Location, location, location.
I had it made in the summer of '94. Rumor had it that the 25th anniversary of Woodstock was going to take place in the small, suburban town of Saugerties, N.Y. That just so happened to be where I spent a few formative years, which included senior year of high school. The concert, as it turns out, was practically right behind my high school, on a sprawling farm across the New York State Thruway.
It was also just a few miles from my parents' house. When I returned home Sunday night, Flea's heavy bass lines were rattling the kitchen windows. My parents seemed OK with the concert. It meant that I was coming home for a few days (I was living outside of Boston at the time), even though they didn't see much of me.
I was a journalist at the time, and was commissioned by Relix magazine to do a feature story. I was also writing daily entries for the MetroWest News, a suburban paper based in Framingham, Mass. I shunned press credentials. I chose to cover the event as a concert-goer, even buying my own ticket. I thought the perception from a tent would make for better copy than sitting in an air-conditioned press tent with a bunch of "journalists" who thought they knew music.
I attended the concert with one of my best friends, Paul Brink. We had known each other since we were 5. Marriages and a move had pushed us apart, so three days watching and listening to live music was a perfect reunion.
These are the 10 things I remember most about Woodstock '94:
We were not prepared food-wise, and prices were ridiculous. Paul made fun of me for bringing in a box of Pop Tarts ('Smores, no less). They may have been gross, but to me, they tasted like caviar. Hunger will do that to you.
9. "I Got Your Story"
Those were welcome words from my editor. After standing in line for about an hour to use the pay phone, I had to use couplers to send the story from my laptop, on deadline. With 20 people behind me in line, several tries would have created a riot (remember, this was '94 -- no cell phones, no wireless).
8. Melissa Etheridge
I really didn't know her music at the time, but I sure took notice. Her tribute to Janis Joplin on Saturday afternoon was superb. I thought Janis had come back from the dead -- it was that close. Since then, I've bought all her records. She made a fan of me with one terrific set.
7. Sunday Rave-Gospel Transition
You thought you'd get some sleep, huh? When Aerosmith finished its set early Sunday morning, several raves started up, lasting until 5 or 6 in the morning. So, I'm trying to sleep with the "thump, thump" of house music, finally nodding off, only to be awakened by black gospel singers. The music never stopped.
6. Sun Comes Out For CSN
It had been raining pretty much all day on Saturday but the sun came out at the precise moment Crosby, Stills and Nash took the stage. Their set was uneven and rough, but the glimmer of the sun after hours of rain lifted spirits. The Mud People celebrated by forming their own circle and dancing to "Deja Vu" and "Southern Cross."
5. The Calm of Friday afternoon
When Paul and I arrived on Friday afternoon, the crowd was light. People were trickling in and you could actually feel the breeze and hear leaves rustling. The madness and mud was a good 20 hours away as we quietly set up our tent in a good spot on a hill in front of the north stage. Matinee sets by James, Live and Blues Traveler were excellent.
We secured a position right in front of the stage as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and the band came out around midnight in the driving, pouring rain, playing until 2 in the morning. They delivered a scorching set, oblivious to the conditions. I was surprised no one was electrocuted.
3. Green Day
This was the crazy point of the weekend. I had never heard of Green Day. Paul and I walked over to the south stage to see Paul Rodgers, but the sets were running late. After securing a good spot in front of the stage, this punk band comes out and is blurting expletives at the crowd. People began picking up big clumps of mud and grass, throwing it at the band. A mud fight ensued and at one point I looked up toward the sky and all you could see were big thatches of mud soaring across the sky, like dozens of helicopters. It was nuts.
2. Surging Crowd
It wasn't for everyone, but it was kind of cool to be part of 350,000 people, moving in waves to get around. There was no simple walking from one place to another. You had to calculate where you were going and join the line. There were open spots here and there, but major arteries were clogged. This is where "go with the flow" must have originated.
1. Taking a Shower
Arriving home late Sunday afternoon, I kicked off my muddy sneakers and took what may have been the best shower I've experienced. Three days of mud down the drain, the smell of fresh shampoo in my hair, the soft feel of Irish Spring. Man, did that feel good.