OT ... Where were you during Woodstock?

It was the summer of my HS graduation. I lived about 150 miles north of Woodstock in NY state. This very conservative small town raised person was soon to be off to college on ultra liberal Long Island. My music tastes were generally in a different direction than those who attended Woodstock. Ever hear of Ultimate Spinach, or Beacon Street Union? Vivaldi? The likes of the Moody Blues became my mainstream rock sound in the 70’s. I liked the early Beatles, but got turned off when they descended deep into the drug culture. I got so sick of hearing about how wonderful Woodstock was by those who attended in my dorm at college and the sickly sweet smell of pot wafting in every corridor of most dorms. I was happy to be witness to a huge drug bust raid, as from the top of the physics building I viewed cop cars sweep in to try to save the computer center from anti-war trashers (they busted every large window but did not otherwise get in).

Though I had a very low draft lottery number (76), as long as I got good grades in college I had a deferment to keep me out of the steamy swamps in VN. When graduation came near in 1973, I had to think of something else, so I signed up for Air Force OTS so I would not be drafted as an enlisted grunt. Turned out, had I dragged my heels, the war and draft ended at about that same time and I could have skated. I had one brother as a former B-52 pilot (then a civilian airline and hot air balloon pilot), and another brother as a logistics officer, but with my sights set on engineering and physics I never thought I would follow them in any way. So that is what I did and was trained as a navigator where I remained active for several years before finishing my 20 years in the reserves as an engineer at the same time as holding an engineering civilian job in different directorates at the AF research lab at Griffiss AFB, where I eventually also also retired from.

When the Rome NY mayor (Joe Griffo, now a state senator) brought Woodstock 1999 to the Griffiss AFB runway (an alternate Space Shuttle landing strip), most of us veterans there were mortified at the lack of respect shown to that former important high profile cold war military base. The AF research lab were I worked was still there, although the runway and flight operations were previously closed down by BRACC. Some of us made our way through the flight line hanger to enter the WS grounds on the runway, only to see the devastation, filth, and disrespect of the grounds where the party goers were occupying. I had spend years on nuclear alert on the very ground and buildings they were trashing. It did not end well, with fires set in tractor trailers containing their own crappy gear, and an investigation later. I have never forgiven Mr. Griffo for the extreme disrespect he brought to our community.


I was there ! Just 2 weeks before heading off to college, 3 of us were out making the Friday night rounds in nearby Putnam County, as the drinking age in NY was 18 back then. As the end of the night came, we told ourselves we would regret it if we did not at least make an attempt to go. We got together at 6AM the next morning and proceeded to hitchhike, since word was it would be impossible to get close driving. What would have taken less than 2 hours by car took us nearly 7 hours thumbing our way there. The last 10 miles on 17B, from Monticello Race Track to the festival grounds in Bethel, was bumper to bumper. We climbed onto the hoods and trunks of moving cars and walked when traffic stopped. We were there only 27 hours, but managed to get a birds eye view of everything on Sunday, when we climbed a light tower, less than 50 yards from the stage. And, when after Joe Cocker’s set and the sky turned ugly, we were captured on record and film when told to come down from our perch. And, here we are as we were climbing down that tower.


I’ve been skeptical about the attempts since 1969 to “re-create” Woodstock. It was a once-in-history organic and spontaneous convergence of shared values and hopeful intentions within a transitional generation. The organizers put in tremendous work to set the stage but it was the remarkable communal mindset of the young people who attended and artists who performed as well as the self-sacrificial decisions that those organizers made in allowing the crowd to turn it into a “free” no-limits event that created that successful, non-violent gathering.


And then there were many hundreds of Grateful Dead shows after that that did the same thing.

We always bought extra tickets to give away for people that “Needed a Miracle.”


With due respect to the Dead, a one night (or day) show is not the same as a nearly weeklong event that took millions to organize. The Woodstock crew took a massive bath on the concert, even though there were so many who pitched in to keep everybody fed and safe.

The truth is we never heard of Woodstock before Woodstock. Working for a company that did work for NASA and the Apollo program we were consumed with the moon landing.
I watched the first steps in the back room of an Italian restaurant in Virginia Beach.
My GF was in town and we were watching at home but it ran so late we were starved and went looking for food. The restaurant had closed but they invited us in to eat and watch TV with the staff.
Good town and good people… I can’t believe that was 50 years ago… :astonished:

Agree completely. Entirely beyond their control, but that wasn’t the Dead’s finest hour. But they sure kept the spirit alive for a long long time after. Watkins Glen was much better for them. (Allman Bros are well worth seeing, too.)
Sure do regret missing Santana, Hendrix, CSNY, Johnny Winter, and The Band though.
Wish we could have heard about it earlier - this work stuff sure could get in the way. Its just too easy to work, sleep, work, maybe paddle a little, and fall out of touch. But one does what one has to to buy a miracle or two. And I sure have no regrets about Newport Folk, either.

Even came close to missing the moon landing - no TV in the cabin we were crashing in. At the last minute we got invited to see it at a coworker’s parent’s place. (A guy named Harold Savage… now who with the name Savage would name their kid Harold? He was such a Harry Savage…)

I will say that the closest I have gotten to the music and communal vibe of that late 60’s era in recent years has been the Summer outdoor concerts by the Tedeschi Trucks Band at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) in upstate NY (where my brother lives) and weekend music festivals at Hartwood Acres north of my own digs in Pittsburgh, a similiar stage set in a tree-encircled grassy bowl. Such events are only for a few hours, but the relaxed congeniality, quality of music and sylvan settings are a refreshing escape and a reminder of younger and more hopeful days. But the pandemic even robs us of those experiences.

The Dead frequently plays 3 nights in a row. Traveling to a show makes it possible to see all three nights. They famously play Madison Square Garden for 4 nights in a row. That is one of the things they have always had in common with Woodstock. Dead Heads I dare say, have carried on the traditions of Woodstock and elevated them to the next level. DHs are experienced concert goers, they have a lot of love and respect for the band and each other. It is like running off to join the circus, and it has endured for 50 years. Not just a one time event that people like to romanticize.

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Sorry, but I don’t agree with you on Deadheads. Maybe where you live the experiences with them has been positive but that has NOT been mine.

Their “loyalty” and “love and respect” are strictly for their cult of the Dead themselves, not for music itself and for any other concert-goers outside their clique. I have attended numerous concerts where the DH’s collectively ignored, shouted over, even jeered at, other artists who were not part of the GD inner circle and ruined the event for others by treating the venue like their personal retro-hippie wannabe playground.

I learned to avoid any concert where one of the performers had any connection to the Dead or their offshoots or sponsored artists because I learned that rude DH crowd would be attracted to it and destroy the concert.

For instance, I am a huge fan of Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn and try to hear him any time he comes to my city. I’d enjoyed several concerts of his until he came through booked with “Bob and Rob” of the Dead. It was an open air “festival seating” format and the DH’s camped out to surge through the gate as soon as it opened to claim the entire front of the open area, where they set up their dance party. It was bad enough that they whooped, blew bubbles, tossed each other in the air, even played instruments and drums over the efforts by the two local warm-up bands to perform, so that those of us not part of the DH clan could neither hear nor see what was going on beyond them on the stage. But when Cockburn came on (he shared top billing with “B & R”) he was doing a solo and mostly acoustic set rather than with his rocking back up band. The DH mob was so disruptive and disrespectful to him, carrying on as if THEY were the featured act and obliterating his sound, even throwing junk onto the stage (if they acknowledged his presence at all) that he stopped several songs and asked them and then the concert promoters to get the crowd settled down, to minimal effect. After 3 such interruptions, with Cockburn getting visibly angrier, and the rest of us in the majority crowd who was being blocked from enjoying the concert starting to challenge the DH’s hogging the field to back off, Cockburn rushed through his remaining play list with his back to the audience, removed his guitar and walked off stage exactly at the end of his contractually mandated 45 minute set without any attempt to receive our applause or do any encores – could hardly blame him (I’d been at his concerts where he chatted freely with the audience, invited some on stage and gave us 30 or more extra minutes of encores, so he isn’t typically a prima donna). Incidentally, the DH mob did not even pause their revelry to applaud when he left the stage. I was furiously clapping and cheering and just outraged to see them in front of me oblivious to his presence and departure. By the time Bob & Rob took the stage the DH’s were an even more visibly drunk and stoned chanting mob of frenzied tie-dye and flags, stacked double on each others shoulders and oblivious to the rest of us. I split before their first song ended (not that the self-indulgent rambling riffs of Dead songs ever really end, just peter out), as did about half the remaining crowd outside the DH bubble.

This scene was repeated at subsequent concerts I attempted to enjoy afterwards. I had been an early fan of Rusted Root (all Dead Heads themselves) when they were a long time Pittsburgh local bar band as I was dating one of their friends and used to hang out with them socially. But once they were picked up by Page & Plant on their tour in 1993, and then were introduced to and mentored nationally by the Dead themselves, I only was able to tolerate seeing RR perform once after that because the DH’s glommed onto them and brought that inconsiderate disruptive chaos to any venue they played. It wasn’t until they toured with Santana (who may be more diligent about having their promoters disable such crowd shenanigans) that I was able to enjoy the music again. I don’t pay $60 to $100 to watch faux hippies cavort.

The original Dead Heads may have been about the music and I seem to recall in the 70’s they at least respected the performers when they were on stage. But for the current crop of mostly younger adherents (with a smattering of grey ponytails) it seems to be more about having an excuse to make their own spectacle rather than honoring the artists.

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I have really been enjoying this thread and since it turned to the Dead and their following I have bitten my tongue. I don’t want to see this turn into a B & B type thing but feel that expressing my feelings on the matter should be taken no differently than a “Stretch VS Trim” or “Skeg VS Rudder” discussion.

I’m going to say this out loud…“I have never appreciated the Dead at any point in my life”. There. I’ve finally admitted it. Their music and musicianship has never resonated with me. My experiences with DH’s mirrors willowleaf’s and has never once been enjoyable.

Now that I have unburdened my soul and relinquished whatever points that may have remained on my cool card I will sum it up by saying that I prefer skegs over rudders, I trim rather than stretch and would rather have a root canal than listen to another Dead tune.

Please don’t hate me.


Well, audiences certainly have changed from 1969 till now, and I don’t think for the better. I think its what willowleaf was alluding to at the end of one of her previous posts (#25?). I haven’t been to a live Dead show since 89, and darned few since then, but from what I’ve seen of the audiences at live metal or punk or rap or country - most other large venue shows, I’ll still take the Dead Head crowd, unruly as they undeniably are, over most others. I don’t like crowds to begin with, and there are jerks in any crowd. But there are more Dead Heads picking up trash on the way out than after any other large music shows I’ve ever seen. (Which isn’t a real high bar…)

Musically, every one of their shows was different. That’s part of the attraction - its not like listening to a record. As a result some have always been better than others. There’s something of a jazz performance in them, they’re improvisational. They’ve done, and I’ve seen, some tours and performed with other really good performers; Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby. Not so many other bands in our age have even tried that. I believe that’s a good idea for all involved. BTW, John Mayer is no slouch either.
And the recordings they’ve done with the likes of Dave Grisman, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice are noteworthy. There’s real talent and brilliance there. Granted, Garcia’s singing will never be mistaken for Sinatra’s, but they put out a serious body of good original work and their covers always honored the original artists.

I, too would have been offended if Bruce Cockburn was disrespected by an audience at a show I attended. (When I was quite young and going on family fishing trips to Canada I always tried to stop and pick up Cockburn albums in Canada, as I couldn’t find them where I lived. And any musician who has paddled with Bill Mason is in a class all his own in my book.)
Same with Tedeschi/ Trucks. They are really really good, no doubt about it. They shouldn’t be dissed.

Dead aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, never have been. That’s OK, of course. To each his/her own. But they are, at least to me and I doubt I’m alone in this, emblematic of the Woodstock era. There’s the memories of old friends, the good and bad times, and community in that sound they make. They sound like a road trip in friendlier times to me. The Woodstock generation…

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It is not written that people should like the Grateful Dead. I was just making the comparison between the vibe at Woodstock and the Band. The Dead was around before Woodstock, first as Jerry’s bluegrass band, then the Warlocks and the GD doing electric kool aid acid tests when LSD was legal before Woodstock. They are still playing to sold out venues 50 years after Woodstock. They have always allowed people to tape and record their shows for free, even providing a special “taper’s section.” No other band comes close to duplicating the original hippie vibe.

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I’ll confess a personal bias about live music – I prefer it tight and well rehearsed rather than meandering and TOO improvisational. This may be partially due to having had too many long term boyfriends who were in working jazz or rock bands (and being briefly in one myself) which means I got to hear plenty of improv and rando experimenting in my everyday life and didn’t care to pay big bucks to hear a lot of random experimentation at a concert.

I will give the Dead mad props for overall cultural influence and some effective extended solos and improv at live concerts I was at. But I was often bored by too much of what felt like self-indulgent “noodling” that trailed off so long and so disjointedly that it was like listening to the atonal clamor of a pre-symphony orchestral tune-up and I found myself wondering if the musicians were actually aware of each other at all and when the piece had actually concluded. Maybe if I had ingested the right hallucinogens during such performances it might have been more engaging.

The GD acolytes, Rusted Root and the offshoot bands from that clan, have succumbed a bit to that habit as well and I have walked out of some of their local performances when the a’cappella chanting or overextended guitar feedback droning became mind-numbingly monotonous.

Only Jimi and Carlos could ever keep my attention rapt through really extended solo improv (and both had mastered knowing exactly when to quit and invite the rest of the band back for a killer finish.) Maybe I’ll add Butch to that list based on the last couple of Tedeschi-Trucks gigs I caught…

I did not make it to Woodstock from the West Coast, but I a tired of hearing about it by now.
You do not hurt my feelings if you don’t get the Dead, but they are the closest thing there is to that concert in New York a long time ago.
Until about 1995, Burning Man had some positive vibrations that reminded me of the 1970s. Then it became driven by the internet and urbanites from the Bay Area. I stopped going in 1999. My brother and my cousin only recently out grew it in the last couple of years.
Most other experiences I have had that have flirted with those early years and the sense of community and “Brotherhood” have been fleeting and come from surprising places like bluegrass festivals and playing volleyball with Rastas in Jamaica. Far Out My Brothers.

I played French Horn and grew to expect musicians to play notes that made sense within the composition. Improvisation was fine with me as long as everyone was connected enough, or on the same drug, to understand that the world didn’t revolve around their personal trajectory. A twenty-minute drum solo for me soured after 5 minutes. Still does. Seemingly mindless meandering on any instrument for any length of time sends off warning lights in my mind. Put me in a situation where I am surrounded by a group of individuals who are grooving to that type of expression without concern for folks who aren’t is a situation that I have found that I do not fit in.

Canoes VS Kayaks. Skegs VS rudders. Trim VS stretch. Improvisation VS “tight and well rehearsed rather than meandering and TOO improvisational” is personal preference and we are all correct in our choices. Our friend willowleaf may or may not have an opinion of skegs VS rudders and others may or may not have opinions on the Grateful Dead but we are all on this trip together and I love each and everyone of our opinions formed by our journeys.

Thank you all for sharing them here.


Most people that really don’t like the GD usually know little about them.

The Band is the greatest improvisational band in history with an enormous set list. They have influences from nearly every kind of American music, especially blue grass, jazz, rock, blues and folk. Phil is classically trained. Mickey has played world beat with drummers around the world. It is just too much for some people. We don’t go to hear the greatest hits, we go three nights in a row to hear something new.

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Southeast Asia

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Was working at a camp in North Jersey, had the weekend off, so 2 of us drove up, but couldn’t even get close due to clogged roads and parked cars. Only had 2 days off, so we decided to turn back. Still regret that decision to this day.

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Mid 90s I did a performing arts concert hall remodel and addition. The precenium theater opened before the symphony hall. On symphony opening night Santana was playing the other hall. They both share a common lobby. Strange mix of tie die and tux night. The good thing was that acoustics were good and neither concert could be heard from the wrong side.