Arlen Roth recalls the first Woodstock reunion concert in 1970
A lot of folks may not realize this, but the very first reunion concert of the Woodstock Festival, right on the very spot of Yasgur’s Farm was thrown and put on by my band STEEL, back in 1970. We were a “power trio” of sorts, and we specialized in long, drawn-out “jammy” type tunes that really fit the vibe there so well. We were the only band there for the two days, so we actually played over 4 hours each day!
I had grown up every summer, as did my drummer, in White Lake, NY, which is part of the town of Bethel, where Yasgur’s Farm was and still is. I can remember not only going to the original Woodstock Festival all three days, but also being able to hear the music drifting across the lake right to my house! Not to mention there were over 80 kids camped out on my front lawn, most of who came from the deep south due to a friend at college “leaking” the info that I had a house there! This truly was a pilgrimage of epic proportions, and before you knew it, my mom was cooking chicken soup for everyone who was there!
Over the course of that 1969-70 period, I had written a ton of songs, and formed my band up there in White Lake, NY, who then all moved to stay with me in Philly as I was starting college there, along with the keyboard player, who happened to be my roommate also! We wished we could’ve had a chance to play the “real” Woodstock in 1969, especially as “local heroes”, but we really were not quite ready yet. Instead, it was fun to plan a second concert, which by the way had around 40,000 campers there to also celebrate the anniversary, and we did it on the very weekend that the original Woodstock happened! Max Yasgur got up and addressed the crowd, and really “kicked it off” in a good way.
We did also have a recording of it made, albeit primitive, and our generator was weak, creating a kind of “wow” in the tape, with many dips in the pitch. The good news is that now, over 40 years later, digital technology can take care of that problem, and I intend to release a nice clean cd of this concert in the near future! I sure wish there was film too, I’m sure someone filmed it, but at least I have some of these b&w pictures! You gotta love that ’52 Les Paul wailing through 4 amps!
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.