Sunday, September 14, 2014


Here is another post that has nothing to do with taxes that I originally wrote for another publication, but apparently was not accepted.

I finally got myself back to the garden – to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the site of the iconic 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, that is.

I have been living in northeast Pennsylvania for two years now, and had visited the area just about every summer for decades before the move, but had not yet been to the Bethel Woods Center, about 30or so miles from my new home in Hawley located just off Route 17B between Fosterdale and Monticello NY, whose 15,000 seat outdoor amphitheater opened in 2006 and museum opened in 2008.

The Museum at Bethel Woods is an immersive and captivating multi-media experience that combines film and interactive displays, text panels and artifacts to tell the story of Woodstock and the Sixties.  It is open April thru December, including most holidays.  From May 1 to September 1 the hours are 10 AM to 7 PM, 7 days a week.   From September 2 – October 13 the hours are 10 AM to 5 PM, also 7 days a week.   

I chose as my introduction to the Center the (David) Crosby, (Stephen) Stills, and (Graham) Nash concert held on Saturday evening, July 5th – specifically because CSN, and Y (for Neil Young), had appeared at Woodstock almost 45 years earlier at the beginning of their collaboration. 

I was in the area, spending summer vacation at “Dellwood Acres” in Beach Lake, during the original festival – but was only 15 and too young to attend.  I do remember seeing overhead shots of the crowds in the Sunday News.

My family had driven to Lake Huntington NY, less than ten miles from Yasgur’s farm, where my mother grew up, and we stopped at a local general store.  The proprietor told my father he had nothing to sell him because the “hippies” had bought everything in the store.

I saw Crosby, Stills and Nash in concert twice before in the 1970s.  The first time was at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJ on the night Richard Nixon resigned as President.  One of the three announced to the audience that he had just been told of Nixon’s resignation and the band immediately went into “Ohio” (“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming”).

The second time was in the gymnasium at Georgetown University.  I was visiting a friend from high school who was attending the University.  The tickets were for Crosby and Nash, but after a few numbers surprise guest Stephen Stills joined David and Graham onstage for the rest of the concert.

A word of advice to anyone planning to attend a concert at Bethel Woods – pay the additional $25.00 for premium parking!

I had joined the Bethel Woods Center as a member, and assumed that I could park in the Members Parking Lot.  However when I arrived that evening I discovered that this lot was only for those of higher-level memberships, so I had to park in the grass in one of the free lots located behind the premium, and paved, lots.  While there was staff on hand to guide the free parkers on the way in, there were none on the way out. I was glad to have been able to find my car easily when it was over, but it was an hour before I finally got back on Route 17B.

It was a long walk from the parking lot to the Pavilion, especially for someone of my girth, but the route was well marked and there were frequent rest stops, souvenir shops, and expensive concession stands along the way.  While there were “traditional” rest rooms, I also noticed a bank of “Port-O-Sans” along the way – a hat tip to the 1969 festival.

As I queued up for the Mens’ Room during the 20-minute intermission I noticed staff members “guarding” the surrounding grounds to make sure nobody decided to avoid the long lines and seek relief among the trees.

The guys opened with “Carry On/Questions”, ended the first Act with “Déjà Vu”, and their encore was “Teach Your Children”.  They also gave us during the course of the 2½ hour concert “Marrakesh Express”, “Our House”, “Just a Song Before I Go”, “Southern Cross”, “For What It’s Worth” (“There's a man with a gun over there”), and “Love the One You’re With.

If I am 60 they are at least in their late 60s – and have aged well.  Time has not diminished their musical skills – with Stephen Stills still nimble on the electric guitar.  Although their harmonies were not quite as melodious, they did hold up well.

The politics of the group has not changed.  Stephen Stills reminded the audience that this is an election year and emphasized the importance of getting out there to vote so that we can "empty the clown car".  And Graham Nash dedicated “Military Madness” to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and all of the other prominent players in the Iraq War.

Conspicuously, and surprisingly, missing from the evening’s set list was “Wooden Ships”, which they performed at the original Festival and was featured in the documentary movie, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (also song at Woodstock), “Ohio”, and, most surprising of all, despite frequent calls for it from the audience, “Woodstock”.  I had expected them to either open with this classic number or use it as their encore.  

Each member had a “solo” segment in the second Act, which featured some new, at least to me, material.  There were also a few new numbers performed as a group.  While the new numbers were good, I personally would have preferred more of their “oldies”.

I was also surprised that the group did not discuss, or even acknowledge, their previous appearance at this location 45 years ago.  The only reference to the original Woodstock festival came from Graham Nash, who early on suggested, "If we try very hard, maybe we can stop this rain!!"

While I left somewhat disappointed at the omissions and angered at the “exit strategy”, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the show, and was glad that I finally made it “back to the garden”.


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