We can hear the cries now, “Don’t take the brown antacid!”
Michael Lang, an organizer of the original 1969 Woodstock music festival, wants to mount a 40th anniversary concert in New York City, and reportedly is eyeing Central Park. He’s determined the show will be free and is seeking $10 million in sponsorship – maybe he can get Viagra, Geritol and Depends to support the lineup of wrinkled rockers.
All kidding aside, a reunion of some of the top, still-breathing acts could be a treat, if done right – just don’t call it Woodstock
Woodstock, which really wasn’t held in Woodstock, was three days of “peace and music” coated in an acid haze and the mud bath that was Max Yasgur’s Bethel, N.Y. farm. The 30th anniversary show was a musical tribute to crass commercialization that ended in fire, rioting and pillaging, showing the folly of trying to capitalize on the Woodstock name.
Lang is reportedly talking with such 1969 Woodstock veterans as The Who (reduced to “The Two”), the living members of The Dead, Santana, Joe Cocker, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who headlined the 1999 debacle, also could make the bill.
While some 400,000 fans packed the original event, Central Park concerts these days are rare, relatively small, controlled, made-for-TV affairs. Last year’s Bon Jovi concert, part of the All-Star game promotion, was limited to 60,000 fans -- a healthy crowd, but a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who spilled out of the park at the 1981 Simon and Garfunkel reunion show, perhaps the last pot-reeking gasp of the 1960s music festival spirit.
A sign of how New York has changed is that the biggest worry in Central Park isn’t muggers but whether too many feet stomping in time to the music will hurt the Great Lawn – a flower power issue of another sort.
The original Woodstock captured a moment in time – a moment probably not even well remembered at this point by many of those who were there. Luckily, it’s on film: an expanded four-hour version of the “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music” movie is set to be released for the anniversary.
So if the reunion concert comes off, and you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, enjoy. Some of those old guys can still rock. But it won’t be another Woodstock, because there can’t be another Woodstock. Check out the movie sometime for an idea what a long, strange trip it really was.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.