News

Yes, I was THERE!

By Josh Feit August 14, 2009

havens

Richie Havens at Woodstock.

nickbike

Nick Licata. Still at Woodstock?

Over on his Facebooks page, Seattle City Council Member, Nick Licata reminisces about Woodstock:
40 years ago today, after sleeping outdoors on the side of a dirt road, I woke up to see an endless stream of college age kids slowly walking down it, with a single file of  cars swallowed in their throngs. Most had left home with little more than a $20 bill, $4 short of what was needed to gain three day admittance to a big outdoor concert somewhere in the rolling hills of New York State. As far as bringing food, that was an afterthought for 90% of them, including our group of 5 who had driven 500 miles in some old Chevy 4 door sedan. We brought a watermelon.

But we were lucky, being “reporters” from the BG News (from Bowling Green State University); we had secured a press pass to actually park within 100 yards of a stage that was still being constructed. It was nestled at the bottom of this huge semi-circular bowl of a meadow. From the upper ridge of it, I could see that stage was flanked by two towers of the biggest outdoor speakers I had ever seen. Construction workers, kids our age in jeans, were frantically putting up a fence that stretched from either side of it. The fence looked fragile and lost in the sea of bodies that were pouring over the ridge and descending down the vast grassy slope from all directions. It was as if Moses had freed his people from the boredom of Ohio and such places and led them to the doorsteps of a promised land of endless music and entertainment.

The fence was reaching out during the day, but not as fast as the crowd surrounding it. I sat there wondering how in the world this fence was going to encircle this ever expanding population, which eventually reached a half a million. It didn’t. Some anonymous voice boomed cheerfully over the sound system hours before the concert began – “It’s now a free concert!” Oh yeah, as if they had a choice.

And as Richie Havens, one of the my favorite folk singers who had never reached the prominence I thought he should have, opened the concert strumming his guitar practically alone on this huge stage, and sang the playful tune, “With a Little Help from my Friends”, I thought, hey this is what it is all about: having friends, making friends, bring them together to enjoy and celebrate life. And so it began. Reality was unfolding and folding into the future before our kaleidoscope eyes.

The books and movies, the magazine articles and academic reflections came later. But for those three days at Woodstock in the summer of ’69, we could do anything, and many of us still believe we can.
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