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Woodsuck: Crummy festivals I attended in the late '60s and early '70s 

Wednesday, Sep 16 2009

They say that if you remember Woodstock, you weren't there. That's bullshit. I remember it perfectly, and I was there. That's why I don't need all this nostalgic crap they're trying to unload on everybody in honor of the celebration's four-decade anniversary. I'm not reading Elliot Tiber's Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life. I'm not seeing the newly released Ang Lee movie based on the book. I'm not listening to the Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm CD box set, and I'm sure as shit not going to West Fest, a Woodstock-themed party featuring music and political speakers being held on Oct. 25 in Golden Gate Park.

In fact, I don't really understand what all the hubbub was about in the first place. Woodstock really wasn't that special. It was actually kind of boring. Nowadays I just think of it as one of the many less-than-memorable concerts and snooze-festivals I experienced in that era.

Monterey Pop Festival, June 1967, Monterey, California. Came for the Beach Boys, who never played, and split after some Indian dude performed for, like, eight straight hours on a stringed gourd. Immediately left California to spend the summer in Detroit searching for love and cheap drugs. Didn't find that so much as arson and race riots, but whatevs.

Woodstock Festival, August 1969, Bethel, New York. Bought tickets in advance and got annoyed waiting around for Sha Na Na to come on. (The set kept getting pushed back either because of the monsoonlike rain or because its members couldn't decide which gold lamé suits to wear; I never found out.) Helped load some preggo chick into a helicopter and fell asleep while the Who played from its masturbatory-sounding new rock opera. When Sha Na Na finally came on Monday morning, it only played for like half an hour. Split immediately afterward; not sure who closed the event.

Altamont Speedway Free Festival, December 1969, Altamont Speedway, California. Came for the Grateful Dead, who never played, but made friends with a hairy fat dude in a leather jacket who was supposed to be helping with security. He gave me free beer backstage, and we missed Santana and the Flying Burrito Brothers while helping his buddies saw the tips off pool cues and fashion weapons out of motorcycle chains. Good times. Split after the Rolling Stones got distracted during "Sympathy for the Devil." Heard hullabaloo ensued.

Powder Ridge Rock Festival, July and August 1970, Middlefield, Connecticut. The squares and the pigs said it was canceled, but tens of thousands of folks, including myself, showed up ready to rock. Nobody ended up playing except Melanie (you know, "The Roller Skate Song"), but as I'd missed some highlights of Monterey, Woodstock, and Altamont, I stuck around until the end. A Black Panther and I took turns dunking each other in the barrels of "electric water." Easily the best fest of the era, in my humble opinion.

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Ben Westhoff


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