July 14, 2011 —
And just prior to becoming “a little bit Rock & Roll,” I was a teeny bit Doo Wop as well. This week the Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts (www.bethelwoodscenter.org ) became my second home as I returned to the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival—repeatedly!
The White Lake Saltshaker Reformed Presbyterian Church (www.whitelake  church.com) sponsored a “classic” car show on the grounds of Bethel Woods this past Saturday, in conjunction with the Doo Wop Festival scheduled for the same evening on the main stage. Lovingly restored vehicles were on display for several hours, along with their owners, and the event served as a fundraiser for the Shepherds Pantry food bank, which serves the community on the second Thursday of each month.
The vehicles represented two decades, ranging from the fabulous ‘50s through the early ‘60s, and people milled about, inspecting everything from interiors to fins, while reminiscing and celebrating the “golden age” of automobiles. Banion Felders’ 1932 Ford was awarded “best in show” and White Lake resident Dick Morey took home the people’s choice award with his 1961 Buick convertible. The cars were a perfect backdrop for the Doo Wop show that followed, and by the time I had perused the lot, I was more than ready for the music that followed.
As thousands cheered, ‘50’s and ‘60’s vocal adrenaline hit the stage with an onslaught of memories. While on the cusp (I was born mid-‘50s) I can recall being in my playpen (whatever happened to them?) as my mother played “happy homemaker” (before women’s lib) swaying and bopping to the radio while ironing and dusting before Daddy-O would get home in time for Dean Martin on the black & white.
The Fireflies, Chantels, Crickets and Planatones (do the walk) joined combo-group Brooklyn Reunion (Mystics, Classics and Passions) sounding incredible, though there were many silver streaks in the pompadours and bouffants. Major chart-toppers like “Maybe,” “Till Then,” “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day” paved the way for the (all original members) group The Drifters, as they hit the stage in their matching red suits, performing the signature choreography and ultra-smooth sound (“Under the Boardwalk”) that helped define a generation.
It was a gorgeous night, and couples could be spied slow-dancing on the lawn in a really sweet flashback moment that invoked what could be interpreted as a kinder, gentler era.
On Sunday, back at Bethel Woods, that same lawn transformed into a Country Western extravaganza as The Band Perry sang its heart out just before the sensational Luke Bryan opened for consummate star headliner, Tim McGraw (and the Dance Hall Doctors). I wasn’t prepared (although dressed in my best country finery) for how good this guy truly is. Until this weekend, I had kept my love for country music (and the boots) in the closet, but let it all hang out as I sat back and soaked in the electrifying atmosphere. McGraw was using a cane and acknowledged that he “wasn’t going to let a bum leg keep him from his fans” as he strutted the stage, causing the females to swoon and the males to whoop it up throughout his full set.
No point in mincing (pun intended) words: McGraw is (IMHO) sexy, sexy, sexy. I joined the other 20,000 fans, flinging my cowboy hat into the air as this wildly talented entertainer delivered hit after hit, building excitement in the crowd to a thundering crescendo that had everyone on their feet hootin’ and hollerin’. The stage was gussied up with two full drum sets and a backdrop of LCD screen filling the house with gorgeous images of rain, lightening, trains, trucks and swaying lanterns, adding to the overall effect of a superstar doin’ his thang.
The staff at Bethel Woods was omnipresent, but not intrusive at all, allowing the fans to whoop it up (in a safe and sane manner), endlessly screaming, stomping and celebrating this country crossover sensation, who was making his first appearance in Sullivan County. “The whole reason we’ve been doing this for 25 years is you, the audience,” Mcgraw shouted to the crowd, “and we’re gonna have a good time, I guarantee.”
Honestly, a “good time” doesn’t even begin to describe what went down under the stars over the weekend. The cars, the tight harmonies of the Doo Wop and the down-home country charm all combined to create a joyous melange of music, music, music that had me cryin’ for more and delighting in living close enough to Bethel Woods (just down the road a piece) to visit over and over again.
I’ll be puttin’ on the tie-dye and love beads next week for “Furthur,” but plan to reinstate my country look immediately following the rock tribute, since I’m (now admitting) that I’m both a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Bethel Woods? Be there or be square y’all.