by Robert Wilkinson
By day three things were a gigantic mess. Every band was now starting way later than they were supposed to, music was going on all night and all day, there wasn’t enough food, and as you can imagine it was not very sanitary. And the extraordinarily magnificent music just got better.
It got so delayed that Jimi Hendrix, who closed the show, didn’t take the stage until 9 am Monday. Though most of us would not want to wander around in a muddy mess of hundreds of thousands of people for three days, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to wake up at dawn Sunday morning to the Who, which is quite a wakeup call! And they were followed by Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane pounding out their psychedelic set!
I found this in wiki while referencing the set list. “After the concert, Max Yasgur, who owned the site of the event, saw it as a victory of peace and love. He spoke of how nearly half a million people filled with possibilities of disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe spent the three days with music and peace on their minds. He states that ‘if we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future...’”
Between 1976 and 1982 I was a chief in a few outdoor shows that had between 100,000 and 150,000 people. It’s a sea of people when seen from the stage. Then imagine what being in the midst of 400,000 people is like! For a sense of perspective, that many people would pack the 55 acre Great Lawn in Central Park to the brim as well as all the surrounding areas along 6 NYC blocks!
Even 100,000 is an endless sea of humanity, and in a multi-day event tribes get formed organically as groups of people set up camp around or on the concert site. There are group camps, crossover camps, individual areas, pathways that spring up and then disappear when someone puts their group down in the middle of one, babies, guitars, fires, and a welcoming attitude along with every other tradition that humanity reverts to when they’re hanging together. And because only a few thousand could get close enough to hear the music back in those days before relay speaker stacks, all the spaces disappear the next morning and people crowd together to get as close to the stage as possible.
Woodstock was where the legendary clown and activist Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm collective saw that people had no food, and organized a food kitchen on the spot that served tens of thousands on a free or donation basis, along with setting up a free clinic for those who needed help. The event marked a watershed in showing that hundreds of thousands of people could come together for several days and there was no violence, no mayhem, no armed robberies, and the local towns around the site weren’t being looted and the citizens accosted.
Whatever else can be said about “hippies, yippies, beatniks, and other assorted freaks,” our generation held an ideal about peace, love, and understanding. And though history moved on, with Vietnam replaced by Central American death squads and Middle Eastern disasters, the ideals held by “the Woodstock generation” were far better for world peace, justice, and “right relations” than anything the system offered then or now.
To this day I believe in the ideals of Gandhi, Bayard Rustin, MLK, Gene Sharp, and the good hearts and minds of good human beings far more than those who spread hate and fear. The system sells us fear, and always has, whether of the hippies and yippies, the anti-war and anti-nuke protesters across the decades, Occupy, or Anonymous and its witting and unwitting agents, such as Assange, Snowden and Manning. The system keeps its power by spreading fear, then and now. And it’s a fact that we never had anything to fear from 400,000 coming together in the mud to celebrate some of the best music ever made!
We’ll begin with the Jefferson Airplane waking everyone up on Sunday!
We follow the set list of acts with the great Joe Cocker and the Grease Band beginning their set with the Ray Charles standard “Let’s Go Get Stoned” followed with his legendary 8 minute performance at Woodstock of “A Little Help From My Friends”
We’ll finish Joe’s set with an audio only performance of “I Shall Be Released”
And now, one of the loosest bands to come out of the Bay Area, the very psychedelic Country Joe and the Fish cranking out “Rock and Soul Music” followed by the very trippy psychedelic number “Love” (you will note that there is a general theme announcing each number by this band and a few others….)
And though he performed this solo on day 2, I figure it’s okay to post it again! Here’s Country Joe McDonald doing the extremely irreverent anti-war rag, “Fish Cheer and Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag”
Here’s the great Alvin Lee and Ten Years After blowing the doors down in their iconic performance of “I’m Going Home” There are no more clips of Ten Years After’s set at Woodstock except this audio-only performance of “Hey Joe”
We follow with one of the local bands in the Bethel area, the Band! Here they are performing “The Weight” and “Tears of Rage” We close their set with an audio-only performance by the Band of “Long Black Veil”
We follow the Band with Texas blues master Johnny Winter. His set began at midnight! Welcome to some amazing slide work! “Mama, Talk to Your Daughter”
Here’s Johnny’s entire 1 hour set! It’s audio-only, but definitely some smokin’ electric slide boogie blues!! Johnny Winter at Woodstock 1969
In television lingo, this segue would constitute whiplash programming! We follow the electrifying Johnny Winter set with Blood, Sweat, and Tears, fronted by Lew Soloff.
We now move into the moment when one of the greatest vocal bands in history introduced themselves at (they say) only their second public performance! Welcome to the birth of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young!
First, Steven Stills and Neil Young in an acoustic set of “Mr. Soul”
Here’s their entire set in two parts. It’s audio-only, but great! It may cut in and out, so when needed, let it buffer, and left click your mouse or move the slider a little to help it remember.
We follow CSN&Y with the great Paul Butterfield Blues band set that began at 6 am. Wake up!!
First, some very rocking video blues! We begin with 4 min 38 sec of “Everything’s Gonna be All Right”
And here's the full 9 minute audio only live recording of “Everything’s Gonna be All Right”
More whiplash programming, as we now hear the penultimate performers who followed Paul Butterfield and preceded Jimi Hendrix! I guess they were considered filler, since there’s no way that Sha Na Na is in the same class as the acts that bookended their act, as good as it was.
Here’s the video of Sha Na Na performing “At The Hop”
I also found a 12 minute audio-only set by Sha Na Na at Woodstock! Whether this is considered absurd or an echo of a different era is strictly in the ear of the beholder. “Teen Angel,” “Wipe Out,” “Book of Love,” “Duke of Earl,” and “At the Hop”
We’ll close the show as it ended Monday morning with the entire one hour set by the Guitar Master Himself! The Sun is rising through the clouds at 9 am, Jimi is with a new band, and tens of thousands saw the set of their life! I had the extreme good fortune to find the entire one hour video of Jimi’s set. It’s live, excellent footage and sound, and a fitting end to the show!
(Set list: “Message to Love,” “Fire,” “Izabella,” “Red House,” “Jam back at the House,” “Voodoo Child,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” “Woodstock Improvisation,” and “Villanova Junction.”) One note - it seems to get hung up from time to time. If it stops, let it buffer a few, and if it doesn’t resume, move the slider a few seconds down to jump start the video again.)
For the encore, a three-fer! First, Joni Mitchell in a very live 1970 television performance of her iconic ballad written to commemorate the event, “Woodstock”
Second, we’ll go to the studio version of the song memorializing the event as offered up by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on the Deva Vu album, “Woodstock”And now, live and rocking out at the 25th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 at Madison Square Garden, here are Crosby, Stills, and Nash in a great performance of “Woodstock”
Though it may seem that something’s been lost since August 1969, the spirit of the era lives within all who remember and lived that Spirit, or who aspire to discover and preserve that Spirit, or something like that Spirit, appropriate to the times. While we may not have the sheer quantity of musical quality and diversity that we did then, that music infused almost everything that’s memorable today. And Jimi still did the best version of the Star Spangled Banner that’s ever been done, complete with screaming “bombs bursting in air” that reminds us that war is over if we want it. Woodstock Nation Forever!
By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky,
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust.
Billion year old carbon.
We are golden.
Caught in the devil's bargain
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson