Not Woodstock, But Close Enough
by Sue Smith-Heavenrich
Broader View Weekly Friday, August 21, 2009
In 1969 a loaf of bread cost less than a quarter, a gallon of gas was thirty cents, and the average Joe pulled in $6,500 a year in wages. “Aquarius” topped the charts, junior high sweethearts danced to “Hey Jude” and those with $18 to splurge on three days of music headed towards Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY.
That was also the year that the five-member band, New Riders of the Purple Sage emerged from the psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco.
Forty years later a loaf of bread will cost you a couple bucks and change, you check your bank account before saying “fill-er-up” and the New Riders, a bit grayer, are still going strong. Last week they celebrated their 40th birthday with a concert at Turkey Trot Acres in Candor. Their music, a blend of country rock and psychedelic jamband reminiscent of the Dead, is still as fresh and new as it was in the last millennium. Even their rendition of traditional folksong “Pretty Peggy-O” added enough spice to get people dancing on the lawn.
It wasn’t Woodstock, but it could have been. Vendors clad in tie-dyed T-shirts and beads hawked CD’s and candles. The crowd, coming from all over the east and as far away as Arizona and California, sampled Finger Lakes wines and went back for seconds of the chocolate birthday cake.
Fans had an opportunity to sit around picnic tables and chow down on barbecue with band members. Graphic artist Kate Dwyer, who designed the birthday bash poster, drove up from Massachusetts in a car that is crammed to the gills with sleeping bags, a tent, and camp cookware.
“I spent the past week with my fiancé, following you guys through the last leg of your summer tour,” Dwyer told drummer Johnny Markowski. “Next year we’re taking two weeks off.”
Before the band took the stage, Pete Clare toasted their 40 years. Nineteen-sixty-nine was a pivotal year, he said and then he invited Vietnam veterans and anyone who attended the Woodstock festival to join the band for a photo opportunity.
Though a couple members look like card-carrying AARP members, the New Riders have not lost their sound. They began the concert with “Where I come from”, the title track of their new album. The CD, released this June, was “born at Turkey Trot,” says guitarist Michael Falzarano.
The band likes the rustic lodge so much that they rented the lodge for a week of “woodshedding”. In March of 2008 they turned the small dining room into a recording studio and began putting the lyrics and tunes together. Then they took the songs on the road for some fine-tuning before recording the album.
Markowski said that he’s already thinking about their next album. “Though we’ve got enough for a double CD,” he said adding, “I’d like to return here, to Turkey Trot for another week to work on the music.”