Whatever it was, it was pretty good from a distance Taking Stock

August 15, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

Everything I know about this Woodstock I learned from pay-per-view, which was fine because at least I wasn't standing in a muddy field with 200,000 people thinking: "Eleven bucks for a tiny cheese pizza isn't so bad. . . ."

In any event, what I learned from 20-some hours of intense viewing -- pay-per-view is like a trip to the salad bar, you want to get your money's worth -- is this:

* Bob Dylan still sounds like a refrigerator being dragged over linoleum. And what was that black get-up he was wearing? A 19th-century coroner's outfit?

* That "crowd-surfing" business looks like fun. I tried to imagine hippies crowd-surfing at the original Woodstock to someone like, oh, Ravi Shankar. Then again, you watch people crowd-surfing to countrified Melissa Etheridge and you think: What's wrong with this picture?

* The mosh pit looks like fun only if you enjoy being rear-ended by some fat, wild-eyed skinhead screaming: "Nine Inch Nails! Nine Inch Nails!"

* There are people who should never, under ANY circumstances, take their clothes off in front of others. If these people want to get naked, it should be in a hall closet. With the light out.

* I have never, ever seen so many people enjoy mud. My advice to you parents of teens and twentysomethings: Forget about buying the little dears cars or expensive graduation presents. Just soak down the back yard.

All in all, though, Woodstock '94 was fun to watch on the small screen, at least if you could get past the occasionally inane commentary, such as this gem by one of our ditzy hosts, Deborah: "It's rainy, it's soggy. But the Woodstock Nation is still standing!"

Dudes, this ain't the Woodstock Nation. When the Spin Doctors tried to talk about social relevance and shouted "Where we gonna go from here?" some in the youthful audience replied: "The Gap!"

You know what this is? The TGI Fridays Nation. A half-hour after leaving Winston Farms, these kids were probably firing up Buffalo wings and Coronas and dialing mom and dad on their cellular phones.

That aside, some of the stage performances delivered at this Woodstock will live forever, or at least until the movie comes out.

There was a killer set by the rappers Cypress Hill, whose lead singer repeatedly took massive hits off a joint the size of a billy club. (I need a nap after two Coors Lights; this guy smokes pure Jamaican weed for a half hour and runs around the stage like he's auditioning for a role in "A Chorus Line.")

There were Woodstock '69 vets Crosby, Stills and Nash, a little grayer maybe, a little heavier maybe, but also, well . . . did I mention they were grayer and heavier?

CSN has always had a reputation for harmonizing like angels in the studio while sounding in concert like three guys on helium. While their set was uneven, they brought the sweaty, mud-streaked masses to life with a hard-driving encore of "Woodstock" -- or as hard-driving as graying, heavyset rockers who don't sing very well can get.

Crosby, who still looks like the chunky sub on everyone's bowling team, was presented with a cake and candles on stage to celebrate his birthday. Pointedly (and this might be half his problem) he did not offer to share the cake with anyone in the crowd.

Yesterday brought a fresh round of downpours, mud-sliding and nudity to the pay-per-view audience -- and people wonder why I sprang for the full, two-day $49.95 price!

But it also brought inspired performances by the Spin Doctors and Porno for Pyros, an eclectic new band that plays a tasteful set in which such themes as bondage, lesbianism and sadomasochism are, um, discussed.

Inexplicably, the band also features a mime. Of course, the mime was incredibly annoying, as they all are, which explains why security personnel have been so diligent about searching concert-goers for weapons.

Old-timers like the Allman Brothers, still leading the league in tattoos per band member, and Traffic also had the crowd up and dancing, if you call that business in the mosh pit dancing.

Speaking of Traffic, lead singer Stevie Winwood has apparently been dabbling in cryogenics vis-a-vis the aging process, because the man still looks like he's 30 years old. Plus he has the same seamless voice that he's always had.

I hate him. No, I don't. Well, only a little.

But it's a good kind of hate.

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