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Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the final day of Woodstock.  I was there, albeit briefly.  I had graduated high school that spring and drove up in a station wagon with 7 other guys from my class.  That class created an active FB volume of contacts.  One of those that had made the trip posted about the anniversary date.  Five of the visitors chimed in as did 4 class members that hadn't made it.   What a trip down memory lane and posting with people some of whom I haven't seen in decades.

Our own visit was brief.  We had purchased tickets and drove there the opening night.  The only smart thing we did was upon starting the radio was reporting that all roads leading there from NYC and the East were choked with traffic.  We started out, drove due West, then North into NY state and approached the site from the less traveled Western side.   Still it was an astonishing traffic jam in an entirely rural environment.

By the time we arrived the rain and muddy conditions were already in effect.  We finally parked somewhere off the single road into the site and started walking.  Stragglers everywhere walking in all directions.  As we got to the "entrance" all the fencing had been torn down.  No main gates, no ticket takers....all had been destroyed.  We had all pre purchased tickets.   Get this-->  $18 for a 3 day music festival.

We worked our way to where the concert was being performed, a natural amphitheater in the midst of this farm field.  The crowds were enormous and ever more packed as we approached the venue.  We pushed our way to where we could see the stage and performers.  We had approached from one edge of the natural stadium.  It was a sea of humanity.  The entire amphitheater was packed with concert goers sitting but squeezed together like sardines in a can.  We couldn't advance any further.

Evidently we were there a bit to see and hear both Ravi Shankar and Melanie.  I didn't even recall Melanie.  Conditions were rank.  Rain, a bit cold, mud everywhere.  We were way underprepared.   I'm pretty sure I was the last of the group that wanted to leave.  But leave as a pack we did.  We returned to the road, found our vehicle among thousands, and slept by the side of the road.  We left the next morning.  We were way to unprepared to handle the enormous rains and unremitting mud.

Too bad.  It was the best party on the planet that weekend.

Really enjoyed the movie and the soundtrack.   Wish we had stayed longer.

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That summer, at age 16, I appeared as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the amphitheater in Lubber Run Park in Arlington, in a production under the auspices of the county recreation department, whatever it was called. In that kind of production, after the last performance, the cast usually comes in to help the crew strike the set, and while we were working on that, a couple of the crew guys mentioned a big music festival in New York State, and asked if I wanted to go to it with them. I asked my mother later. She said no.

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My memories were jarred by a group discussion on FB from people from my high school class.  Two expressed disappointment.  Their parents wouldn't let them attend.  Five of us who attended together reminisced.  I haven't been in touch with three of them for decades.  That was nice.  Our comments were similar.  Weather conditions crushed us.  Our stay was brief.

One commentator went  there as a group of 4.  They stayed in a nearby family owned farm and wrangled press passes.  While we struggled with the masses to approach the site they received a police escort that provided direct access and enabled them to park within 100 yards of the stage.  They stayed in comfort for one full day and relaxed ate and drank in the nearby farm house.  Ha ha.  They were the clever and fortunate ones.

The indelible memory was when we inched our way to the edge of the venue and viewed something like this picture....If one weren't in the crowd one would never get in.  If one left for an emergency one would never regain their place.  It was an astounding mass of concert attending humanity.

post-9660-0-65767600-1408632917_thumb.jp

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My downstairs neighbor in Manhattan invited me to go with him, but I hate crowds so I declined. I would have been miserable.

Ironically, about five years ago a close friend of mine bought a house less than a mile from the site, in Bethel NY. I've been there several times. The old Yasgur farm pasture where the concert was held is now a very snazzy performing arts center where big time concerts are held, including by the NY Philharmonic. Although the parking lots are well-organized, the roads leading to it are still fairly narrow country roads, and the locals avoid the traffic jams in the area when a major performer, band or orchestra is scheduled to perform.

I'll be there visiting my friend next week.

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In a real context of TV capturing history, here is a youtube video of CBS News wrapping up the Woodstock Festival.  Its Black and White.  Walter Cronkite introduces the topic, an on site reporter is filmed at the festival as it wraps up and people depart and finally a CBS commentator, John Laurence puts it into perspective.

John Laurence gained fame reporting on Vietnam.  What struck me as I watched him in this review of Woodstock, was that it seemed as if Dan Akroyd modeled or copied his approach in developing his "news caster persona" that first gained fame on Saturday Night Live some 5-7 years later.

Here is the video:

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John Laurence gained fame reporting on Vietnam.  What struck me as I watched him in this review of Woodstock, was that it seemed as if Dan Akroyd modeled or copied his approach in developing his "news caster persona" that first gained fame on Saturday Night Live some 5-7 years later.

Wow! I'd never seen this before. I don't know if Laurence was reporting truthfully or wishfully (call them "peaceful hippies" if you like - probably the same ones that started "Earth Day" - but note that they didn't clean up their own trash), but I thought his presentation was powerful, excellent, and even foreboding - witness his statement at the 5:00 mark (or, start just before that). And yes, I can absolutely see the tie-in with Dan Akroyd.

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Youtube also has  ABC and NBC's broadcasts of that event.  I was grabbed by the CBS version, specifically for the analysis/editorial comments.

Wow! I'd never seen this before. I don't know if Laurence was reporting truthfully or wishfully (call them "peaceful hippies" if you like - probably the same ones that started "Earth Day" - but note that they didn't clean up their own trash), but I thought his presentation was powerful, excellent, and even foreboding - witness his statement at the 5:00 mark (or, start just before that). And yes, I can absolutely see the tie-in with Dan Akroyd.

As to trash; seeing the people leave suggests they packed a lot of "stuff" out, but also clearly left an enormous mess. As an aside, have you ever looked at an arena after an event? Its a disgusting mess.  From my brief stay there it was pretty difficult to police your own garbage; no trash bins, nobody gathering, emptying, and replacing bins, nowhere to dispose of garbage. One would have had "to pack out what they packed in" which is a backpacking mantra, though I don't suspect it came into vogue till years after this event.

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My downstairs neighbor in Manhattan invited me to go with him, but I hate crowds so I declined. I would have been miserable.

Zora: We are age and generation peers. I attended a lot of concerts. Typically they were crowded.  This one took the cake.  We pushed, shoved and slinked our way to the edge of the natural amphitheater. We could see the stage and the people in front of us. People were packed like sardines. There wasn't an inch of visible available space in front of us.....and it was rainy and muddy and possibly chilly. Miserable conditions. As a group it drove us out of there the next morning.

Dammit. I would have liked to stay longer.

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As to trash; seeing the people leave suggests they packed a lot of "stuff" out, but also clearly left an enormous mess. As an aside, have you ever looked at an arena after an event? Its a disgusting mess.  From my brief stay there it was pretty difficult to police your own garbage; no trash bins, nobody gathering, emptying, and replacing bins, nowhere to dispose of garbage. One would have had "to pack out what they packed in" which is a backpacking mantra, though I don't suspect it came into vogue till years after this event.

Movie theaters used to be like this; those are one of the few arenas in life that have become more refined with time (except architecturally, of course).

To state the obvious, there is a direct relationship between crowd size and mob mentality.

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In two days the 50th anniversary of the first night of Woodstock will occur.  I was there.  $18 (expensive) ticket in hand and wallet.  When we got there the first evening the fences were down and it was free access to one and all.  A little story from the Post remembering that 3 day festival 

It turns out two of my old high school friends co-Woodstock travelers will get together in September, they are both Great Uncles to a kid who is going to be bar mitzvahed.  My my time flies.

From the concert:

 

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Unlike the lofty theatrical pursuits of The Hersch on that weekend (see his post from 5 years ago), I was busy working that weekend, delivering drugs.  The legal kind - I worked for a local drugstore bicycling over prescriptions to those who wanted them brought to their door.  

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Some terrific photos of Woodstock  link

My group and I got there the evening of the 15th, the opening night.  It was already dark.  We parked along the side of the road and followed the crowd to the concert.  When we got to the fences they were torn down:  Free access for one and all.   It was wet, rainy, a sort of drizzle, and a little chilly.   We arrived at the concert site and it was amazing...a solid mass of people closely sitting together virtually impossible to get close.  Regardless we sort of shoved/pushed our way to what was the point where the natural amphitheater flattened out.   A huge mass of people and absolutely impossible to get closer.  We could see the stage below and it was a distance.  So called 400,000 people there and I must imagine the vast majority were at the concert site---about 4 times the size and population of the largest football stadium's around.  Simply overwhelming. 

The rain had increased and we were completely ill equipped.  We were sopping.  So one by one my friends urged to return to the car and our "camping gear".  Of that group I was the last to agree to leave.   We didn't get much of a concert:  Saw Ravi Shankar, Melanie, and I'm not sure if we heard anyone else.  We got back to the car and pulled out our meager camping gear...all the while it was raining.   A terrible preparation.   I slept by the side of the road, the main road to Bethel, NY (Woodstock). 

At some moment mid eve I awoke and looked up.   The road that was completely covered with cars when we arrived was relatively free.   A sedan drove by at a slow but reasonable speed with a guy tied to the roof, rope securing him at his body as he lay prone on the top of the car.   Long hair streaming behind him and his body arched up, while his chest was bound to the car, he was screaming out....."Super Hippy".   Memorable.

The following morning when we were all awake, and realizing we were completely ill prepared for what was a sea of mud and more cold rain we left.    Short stay.   But memorable.  We attended the best party on the planet that year. (and for many years)

It was dark the entire time I was there.  All those phenomenal photos of people camping at the site:  The drugs, the antics, the nakedness--I didn't see or sense any of it.   

Long long afterwards I learned 4 townmates, friends/people I knew stayed at the farmhouse of one of the four, very near the site.  Through the local connections they received a press pass and each day they drove to the site, were given preferential treatment and were able to get in and out quickly.  They were allowed to park behind the stage and got premium seating in front of the stage.   They flourished and enjoyed it, while staying indoors in the relative lap of luxury.   That fall I started college and learned some of my new mates had been there, prepared, protected by better camping gear and stayed for most or the entire concert.

Of the photos from the link above, the final one shows a smiling Mr and Mrs Yasger, the owners of the farm where Woodstock occurred.   The concert has ended, they are standing in front of the natural amphitheater, it is a filthy pile of junk.   The Yasgers are smiling.   Good for them.  Hope they made money out of renting out that farm.   Great party.

 

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Scenes from day 2:   August 16, 1969:  Woodstock--the best party on the planet that weekend.... 50 years ago to the day

 

 

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Just saw a current interview with Santana where he states that he wasn't expecting to go on stage for at least 6 more hours so he accepted acid from Jerry Garcia and wound up hallucinating throughout the set.  He said that to explain his faces (like the above screen shot) - he said that he was trying his hardest to stop the guitar neck from slithering out of his hand, as it kept curving and moving.

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6 minutes ago, Steve R. said:

Just saw a current interview with Santana where he states that he wasn't expecting to go on stage for at least 6 more hours so he accepted acid from Jerry Garcia and wound up hallucinating throughout the set.  He said that to explain his faces (like the above screen shot) - he said that he was trying his hardest to stop the guitar neck from slithering out of his hand, as it kept curving and moving.

Hah.  Great story.  Having missed Santana at Woodstock, I did see them and Jefferson Airplane at a free concert at Central Park.  Don't recall if it was before or after Woodstock...but it was a surprise concert and it wasn't crazy packed.  ......and both groups were great.

Was listening to the above tape and wondering....where are all these people now...at least the one's who are alive?  What do they look like?  What are they doing? 

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