“It Was Just so Shocking”: Bill Frisell Recalls Seeing Jimi Hendrix Perform in 1968

Jimi Hendrix performs live in the late 1960s
(Image credit: Chris Morphet/Redferns)

Back in the late ‘60s, our latest cover star – Bill Frisell – had the enviable experience of witnessing Jimi Hendrix in his prime.

In this interview extract from our most recent issue, Frisell recollects being overwhelmed by the high priest of psychedelic rock when attending a live show at a sports hall in Denver in 1968.

Having watched Hendrix perform for a second time at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre (opens in new tab), he later passed up the opportunity to catch the guitarist’s Band of Gypsys New Year’s performances at the Fillmore East – a regret mitigated only by seeing the Allman Brothers Band’s debut at the legendary venue.

Bill Frisell plays at Casa del Jazz, Rome, Italy, 19th July 2021.

Bill Frisell, 2021. (Image credit: Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

“I saw [Jimi Hendrix] twice. The first time was in a gymnasium kind of room at a college near where I grew up. The audio of that gig [on February 14, 1968 at Regis College Fieldhouse in Denver] is actually available on YouTube.

“It wasn’t the tour he did with the Monkees; it must’ve been his second tour in the States. Soft Machine was opening for him. Are You Experienced (opens in new tab) had just come out, and I didn’t know what was going on at this concert.

“It was just so shocking. I don’t even know if they had much of a PA; you’re just hearing the amps coming off the stage, basically. And the whole combination of the way he sang with the guitar and the massiveness of the sound... It was just too much to comprehend, for sure.

“Then I saw him again at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver [on September 1, 1968]. I think it might have been the last gig that he did with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, and I remember there was something going on, like he was upset about something during the concert.

“By that time, my parents had moved to New Jersey and I was going to school in Greeley. I came to visit them during the Christmas break and ended up going to the Fillmore East to see Blood, Sweat & Tears [on December 28, 1969].

I remember noticing on the Fillmore marquee, it said: ‘Jimi Hendrix, Dec. 31’

Bill Frisell

“And the amazing thing was, some unknown band from Georgia was opening that night for Blood, Sweat & Tears called the Allman Brothers Band. This was before they had recorded anything. They came out and were like, ‘Oh, hi, we’re kind of nervous being in New York for the first time.’

“It was their Fillmore East debut and they just fuckin’ kicked ass! This was just a few days before Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys played the New Year’s Eve concert, which became the famous live album from the Fillmore East (opens in new tab).

“I remember noticing on the Fillmore marquee, it said: “Jimi Hendrix, Dec. 31,” and I’m thinking, Oh, I already saw Jimi Hendrix. I don’t need this.

“Man, I wish I had gone to that!”