The original Woodstock took place 43 years ago, on a rainy August weekend at Max Yasgur’s farm in the Catskills. Yet for many of the twenty- and thirty-something Israeli artists performing at the upcoming fourth Woodstock Revival Festival on August 2 in Jerusalem, the music made at that seminal event in rock history is what they listened to as teenagers, and what ultimately nurtured them as musicians.
“I know everything Neil Young has ever done,” said singer Geva Alon, reflecting on his songlist for the Woodstock RevIVal, comprising Neil Young covers chosen from the singer’s more than 50 albums. “Classic rock is where I started; it was the music at home. We had Elvis, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones; but not so much Arik Einstein and Chava Alberstein.”
The pivotal music of the 1970s wasn’t only played in the Alons’ home. The American and British artists of that time were popular throughout Israel, and Alon commented that “every Israeli home had a CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) album,” referring to the band whose performance was often considered a highlight of the original festival.
There may not be any CCR played at Woodstock Revival this year, but singer Yael Deckelbaum (performing with Libi and The Flashback) channels wild child Janis Joplin in her onstage persona while singer/guitarist Michael Greilsammer calls the music of Led Zeppelin (which declined the original Woodstock invite) “the peak” to which he aspires.
Jerusalem’s Woodstock festival success shows that “sixties and seventies music just doesn’t die,” said concert promoter Nadia Levene. The Woodstock crowd generally includes native and Anglo Israelis, students, religious and secular, said Levene — really a mix, “which is one of the reasons this festival is so special.”
The seven-band lineup consists of Geva Alon (singing Neil Young), Ummagumma (playing Pink Floyd), Libi and The Flashback hosting Yael Deckelbaum (hits from Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin), Michael Greilsammer (covering Led Zeppelin), The Elevators (playing the Grateful Dead), Crystal Ship (singing The Doors) and Maya Johana Menachem with Shai Tochner and Friends (featuring a Woodstock folk set).
The festival began three years ago on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock itself, and is hitting its stride this year. Concert producer Carmi Wurtman of 2b Vibes Music, who has broughtto Israel such all-star bands as The Black Eyed Peas, is organizing the event, with proceeds benefiting American Football in Israel (AFI). Held at Kraft Stadium, the headquarters of AFI, the annual event has often felt like a cross between a tailgate party, Grateful Dead concert and extended family barbecue, given the attendance of many local English speakers, small children and the hippyish religious folk who are often Deadheads from way back, dancing to the music in their tzitzit or long skirts.
For the musicians, however, the music is the draw, allowing them to cover their favorite rockers, perhaps imagining themselves on that original 1969 stage.
Alon commented that it’s “cool to have a chance” to cover Neil Young’s music, to select tracks, to connect himself intimately with the singer’s history and work. “It’s the music that’s been with me my whole life,” he said.
Singer Libi — she uses just one name — had a ticket to go to the original Woodstock, but her parents took her ticket away and sent her to Israel instead. Some four decades later, she likes the poetic justice of having “missed Woodstock because of Israel, and now putting on Woodstock in Israel.”
Her adoration for Janis Joplin makes her somewhat apprehensive about covering the legendary singer, but she said she would do her best, and she’ll be hosting Yael Deckelbaum, the Israeli singer who is often compared to Joplin.
It’s a similar sentiment to the one that animates Greilsammer, an Israeli-born violinist and singer-songwriter and child of French immigrants who knows that covering Led Zeppelin as a violinist is not the easiest task, but has always looked up to the band, stressing the influence of Robert Plant’s voice and Jimmy Paige’s solo style on his own music.
Greilsammer has been released on French music labels, but prefers not to let any sound or look define him, consistently playing a combination of rock, reggae (he played with Ziggy Marley and the Wailers in Israel), Irish and folk music. What he loves about the original Woodstock, besides the “powerful music,” was that it was a time that “didn’t have any rules.”
Jerusalem’s Woodstock is somewhat different from the original event, a crowd of “our kids and our kids’ kids,” said Libi, but lacking, she quipped, the acid. And the rain.
That said, “it’s fun to do something else,” said Alon. “It’s liberating.”
It’s the message of Woodstock. Right on.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.