Monday, July 30, 2007

By the Time We Got to Woodstock…

…I realized the movie was almost four hours long.

We rented Woodstock from Netflix this weekend, and watched the first DVD of it. I’ve been meaning to watch it for a while now, since I’ve never seen it, and every now and then it puts an act that shows up at Fest into context. Richie Havens was terrific a few years ago, but I knew watching him that much of the audience was seeing him through the lens of this movie, and his fiery performance of “Freedom,” supposedly an improvisation. Havens was called out for so many encores that he ran out of songs to sing, so he started playing guitar and singing “freedom,” and the band went with it, producing one of the most indelible moments of the festival. When he stands up, we see his back covered in sweat, and suddenly realize the heat on that summer day, and are doubly impressed by his energy. My other favorite concert moment in the first half is Joe Cocker’s performance of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Cocker’s passionate growling of the song still amazes, despite John Belushi’s famous lampooning of his performing style.

There are some great interviews in the first part, too. I really liked the conversation with the two teenagers riding up to the show in the hopes of getting in. Not a couple, but they’re part of a “what you’d call a communal – or what someone else would call a communal” thing back home. “We ball,” says the boy. What a great verb.

I was also struck by how the crowd reacted to the rain halting the concert for a while. There seemed to be two main activities: mudslides, and gathering around and making their won music, chanting and singing that goes on and on and on. Which is pretty much what happens on rainy days at Fest. Human nature doesn’t change much, which is a comforting thought (for an optimist, anyhow).

I’ll probably have more once we see part two.


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