All Woodstock Music Festival’s Michael Lang was doing in 1969 was trying to produce “this year’s Monterey Pop”.
Heck, in ’68, he’d done “Miami Pop”. So why not one in upstate New York?
Little did Lang know, but Stan Warnow, a New York University film school graduate, kept watching the names pile up on the Woodstock bill and tried to figure out how to make it into a movie with a friend.
Fifty years ago, kids dreamed big.
Except Warnow later got a call to be a cameraman on the actual Woodstock Festival shoot that NYU film instructor Michael Wadley, one of Warnow’s former teachers, was putting together.
“I was a roving cameraman during the day,” Warnow told KVMR 89.5 FM listeners last week. “At night, I’d go to the stage and shoot.”
On site together, his fiance would slate the name of the songs afterwards so the footage could be used later to “mimic” each song.
That’s so shots from a variety of cameras, covering stage and audience, could be used to maximum effect for songs used in the film.
“These things sound small,” admitted Warnow, who retired here a few years ago. “But because what we did of it became overwhelmingly huge.”
“This is something really big,” he said on KVMR’s Monday Morning Show. “We had no idea it would end up naming our generation.”
And this Saturday, Warnow and some volunteers will be at “Woodstock Reimagined,” KVMR 89.5 FM’s salute to that era-changing experience (see details, pages 6-7).
“It’s a total thrill to me. I’ll be shooting some footage just to have it.”
“Because it combines two places I love. There’s the phenomenon of Woodstock, even though the Festival really wasn’t there, and there’s Grass Valley and Nevada City, the spirit for these small towns is so unique for these areas.”
“Maybe the only true tell-all place that compares to here is…Woodstock.”
Okay, but Warnow didn’t just shoot and leave the original Festival.
He spent the next nine months, researchingly editing some of the legendary film’s leading song scenes, like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” Joan Baez’s “”Ballad of Joe Hill” and most of Santana.
“I worked for months, on and off, always, refining, refining, refining…”
“Technically, nothing like this had ever been done before on a music documentary, but we were the first to do three different screens in songs so audiences could enjoy it three different ways.” according to Warnow.
One group the film producers turned down was Jefferson Airplane’s offer to mix their own music in the film after the legendary San Francisco band saw them in a special Los Angeles screening for the legendary band.
“Our producers calmly explained if we did this for them,” Warnow recalled, “we’d end up having to do it for everyone, and the film would never get done.”
Meanwhile, original producer Lang always pauses to recall the townspeople who were originally fearful.
“Once the kids started to come and interact, all that fear was gone,” he told Billboard earlier this year. “The women in the town started making sandwiches and bringing water to the kids who were streaming in while fathers were pulling them out of ditches with their tractors.”
“And it became this really interesting kind of thing — morphing from suspicion into a community.”
Wavy Gravy, the guy who promised “breakfast in bed for 400,000”, recently told Bay Area website 48hills.org Woodstock “was a miracle, and this is something I think the universe wanted to do, to create this amazement.”
“And there was an energy there that if you surrendered to it, you could be miraculous,” Wavy recalled. “The minute you thought you were Joe Cool doing (stuff), you could fall on your ass in the mud. But when you surrendered to this energy, you could flow with it and be amazing.”
Also, it’s sadly easy to forget the farmer that made it all happen — Max Yasgur, who rented his land to allow Woodstock to happen at all, proudly addressed the crowd that weekend:
“I’m a farmer…I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this.
“But I think you people have proven something to the world — not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world.
“This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks.
“But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I – God Bless You for it!”
Yasgur never got to celebrate a Woodstock anniversary; he passed away in 2003.
“The spirit of Woodstock took us over, and it was a really great moment or maybe it was a century of moments,” he said. “Here, it’s the voluntary commitment of citizens to KVMR…and so much more.”
Community building, from Woodstock to Nevada City.
KNOW & GO
WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM, 105.3 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming
WHAT:”Woodstock Reimagined: A Celebration Of 50 Years”, with 13 bands playing music that made Woodstock famous
WHEN: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
WHERE: Pioneer Park,, near downtown Nevada City
TICKETS: $10, available online at kvmr.org and at the gate; $5 veterans and those under 15 gate only.
12 Bands Performing Songs from the Original 1969 Setlist
- Saul Rayo solo – Richie Havens
- Chameleon – Santana
- Cassidy Joy – Joan Baez
- Grease Grit & Grime – Canned Heat
- The Rayos Trio – Crosby, Stills & Nash
- Bob Woods Trio – Ten Years After
- Shay Dillon & Band – Janis Joplin
- Bob Mora – Paul Butterfield Band
- Sgt. Funky – Jefferson Airplane
- Love Train – Sly & the Family Stone
- The Rayos Band – Joe Cocker
- Buck Starr – The Who
- Clarke Meyer – Jimi Hendrix