Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock At Forty

So this weekend's supposedly the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival or something. The movie's getting saturation airplay on basic cable, the radio's playing all 60s music, and for some reason, Paul McCartney's playing a concert in Atlanta's Piedmont Park today (the latter may be totally unrelated - the Beatles didn't play at Woodstock - but the concert promoters are letting that little nuance slip by).

I was 15 years old in 1969 and on Woodstock weekend, I had just come back from an epic cross-country camping trip (you may recall that I experienced the Apollo moon landing while throwing up in a Louisiana bayou). At 15, I was old enough to want to go to Woodstock, but young enough to listen to my parents when they told me I couldn't. No one was sure if the concert was going to break into a riot in protest over Vietnam or some such thing, or if it was going to be a Haight-Ashbury, Summer-of-Love orgy of sex and drugs and rock n roll. Either way, my folks decided I wasn't going to be part of it. Had I been just a couple years older, my hope that it would turn out to be the latter would have been stronger than my sense of parental obedience, but in any case, in 1969, this 15-year-old didn't go.

Instead, I went to the movies, alone, and watched "Monterey Pop" for a surrogate Woodstock experience. Granted, not quite the same thing, but the movie did feature Woodstock performers Canned Heat, Country Joe, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and, to my great anticipation, Jimi Hendrix. I already had a couple of Hendrix albums, but in those pre-MTV days, I had not yet seen him perform, either live or on tape. I didn't know what I was in for. Hendrix climaxed the Monterey Pop movie, just as he did the Woodstock Festival, by literally setting his guitar on fire at the end of his set.

What that 15-year-old boy couldn't have comprehended, sitting alone in the dark with his box of popcorn, was how much he would still appreciate Hendrix 40 years later. R.I.P., Jimi.


GreenSmile said...

I just got back from a road trip with my younger son. we drove through Chattanooga [hey I spelled it right!] and Vegas. Chattanooga was at the end of 14 hours of driving so we didn't look around much.
The clubs on the old part of the strip are fighting the draw of all the fake art+architecture of the new strip by turning Fremont street into a pedestrian mall covered by a two block long video/arched roof and putting thrust stages into the covered space. They were doing a Woodstock anniversary theme at the clubs on that street. Creedance Clrearewater Revival did NOT appear at Woodstock according to my fading memory. CCR and the Jimi Hendrix experience were present as tribute bands dueling from two of those stages. The CCR guys sounded right but the Hendrix impersonator only looked right. I'd rather have heard SRV recordings if I want an accurate tribute. I had the luck to have seen both bands in their late 60s heyday...or, only get to be 60 years old one way. so wishing I was young again is kind of a crock.

GreenSmile said...

really, why end up pining for your youth twice?