Something old, something new come together

August 15, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Saugerties, N.Y.--I am standing in a field in the rain in a garbage bag. I am a grown man standing in the rain, wearing for cover one of the outsized baggies they're giving away here. It's the only thing they're giving away at this Woodstock.

I look like a Raisinet.

I am still getting wet. That is because it is raining so hard people are starting to line up two by two.

Why, you ask, don't people go indoors?

There is no indoors.

This is Woodstock, people: a festival of peace and music and mud.

There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, maybe hundreds of millions here waiting for the music to resume and maybe to get to see a real, live musician electrocuted. Cool.

Next to me is a woman of middle years. Her name is Jan. She is also sporting the latest garbage wear.

"I'm getting too old for this," I say.

"I was too old for this when I was young," she responds.

Just at that moment -- this is true -- a Neil Young song blares from the sound system. "Old man, take a look at yourself . . ."

I do, just briefly.

We are waiting for the Band. (Footnote here: A young person walks by and asks who's playing next. Jan says, "The Band." The young person says, "Which band?" Jan sighs.)

Because it is raining, certain young women feel the need to climb on the shoulders of certain young men and free themselves of bourgeois morality. Also of their clothes.

Then, as they said in the '70s, they shake their booty.

Here's how you know you're old. You see these naked young women and you're thinking, "God, I hope their parents aren't watching this on pay-per-view."

At the original Woodstock, the nudity was seen as a back-to-the-Garden experience. It also helped movie sales. This time, it's more like flaunting. I keep expecting Morganna to show up.

If I haven't mentioned it before, it's raining. But few people seem to mind. That's because almost everyone else is apparently either 20 or, uh, heavily medicated. Or both.

I see grass, I see acid. I see Budweiser, I see vodka. I see pills of unknown description passed around. It is exactly like college.

People are high, they are wet and many are sliding in the mud.

Guess you had to be there.

There isn't one Woodstock, by the way. There's the Eco-Village. There's the surreal field with its high-tech toys. And there are two stages. The north stage is the big stage with the bigger acts and the bigger crowd. It's crowded there, and a little mean. Imagine squeezing Don Fehr and Richard Ravitch into a phone booth and you get an idea.

People keep knocking down fences to get close enough to actually see the stage, and the Orwellian-inspired Peace Patrol keeps putting the fences back up. Anarchy is a good word for what's going on.

One guy who's camping out gets trampled for the hundredth time by the never-ending parade. "They say to keep peaceful," he says. "I'm trying, man."

Joe Cocker opens the Saturday show there, and most of the kids know only that he's older than their parents. The one song they get is "A Little Help From My Friends," and there's a vague sense that somebody else sang it first.

Blind Melon follows Cocker. The lead singer wears a Gandhi-like outfit. He sings a little like Gandhi, too. Later, Cypress Hill would lead the middle-class, almost-all-white crowd in what could be politely called an "anti-pig" chant. By then, I am already at the south stage waiting for the Band, which is more my kind of music.

The south stage is a mellower place. I squeeze into a spot about 50 feet from the stage, next to Jan and her husband. We're about ready to look for dry land when the Band finally begins to play.

Just as they do, the medical people carry out a kid having convulsions. They would be carrying kids out all weekend.

Then comes the music. It's the Band, with lots of guests. Bruce Hornsby and Roger McGuinn. Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman. Hot Tuna. It gets hot. The rain stops. And they do everything from "The Weight" to "Hand Jive" to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." It's why I came.

After about an hour (they do about two), I almost feel like 19 again.

By the time they finish -- "Any day now, any day now, I shall be released" -- I feel like I need a nap.

When Cocker ends his set, he says he'll be back for the next reunion in 2019. Hope he sends a postcard.

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