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Woodstock ’94 Concert Opening

March 31st, 2019 · 8 Comments · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Woodstock


While I was stopped behind the stage carefully taking notes on the human traffic flows, I heard the promoter John Scher start talking from the stage. “Holy smoke! It must be 10:00!” I realized. “Sounds like he’s opening the show!”

In the press kit they gave us at the Friar Tuck I noticed a sheet on Native Americans they’d scheduled for the Opening Ceremonies, and knowing they’d be the most direct spiritual masters of the weekend, I was in the crowd before Scher could finish his sentence.

The front of the field was surprisingly open, so I sashayed right up to the stage. These amazing gurus in their full peacock feathered regalia were chanting and dancing and blessing up a storm. And there was Michael Lang on the side of the stage in his fringed leather jacket, grinning his cherubic, beatific grin. I kept wondering: If the guy’s such a capitalist prick as so many bitchers complain, what’s with the full hour of Indian tribes opening his Woodstock II? Even if he “sold out” to Pepsi, he didn’t have to invite all these spiritualists and give them their own tepee field for the weekend . . . and then stand on the stage and watch them in crossed-hand reverence. If they would have appeared for five minutes it would have been a perfunctory gesture. But he had them on stage for an hour with their various blessings, speeches and prayers in different languages, eliciting that singular tranquility only felt in the presence of true spiritual masters no matter the faith. It hushed the crowd. For an hour this supposedly heathen generation of moshers paid attention to a tribal overture about listening to your heart and how we’re all a part of our future. It may have been the last time they were quiet until about next Tuesday, but they were quiet now.

And a wide variety of blessers it was too, including that pop art pillar Peter Max who said, “We’ve come here in the name of peace and music. The whole world is watching, as it did 25 years ago. Let us conduct ourselves with peace and love, and let it shine all over the world.”

Even after the recent wide-spread yuppie epidemic, with its Beavis and Butthead after-effects, we proved that a half-million nineties kids could still find their way to a designated location and stand on their hind legs in unison. And maybe it was even more than that. But it was these ancient Americans who were putting a voice to it before it even happened.

Chief Jake Swamp was the Grand Poh-Bah of the whole shebang. He introduced a gorgeous singer named Joanne Shenandoah who looked like a goddess in a white flowing gown, while all around her were sage burners, flag wavers and drum players celebrating her arrival. They created with voice and music a transcendental sense of oneness, of all of us being part of a single body. We were hypnotized into a silent unity by a harmony and a beat. And it’s pretty much stayed that way through Gabriel on Sunday.


From my new book Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstockavailable here.



You can order any of the prior Beat Trilogy books direct from the author and get them colorfully signed, or you can order them here —

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

How The Beats Begat The Pranksters, & Other Adventure Tales

On The Road with Cassadys & Furthur Visions


by Brian Hassett  —   —

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michelle Esrick // Mar 31, 2019 at 9:48 AM

    Right on!! and Wavy Gravy will be there MC’ing again this August! He embodies all of it! I’ll be there filming him. Hope we can find each other. It would be great to see you after all these years!! Give Peace a Chance. Give Woodstock 50 a chance.

  • 2 Brian // Mar 31, 2019 at 10:23 AM

    Michelle — When I was interviewing Wavy for a recent Beats / Pranksters book, I told him our Kerouac show past, and he didn’t know anything about that mutual history, and was quite tickled to learn it.

  • 3 Marthalee Aykroyd // Mar 31, 2019 at 12:57 PM

    I’m trying really hard to get to the farm this year and meeting the ‘family’. ‘Been talking and reading so much on FB and can’t wait!
    I so wanted to attend the original festival in ‘69 but no way my parents were gonna let me escape. (In hindsight probably smart on their part…) Now my goal is to get to this 50th celebration, join the drum circle, meet some awesome folks and just get into the vibe…
    Personally, I could care not who’s playing and what genre of music might fill the air…always open to hear new tunes…
    because it’s really the people that will make it shine…
    just sayin’….
    At this point just waiting to hear about Farm details…

  • 4 Ed Rodrigo // Mar 31, 2019 at 1:44 PM

    Interesting! will they repeat this for Woodstock 50?

  • 5 Brian // Mar 31, 2019 at 2:37 PM

    We’ll have to be there to find out. 😉

  • 6 Scully Bones // Mar 31, 2019 at 8:13 PM

    Unfortunately I wanted too go in ’94 but it’s not so much the money issues it’s the line up they didn’t keep the spirit of ’69 :'( if they did I would of definitely went.

  • 7 Brian // Mar 31, 2019 at 9:02 PM

    Well, the lineup I caught and cover in my book — Sheryl Crow, Joe Cocker, The Band (with Bob Weir, Jack & Jorma, Bruce Hornsby etc.), Crosby, Stills & Nash (with John Sebastian), Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers, Traffic, the Neville Brothers, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Gabriel — certainly kept the spirit of ’69.

  • 8 Yano // Mar 31, 2019 at 9:19 PM

    Michelle Esrick — we will be with Brian Hassett flying two 9 foot tall by 50 foot long tie dye tapestries. Brian will be very easy to find!

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