Woodstock Sound-Outs, Van Morrison and No Beans. © Dakini Verona
1969. The year was an infamous one in the history of the era… and it was a very important year in my life.
I had just turned 15 years old and lived in a very rural area of upstate
. Actually it was only about 100 miles north of New York (The City) but anything even 10 miles outside of The City was considered Upstate. I didn't seem to fit in with the other kids at school, always an outsider. I could not relate to their violent ways, the small town mentality never appealed to me. I could not wait to grow up and get out of there. I had no social life with the other kids in school. I only had one friend, Carol Sommers. We had a connection which to this day, I do not understand. Maybe it was that we were outsiders to the rest of the kids our age, maybe it was just destiny that we came to be friends. Best friends. Only friends. The other kids were cruel. So cruel in fact, that I have blocked out most of what was going on in my life, just to survive. When I was not with my only friend, Carol, I would lose myself in my music. I can not believe I am confessing to this, but the Monkees were one of my favorite groups. New York City
Worse yet, I once wrote a fan letter to no other than Davey Jones (no, the cad never even acknowledged that a lonely little 13 year old was pouring her heart out to him).
I had been listening to The Beatles for awhile, never got into the Stones (not at that point) and then graduated to Sonny and Cher and Donovan. Somehow, I really do not remember how. I came across one album that changed my life. Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, we are only in it for the money. I had an uncensored copy, which I thought was the most 'far out' thing since The Beatles.
I listened to the album over and over, singing along with the lyrics which were provided on the back cover of the album (something rare in those days). I finally found something I could relate to! I was turned on to the whole scene. I thought Frank was singing to me (little did I know that he was being sarcastic- I was so naive). I did not know how he knew how I felt about my family and all those things around me, but the words of “Mamma, Mamma” were my life. I had a mom and dad that were plastic, would spend their time drinking and smoking and just ignoring the needs of their children. I wanted to find out what this whole Hippie Scene was all about. I knew I belonged.
The locals in Saugerties had mentioned that there were some “weirdoes” in the small township of Woodstock (9 miles due East of my home). I wanted to go see them, to see if what I felt when I heard Frank Zappa would be the same if I met a real hippie in person.
When I first walked into the town circle in Woodstock, I knew I had found home. The faces were friendly. Everyone was smiling. The shops beckoned to me. The streets called my name.
Little did I know why this place was so different than the other little townships. Little did I know that this was THE PLACE that all the city dwellers from Greenwich Village came to get away from the preverbal “rat race”. They brought a taste of their lives with them to this once sleepy little artist colony.
Whenever I could I would find a way to Woodstock to explore the colors and smells of the unique shops – to feel like I truly belonged. Whether it was talking someone older into giving me a ride, or sticking out my thumb and hitching a ride with a stranger. I had to get there… I was addicted to this place, to these people.
There were so many creative forces in this otherwise humble little abode. There were artists and musicians and playwrights and songwriters. Then there were even kids like me, ostracized by the locals and drawn by the magic in the air that could not be explained.
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One of the most unique aspects of the town was the creative energy. People just would gather and start a music jam session. It was not uncommon to be sitting in a small little coffee shop sipping your hot beverage, whether it be homemade hot chocolate or simmering hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick swizzle or maybe even drinking the dark thick overpowering espressos that were truly European style. I am not talking about the watery brown liquid that you get at the corner Starbucks. These were true “coffee houses”.... well, anyway, as I was saying; you might be sitting there in the middle of a this coffee house, on a sultry August afternoon and see two albinos walk in, both of them with brilliant white hair trailing down their narrow backs, sunglasses protecting their light-sensitive eyes. They might be carrying guitars. They might be just coming to sit and enjoy the company. But more likely than not, they would pull out their guitars, right there at the large picnic style table and bench. Not even 10 feet from where you were sitting. They would rest one leg on the end of the bench, guitar case open before everyone and pull out that thing and play. And sing. Donovan may have joined in and begun to sing or hum as well as the boy next to you with the mismatched socks and long flowing hair. And then, afterwards, introduce themselves as the Winter Brothers, Johnny and Edgar.
It was at one of these unpretentious impromptu gatherings that I first heard of an upcoming free music festival. It was to be held on some land owned by "The Band" (yes they had a nice little spread they named, just East of town). It was only an open field, but there was chatter of how they would have these “up and coming bands” and maybe some “not-so -up and coming bands” all gather for the fun of it.
Maybe there would be music promoters there, looking for new talent. Maybe there would be someone famous there, just wanting to try out their newest songs – WHO KNEW??? They said they were called the Woodstock Sound-Outs.
|The Creator of the Sound-Outs C. Caster|
Well, it was at one of these Sound-Outs that I was first introduced to illicit drugs. After all, it was the 60's. The summer of love had passed on the West Coast and it seems that
was a bit behind. Upstate was even further behind. The Hippie Scene on the West Coast had died. Somewhere far away, in the far off Never, Never Land of California. New York