Today marks the 46th anniversary of the start of the original Woodstock Festival in Bethel, N.Y., which took place Aug. 15-17, 1969. And last night at the Red Mill Museum in Clinton, a Woodstock tribute concert like New Jersey has never seen before started on the grounds of the Red Mill Museum in Clinton.
At the Woodstock Potatoe Project (run by the same people who do the annual Black Potatoe Music Festival at the museum), 15 artists will play sets devoted to the music of one Woodstock artist each, through Sunday — in the same order, for the most part, as the bands at the original festival.
For today’s and tomorrow’s schedules see below. But the concert started last night with four sets: Gregg Cagno as Richie Havens, Donna Sparacio as Melanie, KC Cary as Arlo Guthrie and Carol Hammersma as Joan Baez (obviously, the original festival’s Friday lineup was much folkier than the music that followed on Saturday on Sunday). The Clinton artists not only played the original material (with, in some cases, some non-Woodstock material sprinkled in as well), but Cagno and Cary also recited some of Havens’ and Guthrie’s groovy stage banter.
Some of the original Woodstock material has become legendary, but much has become forgotten. So, at this concert, you not only heard Cagno perform an intense version of Havens’ celebratory “Freedom,” but also Havens’ warm medley of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Field Forever” and “Hey Jude.” (Cagno also talked about opening a show for the late Havens, and being impressed at how friendly and down to earth he was). Cary played not just Guthrie’s “Coming Into Los Angeles,” but also “Every Hand in the Land” and Guthrie’s cover of “Bobby Dylan’s” (that’s what Guthrie said on the Woodstock stage) “Walking Down the Line.”
Sparacio, who sang with the same touch of grit in her voice that Melanie has, came prepared to sing original-setlist songs like “Close to It All,” “Tuning My Guitar” and “Birthday of the Sun,” which capture the Woodstock spirit as well as many more famous songs. And Hammersma, who sang in a cool, clear voice like Baez’s, duplicated the wide range of material Baez sang in 1969, including the graceful original song “Sweet Sir Galahad,” classics from the worlds of folk (“Joe Hill”) and gospel (“Oh Happy Day”), and covers of songs by The Rolling Stones (“No Expectations”), The Band (“I Shall Be Released”), The Byrds (“Hickory Wind”) and Tom Paxton (“The Last Things on My Mind”).
Side note: It’s pretty cool that 46 years after Woodstock, three of these four artists — Baez, Guthrie and Melanie — are still out there, recording and touring. Not a bat batting average. (Havens, sadly, died in 2013.)
Here is the schedule for the rest of the festival:
3 p.m.: The Matt Angus Thing (The Band)
4 p.m.: The Glimpses (John Sebastian)
5 p.m.: The Mike Montrey Band (The Grateful Dead)
6 p.m.: Jack Tannehill (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
7 p.m.: Chelsea Carlson (Janis Joplin)
8 p.m.: Flathead Sky (The Who)
9 p.m.: Jenny Cat (Jefferson Airplane)
2 p.m.: Karl Dietel Five (Joe Cocker)
3:15 p.m.: Grasping at Straws (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
4:30 p.m.: Sid Whelan (Paul Butterfield Blues Band)
5:30 p.m.: Chris Bergson Trio (Jimi Hendrix)
Tickets are $15 a day; visit blackpotatoe.com.