Talkin' 'bout my generation
Rock of ages draws fans to New York
BY GLENN GAMBOA Beacon Journal pop music writer
Dave Benn is going to Woodstock.
The Kenmore art teacher is painting a mural commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair on a 1969 Volkswagen bus and plans to drive it to central New York.
Not this weekend, though.
More than 200,000 concertgoers will descend on Griffiss Park, a former air force base in Rome, N.Y., starting Friday for Woodstock '99, a three-day festival which organizers say celebrates the landmark 1969 gathering that helped define a generation.
Benn will not be one of them, however. His bus, which features the likenesses of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia and other luminaries of the '60s, will not be there among the suburban minivans and stylish SUVs.
It wouldn't seem right.
``Woodstock came at an important time in my life,'' said Benn, who was unable to attend the original concert. ``It was about becoming at peace with yourself. It taught us, `Don't be so concerned as to what other people think.' It made you want to find yourself and become yourself. I think a lot of that is forgotten.''
Starting Friday, some of the hottest acts in music will perform at Woodstock '99. Hard rockers like Metallica, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock will join rappers like DMX, Ice Cube and Wyclef Jean and tunesmiths like Elvis Costello, Jewel and the Dave Matthews Band.
``This year's festival will capture all the spirit and excitement that made the two previous Woodstock festivals the defining events of their generations,'' said co-producer John Scher of the Metropolitan Entertainment Group in a statement announcing the show.
Many, however, say that seems to be overstating the festival's importance.
``As someone from that generation, I just wish they would let it be, that they would let it go,'' said Robert Santelli, director of education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. ``The name Woodstock is sacred in pop culture. It's from another time and deserves to be left alone in history.''
This weekend's festival bears no connection to the spirit of the groundbreaking gathering other than the name, said Santelli.
``I'm glad they're putting together a rock festival,'' he said. ``I think they should have more of them. It gives kids, in particular, a chance to see a wide variety of bands at one time and that's good. I just wish they would call it something else -- anything else.''
Jenny Stevens of Canton agrees.
Tonight, the 20-year-old will head to Woodstock '99 with her 22-year-old cousin, Heather Green, of North Canton.
``I don't know why they really call it Woodstock,'' said Stevens. ``Why can't we have something of our own? You know what I mean? My parents had the real Woodstock. Why can't we have something of our own that makes history?''
A healthy paycheck
The main reason seems to be marketing.
Woodstock organizers are counting on a lot of baby boomers to relive the magic of 30 years ago or be part of an event that they somehow missed. Throw in the younger fans of bands like Dave Matthews Band and Metallica who want to attend a cool music festival and that could add up to a pretty big weekend paycheck.
Don't even think of reliving the gate-crashing incident of 30 years earlier because the festival has lined up former police chiefs from New York City and Dade County, Fla., to handle security.
Tickets are $150 apiece -- that's $30 million in the bank before anyone even arrives.
Those people have to eat and drink for three days.
They have to have someplace to stay.
They need souvenirs.
They can even sign up for the very special Woodstock Platinum MasterCard to pay for them.
Woodstock '99 is filled with sponsorships -- Ace Hardware, for example, will have a store on site to fill camping gear needs. Nature's Kitchen Chicken Burguettes will be the ``official burguette of Woodstock '99.'' Microsoft's Window Media Technologies will be needed to download music from the concert on the Internet.
Even those who don't attend can take part in the money-spending by watching the Woodstock '99 Pay-Per-View -- for $29.95 per day or $59.95 for all three days.
After the show, there is the inevitable CD compilation and maybe even another home video release.
The Woodstock name will generate a lot of cash -- even though few people expect this year's version to live up to the original.
That isn't lost on a lot of area concertgoers.
``Woodstock in '69 was all about spontaneity and having a good time -- and this one will be too,'' said Green. ``Sure, there is a lot of money and sponsors involved now and that is kind of disheartening. I wish it could be more about a good time and a party than about bringing in ticket sales. But either way it's going to be excellent.''
Green said people she has talked to about the concert believe that this year's version will move away from the 1994 version, which was criticized for its celebration of consumerism.
``On the whole, I think people are trying to gain back the feel of '69,'' she said. ``I think that was missing in '94.''
Enjoy the party
Regardless of the consumerism vibe, Green and Stevens say they plan to make the most of their trip.
Even though Woodstock '99 may not generate the same strong political and cultural statements of the original, it will still generate memories for those in attendance.
``I don't think there will ever be another Woodstock '69,'' said Green. ``Those things happen once in a lifetime. But I hope this one will be monumental. In my life, it will be -- whether Korn or Crosby, Stills and Nash plays.''
Stevens said she plans to accept the concert for what it is.
``It's not so much about peace,'' she said. ``It's about liking the music and people getting together for a huge party.''
Benn said he will drive the Volkswagen bus to Woodstock on Aug. 13 for the actual 30th anniversary of the event and, hopefully, a huge party of his own -- a lower-key celebration filled with '60s music and memories of the original gathering.
He hopes that he will meet a lot of younger people at that celebration.
``When we drive this van around these days, it's the kids that give us the peace sign,'' he said. ``It's the older folks who say, `Get out of here.' Kids think the van is pretty neat. That shows the spirit is still out there.''More stories and coverage
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