Everyone remembers Woodstock 1994 for the mud and Woodstock 1999 for the $4 water and the images of sunburned heavy metal fans caked in human excrement setting piles of garbage on fire. But you rarely hear about the 29th anniversary celebration held in August of 1998 at the site of the original festival in Bethel, New York. It was a smaller affair organized by millionaire Alan Gerry, who purchased the site with the aim of bringing music back to it.
They couldn’t legally call the thing Woodstock, so they went with “A Day in the Garden.” The three-day show featured returning Woodstock acts Pete Townshend, Ten Years After, Richie Havens and Melanie playing alongside classic rock icons Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Donovan and contemporary acts Third Eye Blind, the Goo Goo Dolls, Marcy Playground and Joan Osborne. It even rained during Nicks’ set, surely bringing a flood of nostalgic memories for baby boomers who gathered for the weekend.
Pete Townshend alone cost the organizers $500,000, one of the reasons they reportedly lost a great deal of money on the weekend. The Who guitarist mixed solo tracks like “I Am an Animal” and “Let My Love Open the Door” with Who classics like “Magic Bus,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Drowned.” He closed with “See Me Feel Me,” which the Who famously played as the sun rose at the original Woodstock. This time around, the sun went down as they played it. He didn’t have Roger Daltrey to help out on vocals, so he invited a gospel choir to fill the void. Check out video of the moment right here.
The relatively small event may not have been a huge financial success, but in comparison to Woodstock ’99 the following summer, it was a major triumph. (Of course, nearly every festival short of Altamont was a triumph compared to Woodstock ’99.) There is now a permanent concert venue on the site of the original Woodstock, and there’s rumors of a 50th anniversary show in 2019 put on by the team that brought us the first three – hopefully it’s more like “A Day in the Garden” and less like Woodstock ’99.