Woodstock, if I forget thee
WATCH: The Woodstock forty-third anniversary concert in Jerusalem sought to recapture some of the magic of Woodstock, albeit without the sex, drugs or politics.
On a simmering summer night celebrating Woodstock, there was a haze hovering over the illuminated Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem – and it was most definitely purple.
"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!" belted the Anglo rocker Libi, opening an electrifying tribute to guitarist Jimmy Hendrix with a rendition of the psychedelic anthem "Purple Haze" as the crowd of more than 1,000 spectators let out a collective roar of approval.
"I close my eyes and I am 19 again," said a wistful Idele Ross, 62, a broadcast journalist with Israel Radio, who attended the recent "Jerusalem Woodstock Revival IV" concert.
Unlike the original Woodstock concert – the legendary three-day music concert that took place in upstate New York in 1969 – this concert was a comparatively tame family affair, with teenagers, twenty-somethings and aging parents on blankets dotting the green artificial turf of the touch-football field.
"This one didn't have mud, acid or sex," joked Libi, a 60 year-old grandmother with waist-long, jet-black hair, who was wearing a leopard halter top, Ethiopian rastas, a Johnnie Walker T-shirt and a pair of jeans with a knee-patch she says she wore for much of 1968.
Libi's set of Janice Joplin renditions with Israeli singer Yael Deckelbaum was, by most accounts, a highlight of the 6-hour extravaganza. Other performing artists included Geva Alon; singer and violinist Michael Greilsammer; Ummagumma; The Elevators; Crystal Ship, and Maya Johana Menachem with Shai Tochner and Friends.
The annual Woodstock concert in Jerusalem is the brainchild of a group of locals including musical promoter Carmi Wurtman of 2b Vibes Music; Steve Leibowitz, founder and president of American Football in Israel, and Nadia Levene, an event organizer. Their first event four years ago marked Woodstock's fortieth anniversary, and the event has grown in popularity each year, according to Levene.
As children had their faces painted and played in the cavernous field's periphery, not far from an antique Volkswagen van, graying parents in bandanas and tie-dyed T-shirts could be seen in various altered states, basking in bands channeling the likes of the Grateful Dead, the Doors and Led Zeppelin.
"I still listen to this music all the time," said 58 year-old Mark Lazar, a bearded informal educator, who wore a tie-dyed T-shirt and a crocheted kippa with the peace symbol. "I'm still a child of the 60's."
Ira Feldman, 65, walked around the stadium with a bubble machine.
"It was an afterthought," said Feldman, who attended the original Woodstock concert in 1969 and recalled a chance encounter with guitarist Jimmy Hendrix in a Denver, Colorado, backyard that coincided with the legendary Denver Rock Festival in 1969.
"I saw all the groups," recalled 61 year-old Frank Herch, who as a teenager in the San Francisco California, Bay Area in the 1960's attended the legendary Fillmore concerts and saw Joplin, Hendrix, and the Doors perform. A resident of Misgav, in the Galilee, Herch immigrated three years ago from Washington, D.C., with his rare collection of 4,000 records.
For Ross, the journalist – who said she had "the time of my life" working in the security detail and within arm's length of Jefferson Starship and Jethro Tull during Michigan's famed Goose Lake International Music Festival in the summer of 1970 – the Jerusalem revival concert was a chance to break away from events that have dominated Israel's front pages.
"Our lives are so fraught with tension, sometimes you just need a place where you can kick back and have a great release," said Ross, clad in a tie-dyed T-shirt from Venice, California. She will soon mark the fortieth anniversary of her aliyah from Detroit, Michigan.
But for attendees like Hillel Schenker, a 70 year-old journalist and activist from Tel Aviv, the concert did not go far enough.
"The original Woodstock was a festival of music and love, but it was also against war and for peace," Schenker wrote in a Facebook posting the morning after the August 2 concert. "Last night, along with the music and the love, I felt the festival took place in a nostalgic bubble, with a total disconnect from today's reality."
Schenker maintained that a "Woodstock Festival taking place in Israel of 2012, should also include references from the stage by organizers and performers to the fact that the prime minister is considering the idea of launching an attack against the Iranian nuclear facilities, with potentially catastrophic consequences for us, the Israeli people, against the advice of almost all the current and recent security Israeli officials."
For Libi, who became emotional when she talked about the meaning of Woodstock generation, the revival concert transcends a mere musical performance.
"We're all still looking for that hope that we had in the future, that we could change the world," said Libi, whose two grandchildren watched her belt out a bracha, or Hebrew blessing, during her performance, praising God for beautiful things. "The Woodstock generation was magic, and a little bit of it happened again in Jerusalem."