Shades of Woodstock, then and now

The Age of Aquarius bubbled up one-half century ago. Today’s definition of “awesome” was “out of sight” back then.

Little represents the hazy era of sit-ins, psychedelic trips and make-love-not-war sentiments better than Woodstock. The music festival in mid-August turned upstate New York farmland into a relatively peaceful sea of sex, drugs, rock and roll for three days.

The late Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid ($18,000) performer and the last to take the stage (at 8:30 on a Monday morning, because of weekend downpours). By then, the estimated crowd of 500,000 had dwindled to roughly 30,000.

Admission was free because event planning was complicated and last-minute: Fencing and even the music stage were unfinished when concert goers arrived.

Déjà vu.

Organizers of a major fest to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock struggled in vain for months to secure performers and a venue (in Maryland, most recently). Much-hyped headliners – Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z – decided to not perform. The event shrunk from three days of music to one, then none.

Still on track is an Aug. 15-18 splash at the nonprofit Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the original Woodstock site in New York. Attendees need a travel pass to enter the area, then a ticket to hear each day’s act: original Woodstock performers Arlo Guthrie and Santana, plus The Doobie Brothers, John Fogerty and Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band.

In 1969, Woodstock was a massive exercise in tuning in, and tuning out. Fifty years later, we Midwesterners have other options to temporarily unplug from the woes of the world.

Sweatstock, a mix of original music and tributes to Woodstock performers, happens Aug. 16-17 at the new Murphy Park in East Moline, Ill. More than 100 Quad Cities musicians are participating.

Expect to hear the music of Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Grateful Dead, The Band and Johnny Winter.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Aug. 16 and noon Aug. 17. Admission is $15 for one day or $25 for both.

Next to Murphy Park is a Hyatt House offering an overnight rate of $124 that includes one weekend Sweatstock pass per night of stay; use the promo code SWEAT at

For more about the music: For more about what to do in the Quad Cities (East Moline and Rock Island, Ill.; Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa):

Don’t want to yank the clock back that far? Maybe a better match is 80s in the Dells, a greatest hits retrospective at Crystal Grand Music Theatre, Wisconsin Dells. Dress like Joan Jett or Michael Jackson, and you won’t be out of place here.

The Aug. 16 lineup, starting at 3:30 p.m.: Jack Russell’s Great White, Kip Winger, Hericane Alice, Bret Michael and Lita Ford.

On Aug. 17, starting at 2:30 p.m.: Taylor Dayne, Tone Loc, Sugarhill Gang, The Producers, Lou Gramm and Asia.

Acts perform on indoor and outdoor stages. Look for cars and costumed characters from the 1980s. Tickets are $40 to $160.

The same decade gets the spotlight Aug. 17 at Wisconsin Brewing Company, Verona, where an outdoor 1980s Night begins with DJ music at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and you are encouraged to dress accordingly.

An outdoor screening of the 1970 Woodstock documentary begins at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 at Mill Pond Terrace in Green Lake as part of the Freeland Film Festival.

Dust off your hippie attire and start using “groovy” again.,

Up Aug. 16 to Sept. 27 at the Ubuntu Art Space in downtown Fond du Lac is “Peace, Love and Chasing Rabbits,” an art show that is a visual tribute to Woodstock. Mixed-media contributions will come from several artists.

An opening reception party is 5-9 p.m. Aug. 16, which coincides with the city’s monthly Gallery Night. For more:

For fans of high-grade bluegrass, folk and American music, head to little Mazomanie for the annual and family-friendly Gandy Dancer Festival. Six bands perform on Aug. 17, starting at 11 a.m.; the headliner is Chicken Wire Empire, from Milwaukee.

Other performers at Westland Promenade: Kevin Prater Band of Kentucky; High 48s of Minnesota, Williamson Branch of Tennessee, and Wisconsin performers No Name String Band, Art Stevenson and High Water.

Mazo is proud of its railway history (“gandy dancer” is long-ago slang for rail workers), so mini train rides and other diversions are available for children. Tickets are $10.

One of the best places to kick back in downtown Green Bay is Hagemeister Park, a Packer-themed restaurant and bar.

Performing contemporary rock on the patio (which faces the Fox River) at 7 p.m. Aug. 16-17 are the Mulligans, a hometown favorite. Admission is free, and the band name is a reference to the golfing term.

It’s not “summer of love” music but sure sounds like it at Mirror Lake State Park near Baraboo at 7 p.m. Aug. 17: Patchouli and Terra Guitarra present world music instrumentals. The duo are Bruce Hecksel, a master guitarist, and singer-songwriter-guitarist Julie Patchouli.

Expect “epic folk-rock anthems” too. Pay park admission, but concert admission is free. Bring bug spray.

Celebrating the Woodstock anniversary early is North Woodstock, an annual music festival at Bent’s Camp Resort, 10 miles west of Land O’ Lakes. Gates open at noon Aug. 3, and admission is $25 in advance, $30 at the event.

Among the performers: Classic Journey Live, Arvon, Sons of Legend, Soul Symmetry and Unity The Band. It’s a rain-or-shine, outdoor event.

“Woodstock – Three Days that Defined a Generation,” as an installment of “American Experience,” airs multiple times this month on Wisconsin Public Television. The premiere is Aug. 6.