Woodstock. Just the word probably conjures up images in your mind, for better or worse. I was 12 years old in 1969. It was the middle of August, and my family and I were coming home from a 2-week vacation at a resort for cops and their families in the Catskill Mountains. It was the year of the moon landing (don't bother with your goofy conspiracy theories), but the most significant thing going on in my life at that time was the miracle season of the Mets. After a lackluster couple of weeks, it was obvious to all of the adults that after a promising start to their season, there was now no way the Mets were ever going to catch the Chicago Cubs. But with all of the hope and belief my 12-year-old heart could muster, I knew the Mets would come back. So as we slowly crept our way back down the barely moving New York Thruway, I hardly noticed the hordes of mud-encrusted, tied-dyed young people overcrowding the rest stops. My parents, a fairly conservative couple from Queens, had a few choice comments about them, most of them having to do with filth and body odor, but I was too busy dreaming about Seaver, Koosman and company playing in the World Series to give them more than a passing thought.
It was only a year or so later, after my best friend had turned my on to the magic of Tommy and The Who, that Woodstock began to mean something to me. I wasn't allowed to see the film, of course -- it was rated R due to foul language and lots of footage of stoned, nude hippies -- but I could sure as hell listen to the album. And what an album it was! Crosby, Stills & Nash and "Suite Judy Blue Eyes", Santana and "Soul Sacrifice", my new idols The Who, and some guy named Jimi playing a version of "The Star Spangled Banner" that I could barely wrap my head around. Wow! The thought of camping out under the stars, listening to one great musical act after another for a whole weekend, was just about the most romantic notion I could think of. Maybe it still is.
Flash forward to the present. Because Denise, the kids and I travel upstate a lot to visit with family, the last couple of years, I've been trying unsuccessfully to plan a stop at The Woodstock Museum. Somehow, every time we tried it, though, we got lost. One time we even ended up in Delaware. (If you ask me how, I've got three letters for you -- G - P - S. They're temperamental devices. And it doesn't help that besides the big one in Bethel Woods, there's actually some other dipshit little Woodstock museum up there in Woodstock itself, just to confuse things). So I'd pretty much given up on ever finding the place.
Now let me talk about Garbage a little. The band, I mean. Garbage is one of my favorite bands of the '90s, and they're another one of these bands I've been trying to see for years. But somehow it never worked out. Then this past March, I learned that not only was Garbage going on tour this year, they were touring with one of my favorite bands of all time, Blondie! Great! Unfortunately, when I checked the schedule, not only was the tour not coming to Long Island, its only date in the NY metro area was in the city on a weeknight. These days, for various reasons (not the least of which is the LIRR's self-described "summer of hell"), I'm just not much into traveling into Manhattan. And if I was going to contemplate it, it wouldn't be on a weeknight. I can sleep fairly late most days, but Denise has to get up very early for work. So it looked like once again, Garbage and I were going to pass like two trains in the night.
Then a week or so later, I checked the tour's full schedule, and lo and behold! (God, I love that expression. I have no idea why.) The so-called "Rage and Rapture" Tour was playing a Saturday night show in Bethel Woods, the site of The Woodstock Museum. It was like the heavens opened up.
Now, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong for us in trying to make this show. Traffic getting out of the City area is a genuine pain in the ass this time of year, and we put together a complex plan to shoot up to Kingston and have our kids picked up by their uncle, after which Denise I had to shoot back down to Liberty to check in at our motel and still find the ever-elusive grounds on Bethel Woods by showtime. This was further complicated by the fact that Denise was out late on Friday night seeing Queen at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn (her assessment -- great show, lousy venue), so we couldn't leave too early Saturday morning. I was also a little concerned about the weather -- Bethel Woods is an outdoor venue, so it would have sucked big time to get up there only to see the concert get rained out.
Nevertheless, somehow it all came together. We made all of our connections, morning rain turned to a sunny afternoon and a beautiful, clear evening, and after shelling out for a shuttle bus to take us from Monticello Casino and Raceway to Bethel Woods (because the grounds are huge, and the walk from the Bethel Woods parking lot is a marathon), we found ourselves an hour or so before showtime on the same grounds where the Woodstock Festival was once held.
In some ways, I'm a little out of place there. I'm a long way from being a hippy, and I'm too cynical to forget that in the middle of all of the "peace, hope and love", a lot of these people were "liberating" (i.e., robbing) the food stands, etc. I don't believe in many of the ideals of the so-called Woodstock nation -- in fact, my personal favorite Woodstock memory is when Pete Townshend drop-kicked Abbie Hoffman's stoned Yippie ass halfway back to Manhattan. But the one ideal I do believe in is the music. Music is magic. It makes this world tolerable. So even for me, this was sacred ground. And let me tell you, the grounds there are breathtakingly beautiful, and the Pavilion is a great place to see a show.
A few things to know about the Pavilion itself: 1. The stage and seated area is all under an overhang, so I needn't have worried about rain -- our seats were well under cover. And, 2. It's actually set up a little like the Brookhaven Amphitheater, except on a larger scale (it can hold 15,000 people). What I mean is, you enter the gates where they take your tickets (next to the museum), then you walk downhill, down a slightly winding path, to reach the area where the seats and stage are. And, like the Brookhaven Amphitheater, there are reserved seats, but behind them, on the hillside, you can buy general admission tickets and sit on the lawn (or, they also have lawn chairs available to rent). As you go down the hill (and unfortunately, back up the damned thing after the show, when the last thing you want to do is walk), there are various merchant tents selling Woodstock stuff, merch for the bands, and food and drink.
So that's the prelude. See yourself there. You're in the seats next to us safe and comfy under the overhang, the night is beautiful and cool, the stage (with a big video screen on either side) sits in front of you. The canned music stops, the crowd let's out a cheer, the lights come up, and ... that's it for Part 1 of my post. Tomorrow (hopefully) I'll tell you about the show itself. But here's a hint: It was good.