Archive for Woodstock 40th anniversary

Review: Woodstock 40 Years On – Back To Yasgur’s Farm

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on August 22, 2009 by 30daysout

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We are going to move on from Woodstock, and this is the last stop.  I slapped this on the other day and it pretty much stopped me in my tracks.  More than a few times during the Woodstock 40th anniversary weekend I read where the music itself at the 1969 festival wasn’t that great.  Woodstock 40 Years On – Back To Yasgur’s Farm, a new six-CD set revisiting the music from the great festival, makes a strong case that the music in that moment of time was terrific.  Yeah, I know – this is a bit of overkill in this summer of Woodstock Exploitation and if you have any of the other retrospectives from Woodstock, maybe it is a bit redundant.

But look – and listen- a little closer, and you’ll find cleaner sound and some welcome stuff from the vaults that help disprove the myth of sloppy sets.  The Grateful Dead for years complained that their set was horrible, for example: the version here of “Dark Star” is sublime, and even after 19 minutes it still fades out before its ending.  Joan Baez turns in nice versions of a couple of Gram Parsons tunes, “Hickory Wind” and “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”; Creedence Clearwater Revival kicks it with three of their best-known tunes and the mostly acoustic Disc 1 puts a spotlight on the tragically forgotten Bert Sommer, as well as the bottom-billed Sweetwater.

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Woodstock: 40 Years Out – And Still Tie-Dyed

Posted in News, Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by 30daysout

Woodstock monument

It was the first, and most important, question of the day: just what does one wear to Woodstock?  We were headed to the “Heroes of Woodstock” show Saturday at Bethel Woods Center, on the grounds of the original 1969 Woodstock festival, and we Tie Dyewanted to fit in.  Thinking that a Hawaiian shirt might be a little ostentatious, by the time we got to Woodstock we knew we were wrong.  Because everywhere you looked, there was tie-dye.  Tie-dyed shirts, tie-dyed pants, possibly even a couple of tie-dyed people.   In fact the only thing more plentiful than tie-dye on Saturday was gray hair and body fat.

Saturday’s celebration was a kind of Hippie Halloween, and everyone dressed the part.  If it wasn’t tie-dye, it was a t-shirt from the Woodstock museum or from one of the roadside vendors dotting the highway in Bethel, N.Y.  So where the original Woodstock was a triumph of optimism and idealism, its 40th anniversary was a triumph too – of the capitalism and exploitation that didn’t quite work the first time.  But we hit that note yesterday … on Saturday, Woodstock was big enough for everyone: kids, people from all over the world, countless buzzing news media types and those old hippies who have long since gone to seed.  A good time was bought by all.

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Woodstock Preview: Richie Havens

Posted in News with tags , , on August 14, 2009 by 30daysout
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Richie Havens

Well, here we are in New York’s Hudson Valley just about 30 miles from Bethel, where the Woodstock 40th anniversary festival will take place on Saturday.  The event, called “The Heroes of Woodstock” because it isn’t really sanctioned by the promoters who put on the original festival (and who own the copyright on the Woodstock name), is at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts which is this fancy $100 million entertainment complex built on the grounds of the original festival.

Friday afternoon, they kicked off the weekend’s festivities with a media-only performance by Richie Havens, the performer who kicked off the original Woodstock festival.  He sang “Freedom,” the song he made up on the spot back in 1969.  You can see video of it here – but two caveats: the streaming sucks and before you get to the music you have to listen to some real self-satisified speechifying by rich guy Alan Gerry, a cable TV magnate who bought up Max Yasgur’s original dairy farm and turned it into a really slick amphitheater and museum. 

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Woodstock Update

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by 30daysout

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UPDATE: We’re taking a few days off while we travel to Bethel for the big Woodstock event August 15.  We hope to post a report early Sunday – come back then, or while away the time with some of these reposts.

Nobody is going to be caught short this time around – the 40th anniversary of Woodstock offers plenty of opportunity for promoters and performers to make a few bucks.  Which I guess is only fair, because many of them took a bath in 1969.  Michael Lang, one of the festival’s promoters, has a new book The Road To Woodstock which he’s been promoting.  In one interview, he recalled that the festival wasn’t known only as “Woodstock Music and Art Fair” at first – it was “An Aquarian Exposition.”  Woodstock, New York (about 50 miles to the northeast of where the festival was actually staged), was founded as an art colony in the early 1900s, and today it’s still home to musicians, writers and artists.  The “Aquarian Festival” was supposed to be in the real Woodstock, but they wound up moving it at the last minute to White Lake near Bethel.  You can see more about The Road To Woodstock here.

Lang’s plans for a Woodstock anniversary event in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park have been cancelled.  He originally envisioned an “official” Woodstock 40th anniversary in New York City, in September.  But all plans for that have been dropped, because of a lack of investors.

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Although he’s the headliner at the Woodstock 40th anniversary on the original grounds (August 15 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts), Levon Helm apparently won’t sing.  A note on his website says: “Due to his rigorous performance schedule, coupled with dozens of interviews with the press & media, Levon has overtaxed his voice.  He’s been advised by professionals to be on vocal rest for the next several weeks.  Levon will play drums and mandolin at all shows, but the vocal duties will be handled by the members of his band including his daughter, Amy Helm, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Brian Mitchell and, when in town, Jimmy Vivino (from the Tonight Show band).”  That’s a drag.

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By The Time We All Get To Woodstock

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by 30daysout

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By the time I got to Woodstock it was already over.  I went to my very first rock concerts in 1969, and some of the artists mentioned from the stage the incredible groovy far-out gas that was something called Woodstock.  In October 1969 they booked this thing called a “Rock Jubilee” in Houston’s Sam Houston Coliseum, featuring the Byrds, Poco, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.  It was supposed to end around 6 p.m., but it went to about 10 and they finally yanked the plug on the Airplane.  Before they did that, Grace Slick from the stage said about Woodstock: “It was a gas, man.  Wish you could have been there.”

Well.  I was about 14 years old so I couldn’t have gotten there on my own, anyway.  Cut to 1970, just about one year later: I’m in 10th grade at Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas.  One day in September, Janis Joplin (TJ grad ’60) visited the school with a few friends.  They just decided to drop in just before the lunchtime bell.  She had come back to Port Arthur for her 10th year class reunion, and she took the opportunity to visit and show her friends the place, and possibly to show the locals how famous she was.

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Woodstock: The Bottom Line

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on August 10, 2009 by 30daysout

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Woodstock may have turned out to be just a mere music festival, but it turned into a signal moment in pop culture only by accident.  Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong that August weekend in 1969, did.  But the music was great and the crowd- which swelled to an astounding 400,000 to 500,000 people – was even better.

Originally the festival was to be a moneymaking deal – however we all know what happened when it became a “free” event as the fences fell.  You can see how promoters figured they’d make a fortune, when you take a look at what the top Woodstock performers were paid:

Jimi Hendrix (and his jammin’ buddies) – $18,000

Blood, Sweat and Tears – $15,000

Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival – $10,000

Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane – $7,500

Sly & the Family Stone – $7,000

Canned Heat – $6,500

The Who – $6,250

Richie Havens – $6,000

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Arlo Guthrie – $5,000

Ravi Shankar – $4,500

Johnny Winter – $3,750

Ten Years After – $3,250

Grateful Dead, Country Joe  & the Fish – $2,500

And the list goes all the way down to the band Quill, which earned union scale: $375.  You can take a look and wonder why someone like Canned Heat could command more than some of the others below them on the list; well, they had a couple of Top 20 singles in 1969, while CSNY at that time had yet to release its first album.

Consider, though, the impact that Woodstock made on many of the artists’ careers.  CSNY may have earned peanuts in 1969 but just five years later they were the top-grossing live act in the country, earning about $10 million for a 24-city tour.  Some of the others you don’t see on the list, those who made less than $2,500: acts like Santana and Joe Cocker, also got a huge boost from Woodstock.  In fact, for many of these people it was the defining moment of their careers … while a few others would fade away into the mists of obscurity.

Woodstock will be celebrated at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on the original festival grounds with the Heroes of Woodstock performance on August 15, however there are many more celebrations planned through the summer and into the fall.  Check the excellent website Woodstockstory.com for a complete lineup of events.

MP3: “Soul Sacrifice” (live at Woodstock) by Santana

MP3: “Theme For An Imaginary Western (live at Woodstock) by Mountain

Woodstock.com

Woodstock: What If …?

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on August 9, 2009 by 30daysout

Beatles at Woodstock

In 1969, nobody knew that the Woodstock music festival would be the defining cultural event of the era.  If we knew that in advance, some things may have been different.  For instance: what if the Beatles had played Woodstock?

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Beatles were nearing the end of the line.  Although no one else suspected it, the four Beatles may have realized the group’s demise was imminent.  And it is possible they were looking to say goodbye from the grandest stage of all.  They were filming a movie of their recording sessions and they wanted to play live, possibly as a climax to the documentary film, but no venue proved to be big enough for the world’s biggest band.  There were a lot of ideas involving exotic locations – an ocean liner, an outdoor amphitheater in Africa – but the boys wound up playing on the roof of Apple studios in January of that year.

What if the Beatles, always ahead of their time (if not ahead of themselves), recognized the significance of Woodstock and realized what a statement their appearance would make?  They were, after all, the gods of the counterculture and what better place to share a message of peace and love than from a stage in front of thousands?  Their mere presence at Woodstock would have guaranteed worldwide media attention, which the festival got anyway.

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30 Days Out Exclusive Interview: Sam Andrew of Big Brother & the Holding Company

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2009 by 30daysout
Big Brother

Clockwise, from top left: Sam Andrew, James Gurley, Dave Getz, Peter Albin and up front, Janis Joplin

This year is, of course, the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival and there is promise of many celebrations to mark the occasion.  One of the most auspicious will be August 15 in Bethel, New York, on the site of the original festival: the “Heroes of Woodstock,” featuring Mountain, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Country Joe McDonald, the Levon Helm Band, Jefferson Starship and Big Brother and the Holding Company.   This lineup is also touring the country; check tour dates here.

Big Brother was one of the iconic rock bands of the late 1960s, and with the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane they defined the “San Francisco sound. ”  The band made its biggest splash live in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, and on record a year later with the giant hit Cheap Thrills.

Guitarists Sam Andrew and Peter Albin founded Janis_Joplin_-_Cheap_Thrills-frontBig Brother in 1965 and the band had some success playing around the Bay Area.  Then one day they were introduced to a singer from Texas who would become the group’s frontwoman – Janis Joplin.  She wasn’t yet the force of nature singer she would later become, but it didn’t take long.

Today, Big Brother and the Holding Company is comprised of original members Andrew, Dave Getz and Peter Albin, along with guitarist Ben Nieves and different female singers; Sophia Ramos is the most recent singer.

Even as Cheap Thrills topped the charts and was selling millions, Joplin and Andrew left Big Brother to form the Kozmic Blues Band.  The Kosmic Blues Band – not Big Brother – are the group backing Joplin at Woodstock, and in this exclusive interview with Sam Andrew, he reminds us this will be his first appearance onstage at Woodstock.

30 Days Out: Can you tell me a little about this new tour? Are you going to do full sets or because you are on a large bill do you have to present an abbreviated set?

Sam Andrew: There will be a lot of bands on this tour, so we will do the hits, tunes like “Combination of the Two,”  “Down On Me,”  “Summertime,”  “Ball & Chain,”  “Piece Of My Heart. ”  I’m not sure how much time we will have.

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From Texas to Woodstock

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by 30daysout
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Johnny Winter

When I worked at a small Southeast Texas daily newspaper, we used to try to find “local” angles in pretty much everything in order to have something special for the readers.  Once I thought about writing a column for the 10th anniversary of Woodstock (that would be in 1979) about all of the people from the Golden Triangle area of Texas (Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange) who played at Woodstock.  It was a pretty lame idea back then to put into print, but today this is the internet — and it’s the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, so why not?

Ahem.  You know about Janis Joplin, I suppose.  Born in Port Arthur, Texas, attended high school there, left for Austin then San Francisco and hit it big with Big Brother and the Holding Company.  But when she played Woodstock she’d already left that band – she had the Kozmic Blues Band playing behind her (which unfortunately didn’t include her Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew).  Joplin is a legend and you know her place in history – in a week or so we’ll tell another story about her.

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Back To The Garden?

Posted in News with tags , , , on August 8, 2009 by 30daysout
stills2If you didn’t know – or care – this year happens to be the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.  Last year we were kind of kicking around ideas for a family vacation, and when we learned that my wife and daughter would be unavailable to travel in August 2009, I had a flash: “Let’s go to Woodstock!”  So my son and I planned to make a pilgrimage this summer.  We dreamed that maybe some of the old performers would be at a 40th anniversary concert, and maybe some of the dudes who were around in 1969 but didn’t make it Woodstock might even show (Dylan, Led Zeppelin, maybe even a Beatle or two).

But ah, that was just a dream.  Reality is always much uglier: even before Hendrix played his final notes in that farm pasture 40 years ago, promoters sensed something was in the air – and it wasn’t the stench of weed and unwashed bodies.  They smelled money.  And four decades later, the aroma is as powerful and enticing as ever.  Woodstock is a brand, the New York Times tells us, and of course this summer there’s going to be a Woodstock ’09: in San Francisco, in Connecticut, in Germany and possibly even in New York City.

And surely there will be some kind of observance August 15-17 at the original site, which is not in Woodstock, N.Y. at all, but in the town of Bethel.  There’s a big arts center and museum on the original Woodstock festival site and you can bet they’ll observe those three days somehow.  Whichever one you choose, it will certainly cost you (even though the NYC event promoter is promising a “free” show.  Right.)

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