In 1968, when Western youth revolted against the establishment, Jimi Hendrix played a sold-out gig in Zurich to an ecstatic audience that was to go down in people’s memories as a “monster concert”.
The line-up was huge and included Anselmo Trend, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the Koobas, Eric Burdon & The New Animals, Traffic and the Move.
But the evening’s undisputed highlight was Jimi Hendrix himself, performing with his newly formed band The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The band played at the packed-out Hallenstadion for two nights in a row, on the 30 and 31 May 1968. Both events were organised by Hans-Ruedi Jaggi who had already brought the Rolling Stones to Zurich the previous year.
After Jimi Hendrix’s second performance on a Friday evening, a few wooden chairs were broken. Because the audience threw their folding chairs into a heap to dance, the television images of the concert aired later wrongly suggested mountains of smashed furniture.
After the concert finished, some people warmed themselves around a campfire outside the building. The fans then peacefully marched towards the Zurich main station. The police took this as an opportunity to take drastic measures against the young people, firing water cannons and rubber bullets into the crowd. Riots erupted, some of which moved towards the city centre and lasted until the early hours of the morning.
Young people’s simmering discontent with an establishment seen as bourgeois suddenly erupted. The so-called Globus riots which went down in Swiss history took place only four weeks after Hendrix’s “monster concert”. The revolution had arrived in Switzerland, as Stefan Strittmatter recently wrote in the German-speaking newspaper Aargauer Zeitung.
Postscript: After the concert, Jimi Hendrix went to a Zurich Restaurant to eat dinner, where staff refused to serve him. The reason? His skin colour.
Translated from the German by Laura Németh