Okee dokee folks… “We are stardust, we are golden” and we are coming up on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. To celebrate, my girlfriend and I took a trip to Bethel, NY, where it all happened. This was not my first time there.
At the time of the 25th, my duo Fuzek-Rossoni had just played our second show with the legendary Richie Havens. He liked us and invited us up to play at the 25th anniversary concert they were having in Bethel. The same weekend was the the Woodstock II concert that was happening in Saugerties; the Bethel concert could not legally be called Woodstock. The night before the Bethel event we had a gig, so we left around 1am and drove all night to get there.
When we arrived at 5:30am it was “monsooning,” so we parked in a field behind the stage and saw the soggy sun rise. We fell asleep in the car for a bit, but when we awoke it was still raining. But that didn’t stop the horde of people gathered on the hill in front of the stage and only made sliding down that hill in the mud more fun … for them! We headed over to figure out when we were supposed to play, but things seemed very disorganized. Near the main tent was a circle of people sitting on the ground and it appeared as if they were all tripping.
We couldn’t find Richie, but parked next to the stage was Arlo Guthrie’s tour bus — at least I was 99% sure it was. The weather was giving me a massive migraine so I grabbed a “Bethel ’94” t-shirt at the tent and we headed back to the car to sleep a bit more.
As we sat in the car and listened to the rain we heard a loud “THUNK!” and felt the car move. We dashed outside to see what happened. Just getting up from against the side of the car was an incredibly stoned guy with a Frisbee in his hand. He merely said, “Dude, I’m sorry, I ran into the side of your car trying to catch it.” The guy simply shook it off, smiled, and ran into the field to play more Frisbee. Mary Ann [Rossoni] and I looked at the imprint of a human body in the side of her car, which we called a tank/boat because it was big, old and built like one. We were less concerned about the dent than we were about the guy. We couldn’t understand how he just got up and walked away after his Frisbee dive into the fender. I am sure that if it wasn’t for the the drugs that were making him feel so good, he would have been in agony!
We got back into the car and sat for a while longer. The rain wasn’t going to let up and my headache was worse. After a discussion we said, “Fuck it, let’s go home.” Well, that wasn’t going to be so easy. The car had sunk into the mud and the tires were spinning. Someone from the farm headed over with a front-end-loader tractor, lifted up the back of the car with the bucket and pushed us out onto the road!
After driving for a bit we stopped at a diner, had some food and I promptly went outside and vomited on the sidewalk. Damn migraine! We headed home disappointed about not playing, but all things considered it was probably the best choice at the time.
Last week my girlfriend and I visited the relatively new Bethel Woods. It is located at the site of the original Woodstock concert, but now it is all landscaped, has parking lots, a concert amphitheater and a museum. After paying the $19.69 ticket price for museum admission, we headed in to check out the collection. The first part of the museum deals with a little history leading up to the festival such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. As you move along from exhibit to exhibit there are multimedia presentations; artifacts such as contracts, letters, signs, photos, clothing and instruments; and some interactive displays. They have the motorcycle that promoter Michael Lang rode around the festival grounds and the vest that he wore most of that time. Other cool things were some of the original sound gear-amps, speakers and microphones; Jack Cassidy’s (Jefferson Airplane) bass and outfit from the concert; Richie Haven’s guitar and assortment of necklaces he wore; the set lists of each band as well as what they were paid. Of course there is a gift shop with lots of tie dye, 1969 and Woodstock shirts, jewelry, posters and basically anything you can think of with the Woodstock logo on it. They even have peace sign necklaces made from the original fencing used to (TRY to) keep non-paying folks out!
After spending a bit in the gift shop (sucker) we headed out to the grounds to explore. The hill and the site of the stage are still there and are relatively untouched. Off to the side is a monument that was dedicated to the festival. I wandered around the stage area while my girlfriend walked up and down the hill absorbing the ancient, hippy vibes.
Afterward, we drove over to the place where the Fuzek-Rossoni-mobile had gotten stuck in the mud 25 years earlier. Nothing had really changed there; it was still muddy. We drove a few streets over to see the original Yasgur’s Farm barn and house that was down the end of a little dirt road and is still in the Yasgur family according to a plaque outside. People still live there and it was kind of weird, but I got out and took a few photos of the barn anyway. Up in the barn windows are a faded painting of Janis Joplin and a peace sign. The next day we headed home, but stopped at the site again to soak up a little more peace and love, then detoured a bit up to Saugerties to see The Band’s “Big Pink” and Levon Helm’s barn. If you are looking for a little hippy trip, get back to the land and set your soul free at bethelwoodscenter.org