Woodstock '94, Part One

Blind Melon - Joe Cocker - The Cranberries

August 13-14, 1994

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 1994, Volume 1, #5

Written by John Metzger

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Woodstock 94 proved to be a mixed bag, which isn't surprising, considering that it was a random conglomerate of music, commercialism, and people that severely lacked a unique identity. Not that it was all bad. Some of the music smoked with an intensity that is rarely seen. Unfortunately, this went unnoticed by the press who was more enthralled with the scene itself, and this only added to the pressure on the attendees to behave in a manner similar to those spectators at the original Woodstock.

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Joe Cocker kicked off the first "official" day of the festival (August 13) with an uneven set of old and new songs, which included a cover of the Leave Your Hat On that rivaled versions performed by Merl Saunders. Naturally, Cocker also performed The Letter as well as a perfect and very inspired With a Little Help from My Friends. Surprisingly, these didn't end his set, and he returned to the stage to blast out a bluesy Cry Me A River and a very sweet You Are So Beautiful.

The Cranberries was truly awful. The backing music was adequate, but the vocals were just horrendous.

Blind Melon -- while trashed by many critics -- delivered one of the best performances of the festival. Its high energy set reached out and drew the home viewer into the emotion of the happening in Upstate New York. The music blasted out by Blind Melon seemed carefully calculated to take the listener on a psychedelic journey as well as make a statement about the festival and those in attendance. Indeed, everything seemed to click for the band during a newer song called Soup as singer Shannon Hoon began to escape from this world into a state of higher consciousness by chanting "And now I'll close my eyes really, really tight and I'll make you all go away, make you all go away, make you all go away." Singing the frustrations and pain of a generation, Hoon added, "Well I'll pull the trigger, and make it all go away."

Between songs, Hoon made numerous social and political observations. At one point, he commented, "They're [the media] telling me you all have really distorted behavior. Well for $135 a ticket you should be able to distort whatever it is you want to distort!" Blind Melon continued its journey through the vortex as Hoon's surroundings began to alter and melt through the strange song Wilt. The set peaked during the pairing of No Rain and Time. Hoon and company seemed to lose total grasp of reality and sanity as Hoon sang the slightly altered lyrics, "All I can do is read a book to stay awake. It rips my life away, but it's a great escape (and every one of you people need it!). All I can say is that my life is pretty lame, but I got this fucked up point of view from all of you!" All hell broke loose during a blistering Time, and the band spun faster and faster through the cosmic wormhole before crashing through the other side. Hoon turned this into a statement as well, chanting "Who do you think controls you?" as a wake-up call to a generation. Did the audience get it? It certainly didn't appear so. While there should have been "500,000 fed up faces", all anyone seemed to see was the "pretty pretty colors" about which Hoon chanted.

To quote Hoon, "It seems like all that they keep doing is comparing this Woodstock to the last one and all the protests and all the things that surrounded it in 1969. And now in the 90s it's hard for us to sing about what's really wrong because there's so many things wrong today. And no one knows where to really start." Amen, Shannon. There are a lot of things wrong today, and it is frustrating. But they aren't going to get better if people don't take a stand that is different from the status quo.

Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

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Copyright 1994 The Music Box