By Jonathan Waters
I was working as a carpenter that summer, rebuilding a cape
cottage. I knew some tech people who worked at the Fillmore East in
New York City who asked me to give them a hand building a stage, etc. for a music festival in rural New York. I was eighteen.
I packed the car with tools, a tent, some grub, and a few friends and we were off. It was about a week before the festival and there was a lot to do.
I was assigned to work on a bridge over a road between the performers' pavilion area and the stage. We pitched the tent in the performers' area, so we were in a restricted area. We worked pretty much 24/7, supplemented by vitamin
b12 shots administered by the festival Dr. Feel Good.
At a certain point it started to get really crowded. There was concern that it
could easily get out of hand. We were sort of at the epicenter. The
only way in or out was by helicopter. They flew in food for us.
After the building was done I was assigned to work security on the bridge, to talk
down climbers. I watched a lot of the show from that area behind the
stage and in a video trailer that a friend was working in.
We had about ten people sleeping in a four-man tent.
The rain ...
My memories are mostly informed by the movie. What I remember of the
actual festival is a blur of images. Like most people, probably, I had
never seen so many people in one spot, all in the same situation. It
was a great leveler and there was a feeling of togetherness of which much has been spoken.
After it was over and our job was done we packed up our things and attempted to leave. I had been there two weeks and needed to get back, but the roads were blocked by abandoned cars and it took a while get out. It looked like the aftermath of some
great storm, lots of garbage and abandoned belongings, detritus from the event.
I saw a sunburned, half-naked man riding on top of a van fall off onto the highway at around sixty, bounce once, and roll into a ditch. Amazingly he was OK.
About six months later I received a check. I think it was about $250. I never expected I would be paid.
The next summer I worked the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in England.
But that's another story ...