer to tape his gig in Miami, and while Hendrix's set has circulated for years as a bootleg, Miami Pop Festival finally gives this performance an authorized release, with Kramer mixing the 45-year-old tapes. This recording has long been celebrated by Hendrix enthusiasts over the years, and it's not hard to see why; thanks to Kramer, the recording is clean and full of detail (right down to the rattle of the springs in Hendrix's whammy bar), and the Experience sound quite good, with Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell interacting with their usual intuitive skill, while Noel Redding serviceably holds down the bottom end on bass. However, while this is a dynamic and well-preserved performance from Hendrix and the Experience (and you can't have too many of those), it isn't an especially exciting one. There's plenty of nuance but noticeably less fire in Hendrix's guitar work, and he seems most comfortable stretching out on slow blues numbers, while sounding just a bit too relaxed on Are You Experienced? material like "Foxey Lady," "Purple Haze," and "Fire" (though he brings a welcome emotional intensity to "I Don't Live Today"); the group curiously ignores songs from the more recent Axis: Bold as Love. It's worth noting that Hendrix played two sets on the first day of the May 1968 Miamifest; this release features the evening set in full, while just two tunes from the afternoon show are included as a bonus, and "Fire" and "Foxey Lady" sound tougher and more committed in their first run through of the day than their second. Perhaps Kramer and the Hendrix estate should scour the vaults to find the rest of the afternoon set; as it is, Miami Pop Festival is a welcome addition to the authorized Hendrix catalog, but it doesn't cast much new light on his music or his performance style, making for a good but not a great live release.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming