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- Posted on Aug 16th 2009 3:05PM by Liz Colville
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was honored on its 40th birthday with a celebration on the hallowed ground of the original: Bethel, NY. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened soon after the original four-day bash, and the organization held a weekend-long celebration that included a Saturday night concert showcasing new and seasoned acts.
There were about 15,000 in attendance including Michael Lang, a Woodstock founder, as well as Sam Yasgur, son of Max Yasgur, whose farm was on the land loaned out for the original festival. Lang told the press he thinks the 40th anniversary is so important "because of what's going on in the world and the country. Because of Obama being in the White House, the similarities in the times and the wars, it's resonating pretty strongly for people."
Richie Havens opened the weekend as he did 40 years ago, whereas last night saw an opener by 15-year-old Conrad Oberg of Florida, a self-taught, visually impaired virtuoso who played Jimi Hendrix's rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' along with 'Purple Haze.' Other performers included Canned Heat and Big Brother and the Holding Company, who gave Janis Joplin a string of hits.
Another repeat performer was Country Joe McDonald, who gave the night a political bent when he asked the crowd for a moment of silence and read off the names of Sullivan County servicemen killed in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Before his performance, which included 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag,' he said, "I don't think war will ever be seen the same way again, as a result of, perhaps, the Vietnam generation and the Woodstock generation."
Levon Helm of the Band closed the night, remarking to reporters that his band's performance in 1969 was "just another gig. This many years later, it's an event-it's a historic event. I'm happy to get to play."