Monday, August 28, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part twenty

Sherry and I huddled close together with the blanket around us checking out the band that had just come on. It was a little past midnight, and it had gotten cold enough for me to see my breath. A tiny sliver of a moon hung high in the sky above the stage amidst a billion stars.

We had our arms around each other, and I was still tripping pretty heavy. It'd been about four hours since we had dropped the acid, and though it was starting to wear off a little I was still seeing patterns, and the new band that was playing was blowing my mind. I had never seen a group like them before.

There were electric guitars and drums like a regular rock band, but in addition there were trumpets and trombones and an organ, and the sound was new and unique. I was intrigued.

"Who is that?" I asked Sherry.

"I don't know." She looked over towards her right "Linda," she asked, "you know who that is, don't you?"

"It's Blood, Sweat and Tears," Linda answered. She and John were sitting up with their blanket wrapped around themselves next to Sherry and me, and we all sat watching the band together. "That's Al Kooper on the keyboards. He started the band."

I was vaguely familiar with the name Al Kooper. A friend of mine had played an album for me by the Al Kooper Blues Band. I hadn't cared for it much, but this new band of his sounded pretty good.

They did a couple of songs, and then the third song that they did I recognized from hearing it on the radio. Spinning Wheel was the title. I hadn't really liked it, but seeing it performed live made a big difference. It may have been the acid, but it sounded really good.

They did two more songs and then quit. While we waited for the next band to start, Sherry and I started to cuddle, and it only took a few minutes before we were lying back down and making out.

I felt really close to Sherry. Even though we had only met the day before I felt as if I had known her forever. I wanted to kiss her and feel her body against mine for the rest of the night, but then the lightning fast licks of an electric guitar came shooting up from the stage, and I knew exactly who it was.

I dragged Sherry up to a sitting position, and though the stage seemed miles away, the long white hair of the guitarist was unmistakable. It was Johnny Winter.

I had bought an album by him earlier that summer and had become captivated by his guitar playing. He was incredibly fast, and me and my best friend David had gotten into an ongoing argument of who was fastest, him or Jimi Hendrix. I argued it was Johnny Winter, but David held out that it was Jimi Hendrix. David finally conceded that Johnny Winter was faster, but that Jimi Hendrix was better. After I thought about it, I realized that David had a point. But still, Johnny Winter was a hell of a guitarist.

He played this song called Mean Town Blues, and he really got down on the guitar. He had a style of playing with a slide and fingering the fret board at the same time, and it was out of sight. Guitar notes came blasting at me like a machine gun and twice as fast, and his usually scruffy voice was as raw as his guitar playing. He played for about 15 minutes, and then he unplugged his guitar and left the stage.

At first I was disappointed at how brief he had played, but when Sherry put her head down on my shoulder I forgot all about it. We laid back down and cuddled and kissed, and for a while we just lay there and looked into each other's eyes. It was if we were communicating without making a sound, our eyes telling each other how we felt, and for the first time in my life I felt totally at ease with a girl. I felt the peace and love my generation professed, and all seemed well with the world.

When the next group started playing I couldn't believe my ears. It was the song that we all had heard over the PA system earlier that morning, the song that had come to define my experience at Woodstock. It was soft and soothing, mellow and peaceful, and it was being performed on stage that very moment.

Sherry and I sat back up to listen. John and Linda were sitting up, and as much as I wanted to say something to John about that being the song we had all talked about that morning, I wanted more to let the sweet sound of the acoustic guitars and rich harmonies wash through me.

There were three guys on stage sitting on stools singing and playing guitars, and I couldn't believe how good they sounded. The sound was as full as if there were twice as many people playing, but it was just three guys. Incredible.

It was a long song, and when it ended the four of us looked at each other in awe.

"That was that song," John said. There was a look of amazement on his face.

"Yeah," I said. I grinned at him.

"The one from this morning," Linda added. She had a smile on her face.

"That was so cool," Sherry said. She looked at me and then over towards John and Linda.

John grinned back at me, and I noticed that Sherry and Linda were exchanging smiles. I wanted to say more, but as the applause from the crowd died down, one of the guys in the group began to speak.

"Thank you," he said, "we needed that. This is our second gig... this is the second time we've ever played in front of people, man, and we're scared shitless."

They played a couple more songs, and then they played another song that I recognized from being played through the PA system. It was something about a Marrakesh express.

They did four more songs, all of them fantastic, and when they were finished I felt great. For all the shit that I had been through the past three days, the walking, the rain, and everything else, this night with Sherry was really making up for it. And then there were the bare breasts from earlier that day. My mind still reeled from that experience.
I looked at my watch and couldn't believe the time. It was past four in the morning. It sure didn't seem like it. For as good as I felt, I was coming down off the acid, and a nagging feeling was beginning to bring me down. I was worried how we were all going to get home. I lay back down with Sherry and we kissed and caressed, and that helped ease my mind for a while.


Blogger Bibi said...

Interesting slice of history ... sounds as though you had a good time!

9:49 PM  
Blogger John Ivey said...

To tell you the truth, there was more hardship than happiness, but the good times made it all worthwhile. Thanks for stopping by.

10:59 AM  

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