Woodstock at 51

As you all know, about a year ago I spent a three and half frenetic days recording XPNStock, WXPN's real-time broadcast of the entire 1969 Woodstock Festival in honour of its 50th anniversary. I'd missed out on the 38-CD box, and this was my one and only chance to grab its treasures—for free, no less. I then spent the better part of August and September painstakingly evaluating almost 36 hours of recorded audio: editing, trimming, patching and polishing it up until it positively sparkled. Problem was, by the time I was finished I was so burnt out that I couldn't bring myself to actually listen to it.

That's what 51st anniversaries are for. I'm a bit early, but I did all of Day 1 today: cranked up the old computer speakers and (finally) got to kick back and enjoy the music. I'm still amazed at how good it sounds, and so grateful to have procured the lot for nothing but dedication and diligence. Takeaways: Richie Havens' opening set was, well, groovy. Sweetwater featured a unique sound and some great jamming, but must work on the harmonies, kids. Bonus points  for the flat-out weirdest song performed at the festival, "My Crystal Spider." Bert Sommer was a top-rank songwriter, and it's a shame his career never took off. His is the great "lost" performance of the festival. Tim Hardin's performance, though wildly uneven, really had its moments. Ravi Shankar? Less talk, more rock. I loved what was played but grew impatient with the musicology class he threatened to turn his set into. Melanie is not my cup of tea at all, but even she had a couple of gems amongst the caterwauling. Arlo Guthrie's performance was by turns ragged, hilarious and inspired, and Joan Baez capped off the day in fine form.

WXPN is reprising XPNStock, but they're playing the sets over a full week, in prime time, in what looks to be a bit of a random order. Had I missed anything last time I'd tune in, but I'm pretty sure I got all there was to get. Now it's time to enjoy. Day 2 coming up ...

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