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Headliners at Golden Anniv Woodstock Concerts Hearken Back to Original Festival

Music once again filled the fields and hills at the site of Woodstock Friday.  The second day of the Golden Anniversary concerts at Bethel Woods drew a much bigger crowd of many with direct connections to the 1969 festival … but also families with young children and millennials looking for a connection to the history. 

Credit Tom Honan
Duke Devlin never left the area after he hitchhiked there as a young man. He recalls Max Yasgur as a generous man, who's welcome to the crowd was very meaningful.

Among the visitors, Duke Devlin says he hitchhiked to get here in 1969, and remembers the massive crowd overcoming rain, no food, sanitation issues, and a faulty sound system.

“You know, the world wanted to know what we were doing here.  They wanted to know if we practiced what we preached and we showed them we did.  And all the conditions, everything that failed, worked.  We made it work.  We held the peace.  It was a great vibe in itself.  You know what I mean, man?”

Bethel Woods Museum Director Wade Lawrence says the celebration has been two years in the planning.

“What made Woodstock special wasn’t just the music.  It was the people and the interaction among the people, the caring and the sharing.  We’re not going to recreate Woodstock; nobody should.  Woodstock had a lot of problems.  We remember it because people triumphed over the problems – in a peaceful way.”

Credit Tom Honan
Many vendors in craft market and at the recreated Bindi Bazaar want to capture the vibe of the original event.

Lawrence believes the anniversary needs to capture that … along, of course, with music which he says, is at the base of it all. 


Blood Sweat and Tears members said they were performing almost the exact set from the band’s 1969 appearance,  even though it’s a completely different configuration of the group.  In another echo of the times, the band dedicated its song And When I Die to Vietnam Vets, broadening the dedication to all vets and service members, as well as first responders.  The lead singer, Keith Paluso just joined the band earlier this year after being on The Voice, while the group also featured Julian Coryell, son of Jazz great Larry Coryell. on guitar. 

The crowd at the Bethel Woods Amphitheater, a layout similar to the Onondaga County Amphitheater, arrived early and greeted BS&T enthusiastically.  The 45 minute set was highlighted with a strong horn section on the hit You’ve Made Me So Very Happy. 

Credit Tom Honan
Edgar Winter credited as the first to put on a strapped keyboard, did it again during the band's set.

The crowd reacted even more enthusiastically to well-known hits by Edgar Winter.  Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo recalled winter’s work with Rick Derringer.  Before the song, Edgar remembered his brother Johnny Winter, who was on the original Woodstock stage, saying the song was like something Johnny would play.

An extended version of perhaps the group’s best-known song Frankenstein had Winter putting on his signature keyboard with a shoulder strap, then taking a long sax solo. 

Many in the crowd were waiting for Ringo Starr & His All Star Band, greeted when they took the stage by a loud roar.  The former Beatle has his own following, aside or in addition to those there for the Woodstock Anniversary.  He told the crowd they’d know every song he was going to play, and drew a knowing ovation from his hit It Don’t Come Easy.

Ringo made the connection to the original Woodstock though keyboardist Gregg Rolie, who appeared with Santana at the original event.  Starr has no problem giving up the spotlight as the band played the Santana hit Evil Ways, a song fans might hear Saturday night when Santana himself makes a return to Woodstock.

Ringo asked how many were here 50 years ago and drew a respectable roar from the crowd of nearly 20,000.  That means many refrained from joining in as ... which many people have been accused of over the years.   

Six different groups played on smaller stages to entertain the assembling crowd during the day, along with a wide range of crafts and other vendors, some with direct connections to the original festival, others just trying to capitalize on the crowd, and of course the vibe. 

A thunderstorm warning chased everybody indoors, though it never hit the grounds with any force, leaving the venue comfortable, and avoiding anything like the rain and mud scene so famous from the original event.