Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bonnaroo, the new Woodstock

One of the things I can legitimately brag about is the fact I actually attended the 1969 Woodstock festival. Really. My teenage son is a music lover in the same way I was. So to take him to this generation's equivalent of the massive camp-out/rock'n'roll show, I couldn't resist.


Date: Thursday, June 16, 2005
Edition: Palm Beach Section: LOCAL Page: 1B

The mud smell was familiar.

I recognized it from 36 years ago. The same mixture of sulphury earth, rainwater, sandal leather and foot sweat was Woodstock 1969, intact.

The scent of patchouli and marijuana was the same, too.

And so was the descent into a life of grime: The lack of showers for five days, the revolting Port-a-Sans, the problematic sleeping.

Ah, yes. That brotherly feeling of bonding with thousands, all getting gross together.

I was living it again, this time with my 15-year-old son, Ben.

He holds an enthusiastic, if exaggerated, reverence for the fact that his old man attended the original Woodstock Festival, the 400,000-strong crest of the counterculture.

So, obliging and music-loving dad that I am, I was glad to take him to the closest modern equivalent, a festival in Tennessee called Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo is an annual event, created in the spirit of the old Grateful Dead. The fourth rendition began Thursday evening and ran practically non-stop until midnight Sunday. About 80 bands played on five stages on farmland 65 miles south of Nashville. About 80,000 people set up camp.

Everyone seemed to be 20, wearing tie-dye and capable of dancing for hours at a stretch.

"I haven't seen anyone as young as me," Ben said after we'd walked around awhile.

"I haven't seen anyone as old as me," I said back.

Woodstock was notable for the kindly vibes amid disaster conditions. That, and the killer lineup (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, et al.).

I remember one day's diet consisting solely of dry oatmeal and water.

But at the well-organized Bonnaroo, there was plentiful pizza, shish kebob, chicken teriyaki and local barbecue. You could even get the comfort of a morning latte.

At Woodstock, the apotheosis of the Generation Gap, we were rebelling against established American values.

At Bonnaroo, my son and I were bonding generations. Reveling without rebelling, I showed him how to decline the friendly offers of intoxicants. We did this party drug-free.

The music was great. And Bonnaroo did retain that Woodstock warmth.