This week we’ve been talking about music festivals. And we can’t talk about music festivals without bringing up the most famous of them…Woodstock. Woodstock is the model that all others have been inspired from. Today, we talk to someone who was at the original Woodstock and someone who was at the 1994, 25th anniversary, Woodstock. Read about the experiences of both…how they compared…IF they compared. Were at either of the Woodstock festivals? Please share your experience in the comments. We’d love to hear about them.
We’re talking this week about music festivals. They have become plentiful over the years, but obviously not new. I understand you’ve been to a couple of pretty well-known festivals including the AC Pop Festival and then Woodstock only two weeks later. First, I’d love to hear about your experience at the AC Pop Festival? How old were you at the time?
“I was 18. I had just moved out of my parents house. I remember very little of Atlantic City Pop Festival. Some guy had been walking around, when we first got there, with a big duffel bag full of pills. Little, tiny white pills with purple stuff stripped on them and goes “here” and handed us a handful. I’m like “oh, ok”. I took one, my friend took one and nothing happened. There was a blues band on and I’m saying, “[this] is not happening”. So, I took another one. And about 5 hours later….I don’t remember anything. I was so out of my mind that my friend just set me down and leaned me against a wall. I had a long, hippie skirt on. I guess I sat there cross-legged and people would come by and drop money. When I became aware, I had a quite a bit of cash.”
Maybe I’ll do that later on!
“It isn’t the same spirit, unfortunately. It wasn’t as gritty as Woodstock. Woodstock was pretty gritty. We spent the entire time in the mud at Woodstock.”
Were you there for the full festival at Woodstock?
“We got there Friday night with my friend. We parked….oh my God…here we are talking about Woodstock, I’m in my car watching a Krishna guy walking. I haven’t seen a Krishna guy in forever. I can’t believe this, this is so weird. (Laughter). Anyway, we drove up Friday night in my friends little yellow Mustang and it took us forever to get there. We finally just parked the car, miles away. We were probably 10 miles away. We walked and were getting closer and closer and heard the end of Joan Baez as we walked up toward the gate. It being a free concert, yada, yada, yada, we figured we’d just camp there. She brought her boyfriend, I brought my boyfriend and we had another guy with us. I had a little tent that we pitched. We woke in the morning, it was sort of rainy, to somebody beating on the tent screaming “Get off my lawn!” It was this old lady dressed in black with an umbrella. She was going around beating on everyone’s tents and throwing people out. Apparently there was a house about 30 yards from where we were but we didn’t see it. We just thought it was open land. That was my introduction to Woodstock.
We never really made it past the amphitheater. The stage was down at the bottom of the bowl and then it went up the hill. But over the hill was where all the water was and the hog farm…never saw it…never knew it was there. We were there and sort of carved a spot out for ourselves on the ground…put our bags down and stuff. My friend fell in the mud and insisted on going back to the car for her other clothes. I don’t know why we didn’t bring them. We didn’t plan that well in those days. So we had to walk back to the car. There was no food anywhere that we could find. We didn’t come prepared with food because who knew? On the way back to the car we found a little store on the main road that was selling hot dogs, so we got hot dogs and some water. We went to the car and then back to the festival. So we walked quite a bit. We got back close to the festival and there was no food anywhere. The store we had gotten the hot dogs from had nothing left, they were cleaned out. There was a rental truck there giving out unmarked packages of pop tarts. They had not been marketed yet. And they were back in the day where you HAD to cook them. They were raw pop tarts. We didn’t even really know what they were. That’s what we had to eat for two days. I don’t recall eating anything else. To this day, I’ve never been able to bite into a pop tart. Just the smell makes me gag.
The music part was fun.”
Beings that you weren’t inside the amphitheater, were you still able to hear the musical acts?
“Oh yeah. As we were walking around we could hear the music. Where we were, we eventually settled in the afternoon, where the ground came up and the hill started to go up…we were at the bottom of that hill. At the end of the flattish ground. I saw a lot of great music. What I remember most was somebody passing around some drug du jour. I don’t remember what it was…something psychedelic. So we ate it. I was really blasted. It was some kind of acid or something. I had to go to the bathroom really bad and the port-o-potties were at the top of the hill. So I was like “ok, here I go”. It was night. I didn’t even think of the fact that I probably wouldn’t find my friends again. So I walked up to the top of the hill, just as I get there, Sly and the Family Stone was on and had started playing “I Gotta Take you Higher”. As soon as they started playing that, I fell into this sinkhole up to my knees around the port-o-potties. I’m going “oh my God, I can’t get higher than this”. I did end up using the port-o-potty and finding my friends again. I don’t know how. The luck of the psychedelically messed up?
The next and last thing I truly remember was Jimi Hendrix. I remember standing there and was trying to find the sleeping bag I had but it was so buried under piles of mud and muck and garbage, I couldn’t even find it. I just remember looking back, I was right at the front of the stage for Hendrix cause there weren’t that many people left by then, and he played to the sun coming up on Monday morning. It was the most incredibly, awesome, most amazing feeling. It’s so historic. While you were there, they had the helicopters flying above and dropping flowers.”
They dropped flowers?
“As I recall. Everybody was getting all freaked out that the army was coming in to kill us or something. (Laughter). They ended up dropping flowers as I recall. Of course they’d make the announcements not to eat the yellow acid, the pills. I could never do it [Woodstock] today. I’ve never been willing to go into a crowd that big again. I couldn’t imagine it. But it was a lot of fun.”
Back to Jimi Hendrix….he had been pretty well-known at that point?
“Oh yeah. I had seen him several times before at the Electric Factory (the original at 22nd and Arch). I remember standing in front of him and he was so drunk and kind of angry. Spitting the whole time he was singing. He just was really angry. I felt this really bad vibe from him. But the music was so incredible. Then you find out later why he was angry. All the bullshit that people pulled on him, all the crap that he had to endure. But he was magical. At Woodstock, [where he played the “Star Spangled Banner”]…I hate that song so much.”
“It’s such a war mongering song. I would much rather hear “America the Beautiful” be our national anthem.”
So that wasn’t a highlight for you, I guess? Him playing that at Woodstock?
“I didn’t feel that way then [about the “Star Spangled Banner”] like I do now. My feeling about that song wasn’t that deeply held at that point. When he played it, you were just mesmerized. It was so incredible and such a fitting end. It all just gelled. And looking at the movie, seeing all crap that went on back stage. All the hassles they had to deal with. But outside it was just a really incredible experience. There’s always so much crap that goes on backstage. It’s good that people don’t know it exists.”
I’ve heard that before from other people who work behind the scenes. It seems to jade them.
“I was just telling this story the other day, about Ted Nugent. Back in the day, he wasn’t this obvious nut job the way he is now. You didn’t know all the crap he was about. I was backstage at a concert in Portland, Oregon. I was working for a music magazine and was backstage interviewing people. I was watching this scene go down where his roadies were going around in the crowd pulling these little girls, like these little baby groupies. Nugent had pointed out a couple and they pulled them and brought them back. They were all like 12 or 13 years old. I found out he was notorious for that. I went ballistic! I threw all the girls out and sent them back into the crowd. I said “You know what!? I should call the frigging cops on you! But I can’t prove anything, but I’m not gonna let it get to the point where I can prove anything. But I’m gonna put the word out.” He’s a total pig. There’s all kinds of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. It’s like knowing how they do magic tricks. You just don’t wanna know how they do the magic.”
So, why do you think Woodstock was such an important staple in our history?
“I think it’s because it was such an anarchic event. It happened. There was no hype about it. It just happened. It was pure anarchy at it’s best. All these people came together. Yes, there were some deaths; some guy got run over by a tractor or something like that. But really there was very little violence (except for that old lady). I never saw a fight there and in the most awful conditions where people would [normally] be freaking out. There was a spirit of togetherness . Whatever we had, we shared. It was like a commune on a mega scale. I have to say, looking back on it, that it was pure. I mean it was muddy, dirty and sticky, but the feeling you took away from it…it was like a moment of purity that doesn’t exist now.”
Why do you think that is?
“It showed people that it could happen. It had to happen organically. It couldn’t be constructed. The second Woodstock….I couldn’t even imagine. There was so much corrupt that went on there. Everybody tried so hard to recreate something that was organic. You can’t recreate organic things like that, ya know? It was just a special time. I don’t think I’m any special person because I was there (Woodstock). People think I’m an insane person because I’ve done all this stuff (laughter). I still carry a lot of the hope that Woodstock engendered. It engendered a lot of hope in me that I haven’t given up. I keep on hoping for the best.”
It sounds like the original Woodstock didn’t have a whole lot of advance planning involved, where the Woodstock in ’94 was definitely an orchestrated event. How far in advance did you know about Woodstock ’69?
“It’s a little fuzzy…back then. I’ve done a lot of shit. I just remember my friend saying “Do you want to go to Woodstock?” And I said “What’s that?” She just said “C’mon, let’s go”. I don’t remember how we heard about it. She might remember. She’s able to piece together parts and remember and try to get a whole fabric. Good memory.”
I was tempted to go to Woodstock ’94 because I had always wished I could’ve gone to the original, (that wasn’t possible, of course). But I couldn’t have handled the crowd, not to mention I remember the tickets being expensive. It wound up being a scorcher if memory serves with all kinds of problems too.
“I remember people fighting all over the place. A lot of injuries. That just didn’t happen.”
So do still attend any music festivals?
“I do. Like, the 104.5 birthday party. I go with my daughter quite a bit. I mean, I WAS in the music business for all those years after that (Woodstock). From 1969/70 till 1990.”
What did you do?
“Everything except perform. I worked for attorneys. I ran a record store. Managed bands, did PR, marketing. I did pretty much everything you could do except be a roadie and perform cause I’m not a musician. But everything else…music magazines…I published them, wrote articles for them.”
That’s pretty cool! Clearly music has played a pretty important role in your life. What festivals would you recommend?
“Besides the 104.5 birthday party?…I’ve been going to that forever, since they started them I’ve been taking my daughter. I went to the ones in the winter when it’s snowing…I’m a nut job…but it was fun. Now you can never get tickets, because now you NEED tickets. It’s just taken out that sort of fun, organic kind of thing. It’s a whole big production.
The one I really recommend is the WXPN festival. It’s a great one. I don’t know if they still do it in the park along the waterfront in Camden. The last one I went to was a while ago. It was Patti Smith. It was awesome. I haven’t gone for a while because I always have something to do that weekend, which is a shame. It’s a fun festival. It’s pretty low-key.”
What’s your take away of being a part of something so poignant like Woodstock?
“There was so much at Woodstock (’69), having seen the movie and talked to other friends that had been there, that I didn’t see. Like the whole hog farm, Wavy Gravy, all that. I did experience that on the east coast when I lived in Oregon. But I didn’t see them at Woodstock, which I would’ve liked to been part of that. What I participated in was a good time. It meant a lot to me. It still does. I’m glad I was there to do it.”
You attended Woodstock ’94, the 25th anniversary of the original festival. Who did you go with and how did you travel to and from the show?
“I went with 5 of my friends. We packed into a little jeep with barely any luggage. Basically, I went with a windbreaker on my back. A Marlboro windbreaker that I won for smoking a lot of cigarettes. (Laughter) I wore that the whole weekend which was perfect because it rained most of the time. It worked out.
We were watching on TV the first day. I was 19 years old, pretty much everybody was around that age. We took the trip on a whim. We stopped at each persons house, grabbed some money and whatever we had and took off. I remember driving up there and when we got into New York, it was insane. I’d never seen anything like the highway or freeway or whatever. It was just all hippies! I felt like I was in Woodstock (original). It was jam-packed and hard to get to the actual show. We didn’t have tickets by the way. I meant to tell you that. But we got in the same way people got in in ’69…people crashed the gates. We didn’t, but the gates were already down. The only way we were able to get to the gates was to get on the side of this little road that took you to Woodstock. We pulled over on the side of the highway because we were on there for hours and hours. Finally, we see this chain and a lock on a fence. Something told us to pull over and we saw all these other cars that were driving the same way. We got out, got the chain, lifted it over the thing and popped it and opened a lane off of the highway for everybody. We started a trend. Everybody followed us. Once we got off of that road and got through that fence to the side road, we were in. There were people from the area that had parking permits that were allowed to be in that area. You couldn’t get up to the actual farm unless you had an actual parking permit. People were charging $5 a head, $25 a carload, whatever it was, to drive people back and forth. People were profiting. I remember there was a little old lady we called Momma Jennie, we pulled up on her lawn and she let us park there for $25 for the whole weekend. She just walked around with a little wobble, her hands behind her back and a fistful of cash. Very cool, calm and collected. Super nice lady. Never forget her. We jumped in the back of one of the guys pick ups and gave him like $10 for all 5 of is and he took us all the way up. Where they dropped us off at was like “Shakedown Street”. Basically, people selling everything, people walking around with kegs of beer. It was something like I’d never seen. I’d been to Grateful Dead shows, but this was a little different. It was surreal. When we got there, Blind Melon was playing. We just walked over the fence. There weren’t even people telling you that you couldn’t go in. Once you were at that point, you were in. The cops couldn’t do anything. There were too many people. And once we were in, it was insane. There were so many people! We didn’t have tents. The bathrooms were miles apart, it seemed like. We wound up meeting up with people that would let us into their tents to pee in bottled jugs because there were like no bathrooms. And when you got to the bathroom, it was all mud. It was nasty. It was probably the most disgusting thing but back then you didn’t care. You’re there, you’re just in it. I didn’t do the mudslides or anything, but I did have to walk through the mud.”
What attracted you to the festival?
“We were deadheads. At 19, I had already been to a couple of Grateful Dead shows and I was hooked. I was addicted to the concert life. They were showing it live on MTV. I remember us watching it, the hype of it, and we were just like, let’s do this, let’s just go. My buddy had a jeep and was willing to drive. We went for the music, for the experience. It was Woodstock! It was something that we can say that we did.”
Any crazy stories?
“My friend, and I’m not proud of what we did back then, sold a bunch of beat acid to survive. He brought it down, had it perforated, sprayed it with starch and sold it. Within minutes, we had hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Not one person would’ve ever known it was fake because they were already tripping it seemed like, as were we. We brought our own. The fact that we were on that, made everything so insane.
There was a lot of worrying, anxiety. There were times we lost each other. We had no destination point and there were so many people. My one friend found one person that he knew out of everyone. Like finding a needle in a haystack.
I was right up front for Cypress Hill. Weeks later, maybe even a year, there was a video of the live show and I saw myself in the pit when Cypress Hill was on. Just like 2 seconds of me in the mosh pit. I had real long hair back then and I was easy to spot.”
How familiar were you with the original Woodstock?
“I knew of it, obviously. I’ve been a classic rock fan since I was a kid. I grew up with the Beatles and the Grateful Dead in my household. My mom was a hippie at heart. Smoked pot. Never had any kind of rules. There was a lot of good and a lot of bad with that but that was the kind of hippie lifestyle I grew up in. I was attracted to it.”
Had you imagined it would be like the original festival? And do you think it was?
“I think it was in a lot of ways. I don’t think it could ever really be like the real one. I knew of it and that it would be something like that. A lot of things that happened there (the original), happened at the one I went to, like the gate crashing, it became a free concert, people walking around naked. Things you just don’t see at a regular concert you saw there. It was just…anything goes. It was just a modernized version of it. They had another one in ’99 that I wasn’t at that had all the fires and all. I’m glad I wasn’t at that.”
Was it an older crowd? Younger? Do you think there were many people who attended the first that were there for ’94 as well?
“It was totally mixed. There were people there with babies. Older people that HAD to be at the ’69 Woodstock. It was such a mixture of people but I’d have to say it was probably more middle age to older. You saw everything. Every walk of life.”
Who was your favorite band that played?
“Oh gosh. I don’t even remember a lot of them. I remember Cypress Hill was insane. We were leaving as Metallica was going on. They were the last or close to the last ones to go on. We got to see a little bit of it. We wanted to leave at that point. Blind Melon as we were walking in. These are the ones I can remember. There were so many other bands that played that I don’t remember because I was in such a fog, a haze. Being on acid, being scared at some points, anxiety. The one I most enjoyed that I can remember…Cypress Hill.”
Do you think they can duplicate it again?
“Well they tried to in ’99 and apparently it wasn’t as big of a success because of the fires and people getting hurt. But, sure they can do it again and probably will. All up to the promoters. Things are different these days, but I think you can get away with it.”
Would you go again if they had another one?
“That’s a good question because I’m a lot different than I was back then. I would love to do it if it was done right. I wouldn’t just go on a whim like I did back then. Who knows…if the time came, and I just got so psyched up and somebody said “let’s do it” and I had my chance, I just might.”