Misc Jimi Hendrix, backstage at Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, 1968.

Published on September 8th, 2023 | by AlexandreG.


An exploration of Jimi Hendrix’s astonishing performance at Winterland

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Jimi Hendrix, a name synonymous with revolutionary guitar techniques and mesmerizing live performances, has left an indelible mark on the world of rock and roll. Among the many stages he graced, San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom holds a special place in the annals of rock history.

This article delves deep into the nights Hendrix and his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, took to the Winterland stage, the songs that resonated with the audience, and the moments that became iconic. We’ll also touch upon how these performances stacked up against his other live shows, exploring the nuances and the fervor that Hendrix brought to each event.

From setting his guitar alight at the Monterey Pop Festival to the Isle of Wight in 1970, every stage Hendrix set foot on witnessed magic. We’ll also shed light on controversies, notable incidents during these concerts, and a look at other bands that shared the Winterland with Hendrix. And for those curious about the swansong of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, we’ve got that covered too. Join us as we journey through the electric world of Jimi Hendrix and the iconic Winterland Arena concerts.

When did Jimi Hendrix play at Winterland?

In the colorful and revolutionary time of the 1960s, few musicians left an indelible mark like Jimi Hendrix. By the late 60s, his prowess with the electric guitar had become legendary, offering a new direction for rock and roll. During this critical phase, in 1968, the virtuoso guitarist and his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, graced the stage of the renowned Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.

It was a series of performances across three days: October 10, 11, and 12. With each passing day, the shows intensified, both in terms of musical exploration and audience engagement. Many who attended those shows recalled the palpable energy in the arena.

Why was the Winterland engagement so special? First, consider the timing. By 1968, Jimi Hendrix had firmly established himself with hits from his albums, notably “Are You Experienced?” and “Axis: Bold as Love”. With these albums, he offered a fresh sound, blending psychedelic rock with blues influences. Their meteoric rise meant that they were playing to audiences who were eagerly anticipating their live renditions. The trio, having played across the globe, was at a point where their cohesion as a group translated beautifully on stage. This was evident in their Winterland performances.

Winterland, itself, was not just any venue. It had a reputation, one built on hosting some of the most iconic acts of the time. The ballroom’s acoustics and the intimate setting it provided made it a favorite among artists and fans alike. This was a place where the music echoed in its purest form.

Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco has a rich history and hosted numerous significant acts during its time. Apart from Jimi Hendrix, luminaries like Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, and The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia had defining moments on its stage.

The venue played host to The Grateful Dead on numerous occasions, with their famous “The Closing of Winterland” concert standing out. Jefferson Airplane, led by the mesmerizing Grace Slick, was a San Francisco-based band that frequently echoed the spirit of the era at this venue. And then there was Janis Joplin, whose soulful voice and passionate performances, often with Big Brother and the Holding Company, left an indelible mark on Winterland’s legacy.

Who accompanied Jimi Hendrix during the Winterland performance?

Jimi Hendrix's explosive 1968 Winterland performance, while he's destroying his guitar against his Marshall amp.
Jimi Hendrix’s explosive 1968 Winterland performance, while he’s destroying his guitar against his Marshall amp.
Credit: Pinterest

For those fortunate enough to have witnessed the power trio at Winterland, it wasn’t just the mesmerizing skills of Hendrix that left an impression. It was also the cohesive symphony created with his bandmates from The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.

Mitch Mitchell, the man behind the drum kit, wasn’t just any drummer. His style was a fusion of jazz intricacies and rock rhythms, adding layers of complexity to the music. Mitchell’s drumming was both precise and wild, complementing the eclectic guitar riffs and solos of Hendrix. Some say his rhythms were as expressive as any lead instrument in the band.

Noel Redding, the bassist, was the grounding force in this trio. His bass lines were the undercurrents that kept the music flowing seamlessly. He provided the foundational groove, ensuring the music’s stability even when Hendrix went off on his exploratory guitar journeys. Many overlook the importance of a bassist in a rock trio, but Redding’s contributions were pivotal. His ability to blend rhythm and melody was a key component of the unique sound of The Experience.

Apart from their musical contributions, the dynamic between these three on stage was palpable. There was mutual respect and understanding. While Hendrix was undeniably the focal point, with his flamboyant stage moves and guitar acrobatics, Mitchell and Redding held their own, showcasing their mastery and ensuring the music never lost its essence. Their interactions, the nods, the smiles, the brief moments of eye contact – all these subtle gestures painted a picture of a band in perfect sync.

Jimi Hendrix: The Winterland Performance Setlist

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Winterland. Box Set Cover
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Winterland. Box Set Cover
Credit: Amazon.com

The songs played at Winterland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience undoubtedly belong to this category. Those who were present during those three nights in October 1968 bore witness to a musical spectrum that showcased the versatility and genius of the trio.

During the Winterland shows, the audience was treated to an eclectic mix of songs. While each night offered its unique flavor, there was an overarching theme of blending the known hits with exploratory renditions and covers. Tracks like “Fire,” “Foxey Lady,” and “Purple Haze” echoed the familiar chords that fans had come to adore. However, it was the live atmosphere and the trio’s chemistry that breathed fresh life into these classics.

“Manic Depression” and “Red House” were other notable mentions in the setlist. “Manic Depression” showcased the trio’s ability to merge rock’s rawness with intricate rhythmic patterns, while “Red House” was a deep dive into the bluesy roots that heavily influenced Hendrix. The passion and emotion with which Jimi played the blues were palpable.

But it wasn’t just about the original compositions. The band had an uncanny ability to transform covers into masterpieces distinctly their own. Their renditions of songs by other artists were never mere replications. Instead, they reimagined these tracks with their unique flair, often resulting in versions that were on par with, if not superior to, the originals.

Winterland bore witness to this prowess. One standout moment during the concert was their rendition of “Sunshine of Your Love,” originally by Cream. As they prepared to dive into this cover, Jimi Hendrix spoke to the audience, referencing rumors that Cream was on the verge of disbanding. The trio then proceeded to deliver an electrifying performance of the song, adding their own signature twist.

To the surprise of many, just a month later, the rumors turned out to be true, and the band led by Eric Clapton indeed came to an end.

Winterland Setlist:

1st Show, 10 October 1968

  1. Intro/Tune-Up
  2. Are You Experienced
  3. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
  4. Red House
  5. Foxy Lady
  6. Like A Rolling Stone
  7. (This Is America) The Star Spangled Banner
  8. Purple Haze

2nd Show, 10 October 1968

  1. Intro/Tune-Up/Jimi’s Intro
  2. Tax Free
  3. Lover Man
  4. Sunshine Of Your Love
  5. Hear My Train A Comin’
  6. Killing Floor
  7. Hey Joe
  8. (This Is America) The Star Spangled Banner
  9. Purple Haze

1st Show, 11 October 1968

  1. Intro
  2. Are You Experienced
  3. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
  4. Red House
  5. Foxy Lady
  6. (This Is America) The Star Spangled Banner
  7. Purple Haze

2nd Show, 11 October 1968

  1. Intro
  2. Tax Free/Drum/Bass Jam
  3. Spanish Castle Magic
  4. Like A Rolling Stone
  5. Lover Man
  6. Hey Joe
  7. Fire
  8. Foxy Lady
  9. Purple Haze

1st Show, 12 October 1968

  1. Intro
  2. Fire
  3. Lover Man
  4. Like A Rolling Stone
  5. Foxy Lady
  6. Drum/Bass Jam
  7. Tax Free
  8. Hey Joe
  9. Purple Haze
  10. Wild Thing

2nd Show, 12 October 1968

  1. Intro
  2. Foxy Lady
  3. Manic Depression
  4. Sunshine Of Your Love
  5. Little Wing
  6. Spanish Castle Magic
  7. Red House
  8. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
  9. (This Is America) The Star Spangled Banner
  10. Purple Haze

Which songs from this performance became iconic and why?

“Over the years, many tracks from Jimi Hendrix’s Winterland concerts have achieved iconic status. These songs, played live with such raw energy and virtuosity, left an indelible mark on the music world and solidified Hendrix’s reputation as a guitar legend.

Having recently celebrated their two-year anniversary as a band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was arguably at the pinnacle of their form during this period. The underlying tensions between Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding had yet to surface publicly, ensuring a harmony in their performances.

Furthermore, with three studio albums under their belt and the release of their third, “Electric Ladyland,” only a week away from the Winterland concerts, the band was riding high on a wave of creativity and recognition. All these factors combined set the stage for an extraordinary festival performance. And, true to the promise, it was nothing short of incredible!

Here’s a closer look at some of the standout tracks from those concerts:

“Are You Experienced”:

Very few times did The Jimi Hendrix Experience play this live, making its inclusion in the Winterland setlist even more remarkable. The title track from Hendrix’s debut album showcased the pioneering sound he was introducing to the rock world. Live, this song is a prime example of his innovative guitar techniques and psychedelic style.

“Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”:

An electrifying piece that is one of Hendrix’s most recognized songs, the Winterland rendition captured the bluesy, psychedelic sound and the raw emotion that the guitarist poured into his music.

“Red House”:

A pure blues number, it epitomizes Hendrix’s deep connection to the blues. The Winterland performances of this song particularly stood out, capturing his emotional intensity and masterful guitar work.

“Foxy Lady”:

With its instantly recognizable opening riff, this song is a testament to Hendrix’s ability to craft memorable rock tracks. At Winterland, the song showcased the synergy between Hendrix and his band.

“Like A Rolling Stone”:

A Bob Dylan classic, Hendrix’s rendition transformed this song with his unique style. It’s a prime example of how he could take someone else’s song and make it wholly his own. Only one year after having left everyone awestruck at the Monterey Pop Festival with this cover.

“(This Is America) The Star Spangled Banner”:

One of the most poignant moments of the Winterland concerts, Hendrix’s interpretation of the American national anthem was both a political statement and a guitar masterclass. A beautiful version, but still in development. Less than a year later, Jimi would leave an indelible mark on the pop music culture of the century with this same song.

“Hey Joe”:

Played at Winterland, it’s hailed as one of the best live versions of the song ever. The emotional depth and unique guitar styling Hendrix infused into this classic track made it a standout performance.

How was Hendrix’s stage presence during the Winterland shows?

Jimi Hendrix was not just a musical virtuoso; he was a stage phenomenon. His performances at Winterland further cemented his reputation as one of the most captivating live performers in rock history. Every movement, every gesture, and every note played was a testament to his unique stage presence.

From the moment he took the stage, it was evident that Hendrix was in a realm of his own. With his flamboyant attire, consisting of colorful headbands, fringed shirts, and bold patterns, he shows a sense of charisma that few could match. His free-flowing style and comfort on stage suggested a man who was born to perform.

One of the defining elements of his stage presence was his ability to make the guitar an extension of himself. He would play with his teeth, behind his back, and even use the guitar as a prop to interact with the audience, all the while producing sounds that were otherworldly. These weren’t just gimmicks; they were integral to his performance, showing a man so in tune with his instrument that the boundaries between them seemed to blur.

His rapport with the audience was another critical aspect of his stage presence. Hendrix would often converse with the crowd, drawing them into his world. Whether it was introducing a song, expressing his feelings, or making a political statement, Hendrix always made sure the audience was with him every step of the way.

However, what truly set his Winterland performances apart was the emotional intensity he brought to each song. Be it the bluesy licks of “Red House” or the psychedelic notes of “Are You Experienced”, every song was performed with a level of passion and sincerity that was palpable. It’s no surprise that many who attended those shows recall them as transcendental experiences.

How does the Winterland performance compare to Jimi Hendrix’s other live shows?

YouTube player
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Like A Rolling Stone (from Winterland) (Music Video).

Jimi Hendrix was known for his electrifying live performances throughout his career, with each show leaving a unique imprint on the audience. The concerts he performed at venues around the world were often landmarks of musical prowess and stage dynamism. Among these legendary performances, the Winterland concerts stand out, but how do they compare with his other live shows?

For one, the Winterland concerts were more than just a series of performances; they were a documentation of Hendrix’s evolution as an artist. Over the course of three days and six shows, the audience witnessed a wide range of his repertoire, from the fiery renditions of “Foxy Lady” to the introspective and rarely played live “Are You Experienced”. The sheer diversity of songs and the variations in their renditions from one show to the next showcased Hendrix’s versatility.

Furthermore, the Winterland performances had a unique intimacy. While Hendrix played at larger venues and to more significant crowds, like the historic Woodstock festival, the relatively smaller size of the Winterland Ballroom allowed for a more intimate connection between Hendrix and the audience. It felt personal, as if Hendrix was performing for each individual rather than a collective crowd.

However, when you look at other iconic performances, like the Monterey Pop Festival, where Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire, or the Isle of Wight Festival, each had its unique flair and significance. The Monterey performance was arguably more theatrical and marked his emphatic entry into the American music scene. Similarly, his appearance at Woodstock, performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” became a symbol of the counterculture movement of the 60s.

In terms of musicality and technical prowess, the Winterland performances are on par with the best of Hendrix’s shows. The extended solos, the innovative use of feedback, and his unparalleled guitar techniques were all on full display. However, what makes Winterland special is its consistency. Over three days, Hendrix delivered top-notch performances show after show, a testament to his dedication and stamina.

What Other Bands Were At Jimi Hendrix Winterland Concert?

When we talk about the concerts of Jimi Hendrix at Winterland, the emphasis is often on the powerhouse performance of Hendrix himself. However, like most major concerts of the era, the bill wasn’t exclusive to just one artist. There were other acts that performed during these iconic nights, and they too contributed to the electric atmosphere of the venue.

The Winterland concerts were renowned for hosting an array of talented artists, both as opening acts and headliners. During the era of Hendrix’s performances, the trend was to have a diverse lineup that catered to different musical tastes, making it a comprehensive musical experience for attendees.

On some of the nights when The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed, there were other notable bands and artists that shared the stage. For example, bands like Dino Valenti, known for his association with Quicksilver Messenger Service, graced the stage during this period. Another band, Conqueroo, a Texan band with a psychedelic blues edge, was also among the acts that shared billing with Hendrix. Their unique blend of blues, rock, and psychedelia made them a fitting choice to play alongside The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Moreover, Buddy Miles Express also played on some of the same nights. Buddy Miles, a rock and funk drummer, was later associated with Hendrix in the Band of Gypsys. His inclusion in the lineup added another layer of musical depth to the evening.

Which festival did Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar on stage?

Jimi Hendrix sets his guitar ablaze at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Jimi Hendrix sets his guitar ablaze at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Credit: Ken Marcus

One of the most iconic moments in rock history involves Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar ablaze. This unforgettable act took place during the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. The festival itself was a pivotal event during the “Summer of Love“, showcasing a mix of established stars and up-and-coming artists.

Jimi Hendrix’s performance at the festival was monumental for several reasons. As the story goes, Hendrix and The Who had a bit of a disagreement about who would go on stage first, since both had a reputation for explosive performances. They settled it with a coin toss, and The Who won, playing before Hendrix. The Who ended their set by smashing their instruments, a signature move by Pete Townshend.

But Jimi Hendrix, not to be outdone, decided to up the ante. At the climax of his performance, after delivering an electrifying rendition of “Wild Thing”, Hendrix knelt down, squirted lighter fluid over his Stratocaster, and set it on fire. The image of Hendrix, engrossed in his act, amidst the flames and the backdrop of the festival, became one of the most defining moments of 1960s rock. It was an act that combined showmanship, rebellion, and pure rock and roll energy.

There were many factors that made this act resonate so powerfully. For one, it was seen as a ritualistic sacrifice, a raw and primal gesture. Some interpreted it as Hendrix’s way of demonstrating his complete devotion to his music, as if he were offering it up to some higher power.

The Monterey Pop Festival was Jimi Hendrix’s introduction to a broader American audience, having made a name for himself in the UK prior. His performance, culminating in the burning of his guitar, ensured that he left an indelible mark on the consciousness of every audience member present and the larger rock community as a whole.

What was the last The Jimi Hendrix Experience concert?

The last official concert that The Jimi Hendrix Experience played took place on June 29, 1969, at the Denver Pop Festival, held at the Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The setting was quite dramatic. The festival faced a slew of challenges, from tense confrontations between police and concertgoers to protests and riots outside the stadium gates.

Inside, however, was a different story. Thousands of eager fans awaited the closing act: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They played a set that included hits like “Fire,” “Red House,” and “Stone Free.” But it wasn’t just another gig for the band. There were underlying tensions, especially between Hendrix and Redding.

After the Denver show, it became clear that this was the end of the road for the original lineup of The Experience. Noel Redding, feeling increasingly sidelined and at odds with Hendrix’s musical direction, decided to part ways with the band. Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell would collaborate again, but not under the original name.

Following the Denver Pop Festival, Jimi formed a new band, “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows”, which famously played at Woodstock in August 1969. Later, Jimi also collaborated with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles to form “Band of Gypsys”, showcasing yet another evolution in his sound.

But the Denver Pop Festival marked the end of an era. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, in its original form, had given its final bow.

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About the Author

AlexandreG. Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.

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