Well I came across a child of God, he was walking along the road
And I asked him, tell where are you going, this he told me:
Well, I’m going down to Yasgur’s farm, going to join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land, set my soul free
~ Joni Mitchell (performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), ‘Woodstock’
I’m not goin’ back
to Woodstock for a while,
Though I long to hear
that lonesome hippie smile.
I’m a million miles away
from that helicopter day
No, I don’t believe
I’ll be goin’ back that way.
~ Neil Young, ‘Roll Another Number (For the Road)’
Hippies are squares with long hair
And they don’t wear no underwear
Country rock is on the wane
I don’t want music, I want pain!
~ Dictators, ‘Master Race Rock’
I still have a few posts in mind about my New York trip early this year. Regrettably, in my quest to stay relatively, ugh, “contemporary” on TGTW, my then-recent adventures in the States were soon smothered on my return to Korea by all my aimless driftivating and pointless rantifying on these garlic-scented shores.
But damn it, it was a rough day at school again yesterday; I need me some Americana . Today (a rainy Saturday) I’m heading into Busan to revisit the U.N. War Cemetery (one day I’ll get around to writing that place up) — before I go, I’m going to finally share a few pictures from my Woodstock trip with Kate on January 13 and 14.
Also, I had a pleasant evening last night looking at a ton of clips from the legendary concert, putting together a short set of classic performances. Fun! The word Woodstock has become a lazy shorthand for mud and brown acid and naked hippies and lazy, rambling sets — but there was some terrific, energetic playing and a ton of passion on that stage!
* * * * *
First off, take a look at this line-up! Hendrix! The Who! Joplin! The Dead! Sly! The Band! Sha-Na-Na! Etc! Etc!
And then a quick challenge: can you spot the spelling mistake in the plaque?
It was a heck of a road trip. New York State is BIG — almost twice the size of South Korea — and we were driving through the Catskills in Kate’s van for several hours. Woodstock (the festival) was actually held 43 miles from Woodstock (the town), after a lot of last-minute venue-shuffling and panic. Reassuringly, there were no THIS WAY TO WOODSTOCK signs en route; the roads were quiet, the villages slumbering, the afternoon grey and chilly, with glimpses of mountains and snow through the low cloud.
I suspect that we were far from the first clueless flower children to come pilgrimaging into “town” in a van, flowers in our hair and love in our hearts (sadly only good coffee in our bloodstreams). Even when we reached Bethel, pretty late in the day, we had no clear idea where to find the famed Max Yasgur dairy farm site.
When we did luck upon it, it was rather a different scene from those vividly coloured bacchanalia from August 1969 captured in the Woodstock movie (I haven’t watched it since late-night TV in the 70s):
The plaque dates from 1984:
A splash of colour in an icy and monochromatic landscape:
The adjoining Bethel Woods Center of the Arts opened in 2006. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young returned for a show.
We hung around the fence a little while, the only pilgrims that bleak afternoon. It was hard to get a good idea of the scale with the limited views, hard to picture the field choked with half a million mystery tramps. It was exciting, though. During my punkish youth I went through the standard phase of sneering at anything as ludicrously hippie as Woodstock. And now I love a lot of the acts that played there!
Life is weird. Still sneering, though, just with better targets.
While we were there, absorbing the vibe and the lethal chill, another car pulled in. The woman was very excited to learn I was from Brisbane — she knew someone from there, and immediately got on the phone to check if we might be connected.
There are over 2 million people in Brisbane, but I did not sneer, I promise. It was cold, I was at Woodstock, with a really cool flower child, and my face had contorted into a crude, frozen replica of a smile.
Well, we got going, got lost, got lost again, back and forth and in and through and around the village of Woodstock, where we had a great Mexican dinner at a colourful and laid-back beer joint, and then more fruitless driving in search of somewhere to crash. At one place, an old woman with a dog came to the door, asked if we had a reservation, and when we said no, turned around and disappeared into the darkness without a word.
Not yer classic Woodstock behaviour — or is it?
On the highway, the motel parking lot was empty but for two cars, but the sign on the office door said NO VACANCY, and nobody answered the bell.
We ended up at a great cheerless motel-chain box handing over a hundred bucks. The dream was over.
Morning was great, though. Back into town…
..for French toast and terrific coffee at a cafe with framed photos of The Band and Dylan from when they called the place home in the late-60s.
Then some browsing along the craftsy, woodsy, touristy-in-Summer-I’ll-bet main drag of Woodstock before we hit the highway again for the drive home:
Here’s my pick of the Woodstock crop:
Joe Cocker. A last-minute addition, he had to be helicoptered to the venue. Great air guitar, tie-dye, sideburns. And best Beatles cover ever? Definitely best boots ever:
The Band. They were touring their Music from Big Pink album. Sound and vision are out of sync, but it still rocks:
Creedence. Saturday night headliners. A HUGE band at the time, but had to delay their Saturday night headline after the Dead sprawled on too long, and John Fogerty declined to have this footage and a few others included in the movie. Says bassist Stu Cook:
There were probably no great performances. But in our set I think we probably played 75, 80 percent on the money. We definitely should have been included in the film. It was a huge mistake.
Santana. I’m not a fan (just never heard much) but this ROCKS — and check that drummer, Michael Shrieve, only 20 years old! Santana (the man) had dropped acid, expecting a later set. Consequently he was peaking during this song, and the contortion on his face is from trying to stay focused:
Canned Heat. This is great 12-bar head-banging blues. Check that awesome, moving moment when the fan jumps on stage, possibly the hardest anyone’s worked to bum a cigarette in recorded history:
Crosby, Stills & Nash. Only their second live performance and they were apparently very nervous. Young joined them later in the set:
The Who. Bathed in eerie light, Daltry is in fine, fringed form, and Moon is a joy to watch as always:
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote