So much more than a musical event, Woodstock was a life experience. Few who found their way to Max Yasgur’s farm in upper New York state would ever forget it, during that historic “summer of love” in 1969.

Today, three ticket-holders to the original, three-day festival share
their stories in anticipation of The Heroes of Woodstock 40th
anniversary show Sunday, Aug. 9, at the Barnyard in
Livermore.

Wild rides, spiritually awakening experiences and Three Dog Night substitutions are just the beginning.

From Maine to New York, but not to Woodstock

In 1969, Dan Rodrigue was a teenager and living with his
parents on Dill Street in Lewiston. His friend and neighbor, Dan
Letourneau, had an uncle living in New York City who had told them about a big concert in upstate New York. Deciding they wanted to go, Rodrigue went home to ask his parents.

“I walked into the house, my father was reading the paper and my mother was in the kitchen,” recalled Rodrigue. “I was 15 years old and I said, ‘Me and Dan are going to
New York. Is it all right?’ My father barely ruffled his paper and said, ‘Yeah,
go ahead.'”

With money he had saved from his paper route, Rodrigue, who was looking forward to seeing 10 Years After, bought both
his concert and bus tickets, and the two headed to New York. Greeting
them at the bus station, Letourneau’s uncle had bad news about the
concert. News coverage of the event showed roads and highways clogged
with standstill traffic and people were being urged by officials to
stay home. Woodstock would go on without them.

“In order to soften the blow, he said, ‘I’ll take you tomorrow night to a
concert at Madison Square Garden,'” said Rodrigue. “The next night he
got us front-row seats through a friend. Three Dog Night played, and in
the beginning of their encore the lead singer said, ‘Listen, anyone who
wants to come celebrate with us can come up on stage,’ so I got up on
stage and danced with Three Dog Night.”

Over the years, Rodrigue said he kept his eye out for both 10 Years
After and Quicksilver Messenger Service concerts. He went to Bangor in 1971 to see 10 Years After and saw the band as 10 Years Later in Germany in 1981. Rodrigue said he was “ecstatic” when
he found out about the Livermore show. He is especially looking forward to the long free-jam sets when songs just go on or fade
into the next.

“That’s the one thing I miss about that particular time,” said
Rodrigue. “A song would last for a long time and you could really get
into a groove, and now it’s three, four or five minutes long and it’s
done.”

While they won’t be a replacement for the loss of the original Woodstock
experience, Rodrigue has his tickets for the Heroes of Woodstock
concert ready to go.

“When I saw that they (10 Years After) were playing, I said I’m definitely there,” said Rodrigue.
“I really enjoy the music.”

A ride to remember and a T-shirt never to be sold on eBay

Hitchhiking to Woodstock in Bethel, N.Y., from Merrimack, N.H., with friends in the summer of ’69 — a time of carefree, flower-power vibes — was an experience in itself for 17-year-old Bruce Chabot.

“Two of my friends and I just packed up some stuff and went there,”
said Chabot, who splits his time these days between Nashua, N.H., and Freeport. “We were gone for about five days. We got there half-a-day
before and left half-a-day after.”

After several longer stints in random people’s cars and periods of
walking, Chabot, Deborah McBryde (Chabot’s girlfriend today) and two friends hitched
a ride on the roof of a Chevy van.

“There were so many people begging for rides, you know,” said Chabot.
“I think we caved the poor man’s van in. It’s like in India, you see
everyone riding on the roof of a bus — it was kind of like that.”

One of the few people who bought tickets to the famed event, Chabot said he
and his friends were amazed by the amount of people. Tents were set up, blankets covered the grass and rain eventually turned the field into an enormous mud pit. Amid the conditions, people had babies, died, made love and celebrated the pinnacle of a time like no other. Chabot says there was a different sense of freedom in those days.

Though he admits many of the memories of that weekend are no longer clear, Chabot still has his original Woodstock T-shirt, which he plans to wear to the Livermore concert. He and McBryde plan to relive the traveling experience and hitchhike from Freeport to Livermore the day before the show.

“This is going to be awesome,” said Chabot. “How many opportunities do you get to do this again?”

Chabot said he’s planning to make the trek with a rucksack, tent and “Woodstock or Bust” signs. While the original experience could never be duplicated, the celebration of music is what it’s all about, he said. Of all the acts performing, Chabot said he’s most looking forward to Quicksilver Messenger Service and Canned Heat.

“The music never changes,” said Chabot. “We get older, but the music stays the same. When I listen to it, I feel like I’m 18 years old again.”

A deepening sense of spirituality

Gridlock traffic has a different meaning for travelers these days, eliciting a far different type of adrenaline than that experienced by Woodstock festival-goers in ’69. For Mark Harrington of Bethel, it was a sign that he was nearer his destination of Max Yasgur’s farm — and closer to the experience of a lifetime.

“I went with a whole carload of high-school and older college students,” said Harrington. “We drove from Cambridge to Bethel, New York, on Friday, the day the festival started.”

Harrington recalled traffic slowing to 45 mph by Newburgh, N.Y., and coming to a complete standstill eight miles from the farm. They parked in a field for a $2 fee and hoofed it the rest of the way. What Harrington saw upon entering the gate was like nothing he’d ever witnessed.

“I had never seen half-a-million people in one place. I had never even seen 2,500 people in one place,” said Harrington. “Woodstock was a network, similar to the Internet, except that the
connection was not via wire and modem. It was by flash of light in the
eyes, a smile and the projection of love from heart to heart.”

While at the three-day event, Harrington said he saw things that forever changed his perspective on life and spirituality. Originally going to see Jimi Hendrix, he spent the three-day wait before that performance amazed by the crowd and, above all else, the ritual blessing he said Sri Swami Satchidananda Saraswati performed.

“For me, it was the music, it was the time,” said Harrington. “People didn’t even know they were getting blessed. It was the foundation for what came to be a very eclectic lifestyle, deeply spiritual.”

Big Names of ’69 reappearing in ’09
  at Heroes of Woodstock concert

10 Years After — best known for songs “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and “I Going Home”

Quicksilver Messenger Service — “Happy Trails” and “Who Do You Love”

Big Brother & The Holding Company — performing their songs and those of Janis Joplin

Canned Heat — “Going Up The Country”

Country Joe McDonald — “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die”

Jefferson Starship — Playing Jefferson Airplane songs “White Rabbit”

Tom Constanten — Of Grateful Dead fame

WHEN: Gates open at 11 a.m., rain or shine, Sunday, Aug. 9

WHERE: Barnyard All Terrain Park at Route 108 and River Road in Livermore

TICKETS: $50 for general admission up to $200 for reserved seating and an invitation to mingle at a private jam paying tribute to rock ’n’ roll icon Jerry Garcia. Tickets may be purchased online at Mainetix.net and at Bull Moose music stores, Franchetti’s Home Town Variety in Jay, BrokeDown Palace Smoke Shop in Rumford and Little Dan’s BBQ in Lewiston. 

Another music event at the Barnyard, The Alliance Fest, will be held Saturday, Aug. 8, and will feature:

Civil Disturbance
Dead Season
Soundbender
Prospect Hill
Twisted Roots
Damien Zygote
Fastburn
Too Late The Hero
Loverless and nine other acts

WHEN: Gates open at 11 a.m., rain or shine

TICKETS: $25; visit http://mainetix.net/ or call 1-866-55-tickets

TICKETS FOR BOTH CONCERTS: $65


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