Alert — and multi-talented — “06880” reader JP Vellotti notes that this weekend is the 45th anniversary of Woodstock.
The Westporter wasn’t there in 1969 — but 20 years ago this weekend, he was. Sort of.
JP was a stage photographer at Woodstock 1994, a festival produced by Michael Lang 25 years after the original. JP thinks it was billed as “Two More Days of Peace and Music,” but suggests a more realistic title: “A week of mud, poor sanitation and no sleep.”
But he was 21 years old, and it was a golden opportunity. He’d worked for a while at CamerArts downtown. He’d freelanced for Brooks Newspaper, and became the 1st staff photographer at the Minuteman.
Along the way he met Joe Sia, a rock photographer who lived in Fairfield. Joe took JP under his wing. “Although he never helped improve my technical ability,” JP says, “he certainly showed me the ropes of how to get into a concert, with or without credentials.” Woodstock 1994 was no different.
Joe was a stage photographer for the original Woodstock. His photo of Joe Cocker made the cover of Rolling Stone.
At the last minute — desperate for an all-access pass — Joe and JP decided to try a magazine outside the traditional music press. JP suggested Glamour.
Joe convinced them it would be an interesting story, showing who was “fashionable” that weekend. They took the pitch. All Glamour wanted was 20 prints a week later.
Joe and JP finished the assignment in an hour — and had the whole weekend to do what they wanted.
The crowd shot is one of his favorites. “You generally face the stage,” JP explains. “But suddenly, I turned around. Never having seen 300,000 people before, I can tell you, in a term genuine to 1969: ‘It blew my mind, man.'”
“We thought Glamour would hate the photos because everyone was muddy,” JP adds.
“But they loved them. I think ran about 10.”
From a straight-up musical quality perspective, this was probably the best of the 3 Woodstock Festivals. I remember listening on the radio the last night to Peter Gabriel closing the show, dedicating “Secret World” to the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Red Hot Chili Peppers played just before Gabriel. Along with Henry Rollins mentioned above, the artist bill included Bob Dylan (not at the first), Todd Rundgren, The Band, Green Day, Jane’s Addiction, CSN, The Cranberries, and Nine Inch Nails. And while the 1st Woodstock is legendary for it’s spontaneous rising from a small festival to an unprecedented mega-event, it’s pretty widely recognized that most of the performers at that show were not playing at the top of their game. At Woodstock 2 all those great performers mentioned above and more were definitely putting their best foot forward. It was a disastrous choice to have the third festival on an airstrip–the much greater heat and discomfort were surely the deciding factor in the terrible end to that festival, leaving an ugly legacy and terminating what might have been a nice quintennial traditon.
This is a great story Dan! I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been a huge influx of Woodstock stories flooding in here, as I’m sure we have plenty of Westport peeps who were either there, or knew of someone who went, (especially regarding the original “first” Woodstock).
In any case, I enjoyed reading this tremendously!