Tag Archives: music

Woodstock Peace Festival

Woodstock, New York is a small town with a rich history. In 1903, Byrdcliffe Art Colony came to Woodstock, and from that point on art and music became an integral part of the community’s culture. Famous artists and musicians were created from Woodstock, and countless others moved to the town in pursuit of a place that shared their values and people with whom they could create. What has place the town in an international dialogue is the the 1969 Woodstock festival, with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and many more performing and joining the crowd in celebrating the music. However, the festival did not actually take place in Woodstock, though that was the initial desired location.

Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock Festival

Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969, courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com

Since the counter-culture revolution that was Woodstock Festival, the town has continued to nurture the values of creativity, community and peace. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, the town began its first ever Woodstock Peace Festival. The opening ceremony took place on that Monday, at Bearsville Theater, followed by a project, making flags for peace, on Saturday. Sunday was the main festival, where the Bearsville Theater displayed the flags and hosted, yoga, meditation, peace talks and community discussions, as well as a picnic and musical acts, including the local Simi Stone.

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

The stated mission of the festival on its event page was to create “a joyful, holistic, community gathering to celebrate and amplify the message of peace.” No entry fee was required to enjoy the activities and performances, but a donation was suggested for the benefit of the Woodstock Peace Center, the launch of which the festival was celebrating. The Peace Center will blossom into “an international peace education program for the community’s next generation.”

Mural at Bearsville

Mural at Bearsville, courtesy of the Woodstock Peace Festival website




Only a 7-10 minute drive from the center of town, the Bearsville Complex feels like its own small village. The buildings on site emanate the warmth of a home with their rustic architecture. On the day of the festival, the theater welcomed people of all ages to watch the performances. The fire pit between the restaurants and theater had gathered people looking to sit and talk, and though the fire was not lit that afternoon, there was a different kind of light they shared between them. The complex itself sits alongside a shallow, bubbling creek, which hums along with the insects. We stepped inside the theater to catch the last two musicians of the day, Amy McTear and Simi Stone. Though there were not over 50 chairs, each was filled, and people were standing along the sides of the auditorium, softly singing along with the men and women on stage, who were dressed in white, aglow in the orange backlight.  And though the performances ended only an hour later, concluding the actual festival, the celebration was not over.

Weekends in Woodstock are normally busy, tourists visit the town’s center for shopping and dining and weekend residents from New York City walk about running errands or  just to enjoy the small town life. But amidst the movement of crowds, the Woodstock drum circle has just sat down in the center of the square. Men and women of many ages, who have grown up in the community, sit together, and play their different instruments, in a coordinated effort. Visitors are welcome to watch, and dance along, but it is clear that this performance is for the players, something they have been raised with or taught and now are passing along to the next generation. It is a rite unique to the Woodstock community, and its strength is that it has persisted through so many generations, decades and realities.


For more information on the past Woodstock Peace Festival, and the Woodstock Peace Center, visit the project’s website here.


ENST 291Goes To Woodstock

We met Lori Majewski at Bearsville Theatre. Lori is a freelance writer and has co-written a book with Jonathan Bernstein titled Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s.

Lori is one of the many people who have spent their lives in the New York metropolitan area but have decided to purchase a getaway home in the Hudson Valley. While she loves the hustle and bustle of New York City and all it has to offer for her career and social life, she savors her peaceful weekends in Woodstock, New York. The tranquility, she says, is something that still surprises her. To wake up and not hear police sirens or people shouting is a luxury for city dwellers like Lori who are accustomed to a more hectic lifestyle. “They say your most creative moments are when you first wake up,” Lori tells us. Her ideal morning consists of waking up, enjoying the scenery, and writing. She warned us, “Don’t use your cell phone!” when we first get out of bed.

For Lori, Woodstock has truly become her home. After a few years of living here, she says that she feels like a local. She participates in community events, meets new people, and keeps a finger on the pulse of Woodstock’s art and music scene. One of her favorite aspects of Woodstock is the affordable concerts. At Woodstock, she says, one can expect to hear quality music without breaking the bank. That allows for her to explore more, and find new artists. During our conversation, Lori reflects on her adolescent music taste and admits that she was once quite snooty about different genres. But now she is at a different stage in her life – one in which she can enjoy the folksiness of Woodstock and get away from New York City and its distractions.


Lori Majewski speaking to our class outside the historic Bearsville Theater

Our class began to stumble along to a grassy lawn boarded by stream. The water was clear and cool and immediately diverted all attention away from the theatre. There we began to climb about and wander what we would later learn was a small priced of the Sawkill. Our next insight into Woodstock, Joshua Colow found us there, climbing and fiddling it the stream bed. He grew up by the Sawkill and the town of Woodstock during its beginnings as a haven for music and creativity. Colow went to a local cooperative school in the area after living on a small farm his parents had renovated into an art studio. The home was by the Sawkill and after his introductions, he lead us on a hike up the road to an old mill who used to function under the pressure of the stream. His home and the mill have turned into second homes and airbnb destinations in support of the growing tourist industry of Woodstock. But back to the creative aspect of Woodstock…

A portion of the Sawkill that runs by Colow’s childhood home


The old Sawkill mill

The old Sawkill mill

“Yeah the migration of artists to Woodstock has been going on since the early 20th century,” Colow told us (remarking on the general cultural atmosphere of the area), “it grew up as an art community before any industry came to town.” The influence of artistic and creative minds is hard to miss in this town. Whether it’s the numerous not-so-subtle allusions to the Woodstock Music Festival on the flyers stapled to every lamppost and corkboard or the multitude of galleries lining the streets, the influence of Woodstock’s artistic heritage is hard to miss. Maybe it’s the rolling hills, verdant open fields, and crystalline streams that attract artists like a magnet, it certainly couldn’t be prettier around here. Colow mentioned the Byrdcliffe Art Colony while conversing with our class, and although we never visited there on our field trip, I just had to look it up. The first sentence of its mission statement pretty much fit perfectly with what I expected: “The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild provides a vibrant center for excellence in the arts and crafts in the beautiful and unique rural community of Woodstock, New York, while preserving the historic and natural environment of one of the earliest utopian art colonies in America”(http://www.woodstockguild.org/about-byrdcliffe/). So, to all you artists of the world, if you’re looking for a new muse, I highly suggest Woodstock, New York.

A collection of Woodstock characters

A collection of Woodstock characters


Basilica Soundscape

Photo Sep 13, 3 52 33 PMOn Friday the 13th, I attended the first night of the second annual music festival held at the Basilica Hudson in Hudson, New York.  Last year this event had the functional title of “Basilica Music Fest.”  This year, they called it Basilica Soundscape.  Hudson, New York — a city of just over 6,000 people in Columbia County — is becoming known a music destination in the Hudson Valley (as mentioned by Mary Kay Vrba from Hudson Valley Tourism).  The programming at Basilica Hudson, and especially this annual event, are some of the main reasons for this reputation.


Basilica is a 19th-century factory located on the city’s waterfront, just a two-minute walk from the city’s train station. It was purchased a couple of years ago by independent filmmaker Tony Stone (a Bard College graduate) and musician Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins), who thought its unique grounds, vast interiors and industrial grit would make an ideal space for art, performance, production and events. IMG_0072 IMG_0049Perhaps unlike most owners of music venues or art galleries in the Hudson Valley, Stone and Auf der Maur had the creative-industry credentials and personal contacts to put the new Basilica Hudson on the map right away.IMG_0073 IMG_0074With capacity for about 1,000 people, Basilica Soundscape doesn’t try to be an all-purpose music festival.  The musicians, artists, and writers who contributed to the event tended toward the extreme, avant-garde and “ethereal doom” (as the New York Times put it). Yet they brought out a remarkable variety of attendees in terms of age and lifestyle, from college students and Brooklyn hipsters to an older art audience.


Evian Christ


A four-way musical collaboration conducted by Jonathan Bepler, featuring (clockwise from left) Julianna Barwick, Evian Christ and Pig Destroyer. Not featured: Pharmakon.


sculpture by Matthew Barney

The event also hosted food trucks, pop-up stores, and other new trends in urbanism not usually associated — at least for now — with a small, upstate city like Hudson.

IMG_3351 IMG_3350For more on Basilica Soundscape, click here.

For more photos from the first night, click here.

For an urban analysis of the Basilica Hudson and last year’s music festival, click here.