Woodstock. It means so much to so many of us. Even if we weren’t there, it helped shape our generation for better or worse. Boomer Joe Nolan was there, and has never forgotten what Woodstock meant to him. And now he’s made a film to immortalize its impact. It’s a memoir that might stir up some memories.
When fellow boomers learn I went to Woodstock, they want to know what it was like. When GenXers and other younger people find out, their perception of me changes to at least allow for the possibility that I was once a cool seventeen year old. That I actually saw Joplin. And Hendrix! This unique personal aspect of my life has even elicited a few exaggerated bows and cries of, “We’re not worthy.”
As responsible as Woodstock is for bolstering my hippie bona fides, though, it took twenty–five years for me to return. I guess juggling the responsibilities of family, career, and just getting by preempted any thoughts of a return to the days immortalized in the story of our generation’s most memorable rock-and-roll concert, Back to the Garden.
But Beatles Promoter Sid Bernstein wasn’t so slow. He organized the concert known as Woodstock ‘94, Back to the Garden, which I had heard about but had no plans to attend. One the night before it was scheduled, a neighbor talked me into going.
By daybreak, though, he had backed out, but the Woodstock Spirit had already captured my imagination. In the morning, I loaded the car and mapped a back-roads route to avoid traffic. By pure coincidence, it was the exact approach that I had followed years before. I was already feeling the magic!
Sad to say, Sid’s concert was cancelled. But somebody put on a show anyway. It was so much fun, I returned the following year and got acquainted with a group of volunteers that put on a free concert.
Then, the event was moved up the road to the Max Yasgur’s homestead. I helped with the stage and worked with Bill Hanley—who did the sound in 1969. I also met artist Wayne Saward, who built the monument that still marks the original concert site.
Since then, I started making documentary films. For the forty-first anniversary, I brought my camera to Bethel, New York, the heart of all that happened, in hopes of capturing the spirit of Woodstock on videotape.
The film examines the turbulent times from which the concert sprang, along with the technological, political, social, and medical developments that have occurred in the intervening years. I interview many colorful celebrants, as well as fellow volunteers.
As the film came together, it struck me that while the way we do most everything has changed, the things we value are still the same: good times, music, fellowship, and the desire to belong to something greater than ourselves.
I can’t wait for next year.
The film’s title is: The More Things Change—A Woodstock Memoir. It is a memoir I will never forget.
Read more of Joe’s memoir … click here.