All my memories of summer spin into a psychedelic blur – yellow sun, bare feet, hula hoops, music…and I am there. Leaving my laptop behind, I made the pilgrimage to the Woodstock Revival II in Jerusalem last Thursday, August 5, 2010 at Kraft Stadium. The concert was sponsored by the American Football in Israel Association (AFI) and the American Embassy, and co-produced by AFI and 2Vibes Productions.
Past and present merged as I walked onto a football field for the first time in Israel, the late afternoon sun casting an orange glow on children running on the grass with juggling balls, Frisbees and hula hoops, booths offering T shirts, Rachel’s jewelry, Marcie’s Modest Wear and henna tattoos, old people, young people, hippies with and without kippot, the Jerusalem Anglo community, the Tel Aviv retro contingent and more tie-dyes than I have seen in the past ten years.
Last year’s concert, held in celebration of 40 years to Woodstock, was a huge success – the Jerusalem Woodstock Revival is now creating its own tradition. There is something about spending the evening outdoors listening to music that makes everyone feel good. The Jerusalem concert had that festival feeling – it was more than the music, it was the way the music brought people together. Even hours later, standing at the bus stop at 1am waiting for the 480 to Tel Aviv, the sense of community remained as people smiled at one another: hey – were you at the concert too?
The music started out with Larry and Mindy Fogel singing Simon and Garfunkel – a sweet harmony just right for a summer afternoon. Then Daniel Dor did Dylan, which sent one audience member spinning round, taking a panoramic picture of the stadium with his cell phone while singing Blowin’ in the Wind. Unlike the original Woodstock, this concert took a break for Minha prayers between Dylan and Zepellin – covered by Claire Diane.
Shoshana, a new immigrant from the US gave an inspirational performance on the hula hoop before an admiring crowd. “I love this country,” said Shoshana, who just made Aliyah two days before the concert. She’s been “hooping” for 9 – 10 months, and makes her own hoops from PVC pipe tubes with connectors and tape.
As the music heated up the ratio of dancers to blanket-sitters increased. One cool father and son rocking out with back to back dueling air guitars, while a crowd gathered around the stage – dancing, singing, blowing bubbles and turning cartwheels as the sky grew dark and the stadium lights came on.
Just as the playlist was not strictly Woodstock, the evening’s program also included story time – not your usual rock concert event, but this was not an ordinary read-aloud. Abigail Yasgur, the cousin of THE Max Yasgur, and Joseph Lipner have written And Max Said YES! The Woodstock Story, a book for children that conveys the essence of the landmark event with sweetness, simplicity and humor, accompanied by Barbara Mendes colorful illustrations.
Standing in line to buy the book, I heard the woman next to me say: “I wasn’t Malka back then…” 16 year old Michelle went to the original Woodstock festival in the Catskills, today, Malka is in Israel, a new immigrant who arrived three weeks ago with Nefesh b’Nefesh. “It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it,” she says. What was most memorable? No hesitation there: “Waking up at 4am listening to Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner.”
While Malka recalled hearing Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, Lazer Lloyd took the stage to deliver an mix of Hendrix with a Jewish groove, saying, “At Woodstock there were young people with the hope to change the world. The people of Israel stood at Mt. Sinai as one people, one heart – that was the first Woodstock. Hashem chose the people of Israel because they are a stubborn people – we will never leave Woodstock.” Introducing his original Real People, Lloyd said, “Politicians don’t change the world only people like you – the real people. Hevreh (friends) – we need to believe ….to believe in ourselves.”
Wandering around the stadium, enjoying the optimistic vibe, I met Ira Feldman who told me how he came to be at Woodstock in 1969. A college student in Denver, he had tickets to a three day rock festival. Attending a pre-party, Ira said, “Suddenly I hear this music, it was incredible.” He walked in the direction of the music, the back of the place where the party was held opened up into a park where a black couple had just gotten married. Ira said, “They were friends of Jimi Hendrix and he was doing a set for this couple. He started playing…Oh my God!” In perfect sync, just as Ira was telling me about Hendrix, Lazer Lloyd sounded out an electrifying “Hatikvah” (the Israeli national anthem). Ira went on with the tale, “I was just sitting there in a moment, taking it in…it was extraordinary…but after about 20 minutes the riot police came in because the neighbors had complained about the noise. In innocence I said – just tell them it’s Jimi Hendrix playing.”
Mark Rashkow (who played at the original Woodstock concert!) and his band played the kind of set that makes you forget everything else but the music. Music that makes you feel like you could dance forever, wishing that the night would never end. Energy and spirits were high, the crowd around the stage joining in, albeit anachronistically, on Sweet Home Alabama and Gloria. Mark even jumped down from the stage at one point and jammed with the audience on the Astroturf dance floor.
AFI President Steve Leibowitz sent out a big thank you to the US Embassy, saying, “Woodstock was anti-establishment but our main sponsor is the United States Embassy.”
Tree followed with a tribute to The Who, then came back all fired up for another set – backing the amazing Yael Dekelbaum. Yael gave a transcendent performance, closing the concert with a powerful rendition of Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart. As people left the stadium and musicians packed their gear, someone walked up to the stage, took the mic in hand and sent his own message out to the night: Peace and love to all.