Malibu revisits the road to Woodstock

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Photographer Baron Wolman, who took photos of the 1969 Woodstock concert for Rolling Stone magazine, shares some of his memories from that iconic time at a signing at Malibu Lumber Yard Aug. 13. Photo by Dave Lichten / TMT

Photographer Baron Wolman, who shot the music fest for Rolling Stone magazine, talks about the good old sixties.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

It was a blast to the past at the Malibu Lumber Yard as locals and out of towners alike gathered Thursday last week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

Although the Yard looked a whole lot different from the rocking summer of 1969, with its Plexiglas fish tanks, fancy outdoor furniture, and posh shops selling high-end apparel, the new complex set the stage for some old memories.

On Aug. 13, an enthusiastic crowd turned out to reminisce about the Age of Aquarius and look back at one of the most famous events in music history.

The evening’s host was photographer Baron Wolman, who covered the famed event for Rolling Stone magazine. “I was doing a book called “Festival” and spent the summer going from concert to concert,” he recalled, “but Woodstock was special, an amazing moment, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Wolman was one of 400,000 people who headed to upstate New York for three days of “peace and music.” He joined concertgoers as they camped out in a rainy, muddy pasture to experience an all-star line-up that included the biggest names in rock and roll. The legendary acts included The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills and Nash, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker.

There were plenty of Woodstock vets in the Malibu crowd last week. Many still sport their long ponytails as well as graying locks and receding hairlines. Instead of passing a doobie, they sipped champagne and snacked chocolate mint cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop.

Terry O’Rourke was among those who stopped by to admire Wolman’s iconic images and share stories. “It was a real eye-opening experience,” he said. “You had hundreds of thousands of people. It was incredible to see all these freaks. There was rain, there was mud, but it sure was fun.”

For then 18-year old O’Rourke and the rest of the Woodstock nation, the music was unforgettable. “You had Carlos Santana, The Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie and then The Who just blew everyone away.”

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Trevillyan, who kept a watchful eye on Thursday’s crowd, came close to the Woodstock experience. “I almost made it,” he said. “I didn’t end up going, but at least I got to see Jimi Hendrix the next year.”

For many, Woodstock wasn’t just an event; it was a state of mind. “There was so much going on,” said Woodstocker Paul Neill. “You had the ‘60s civil rights movement, the marches, the Vietnam War.”

Wolman said those strong anti-war sentiments seem to have slipped into the background in more recent years. “There was a lot of conflict between kids and the military,” he noted. “The difference now is no one’s being drafted.”

Out of those tumultuous times, three days of peace, love and music emerged and that is what’s remembered. “When you look back, Watergate was kind of the low point,” Wolman said. “Woodstock was the mythological high point. Things happened beautifully.”