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Woodstock is Overrrated!!

Written By: Joe Lamere



The hype is overwhelming me. I can’t take it anymore! Woodstock turns forty and demands a huge celebration from music fans everywhere. I will never deny Woodstock’s importance as a HISTORICAL event. However, it is NOT an important musical event. Now, before I incur the wrath of the peace and love generation (I can almost hear it now…”You had to be there to understand it man!”), let us be clear-headed and analyze this great mud fest on purely musical terms.  I am stating my case that Woodstock’s three days of peace, love and music contained exactly one (yes, only one) truly transcendent musical performance, along with two which were very good, while most of the other  performances would be considered great only by those who partook in the infamous brown acid that was going around. The Grateful Dead considered their performance one of the worst of their careers, and that’s saying a lot as any Deadhead tape trader of shows from 1985 will tell you.
Whose musical performances were good? Well, that’s an easy one. Santana was a young band whose fusion of rock and Latin rhythms was a new, innovative sound. This band was young, hungry and on fire at Woodstock. Just listen to Soul Sacrifice from the soundtrack. The much underrated Ten Years After, led by guitarist Alvin Lee hit their stride at Woodstock, with their incendiary I’m Going Home a highlight of the festival. Santana and Ten Years After came to play and rocked the crowd.

What about Crosby, Stills & Nash? Great studio performers, but their brilliant harmonies did not translate well to the stage. In fact, many of the folk-rock acts at Woodstock just did not translate well to a huge outdoor concert atmosphere. I’m talking about Joan Baez, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, and Arlo Guthrie. This is not a knock on any of these artists, they are all talented, but maybe better suited to an audience of about one-tenth of the number who attended Woodstock. Of course, we all know no one was expecting such a huge influx of people to Yasgur’s farm in upstate NY forty years ago. There were some average performances by Sly & the Family Stone and the Butterfield Blues Band. Jefferson Airplane was not at their best, and who thought Sha-Na-Na would be a good addition to the bill?

This brings us to the guitar god. Jimi Hendrix. Well,.let me tell you, Jimi’s version of the Star-Spangled Banner/Purple Haze was a memorable moment. It was the perfect ending for Woodstock. But have you listened to the rest of Jimi’s Woodstock performance? Sloppy, uninspired, recycled blues and funk jams that are only a brief glimmer of Jimi’s 1967-1968 brilliance. Jimi could still play rings around any guitarist at the time, but what a leaden performance. Just compare it to his amazing Monterey set.

I will never deny the great historical importance of Woodstock (and I could write a large tome explaining it), but as a purely musical event Woodstock is extremely overrated.  Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle and mad man Moon’s performance stole the show. Whostock anyone?