Fifty years ago in mid-August, more than 400,000 people converged on a 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York to hear artists such as Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, The Who and Jimi Hendrix.
A group of local musicians will help re-create that iconic festival when they perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at The Venue in downtown Aurora. The Venue was created by the nonprofit Fox Valley Music Foundation.
The Woodstock 50 Celebration Festival will be held indoors with access to the adjacent Mundy Park, weather permitting.
The lineup on Aug. 16 will pay tribute to Joe Cocker, led by local musician Chad Watson, and to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, featuring Lisa G and the Lucky Ones with special guest Mirabelle Skipworth.
“What we wanted to do was showcase local talent interpreting the big names from that show and sort of bring back some of the feeling of connection to people, connection to our community and connection to the history of the show by reprising both the old music and then sprinkling it in with original tunes from local songwriters as well,” said Lisa Gloria, marketing and sales manager for The Venue, who fronts the band Lisa G and the Lucky Ones.
Also as part of the Aug. 16 lineup, Janis Joplin will be honored with a performance by Emily Tipping, backed up by an all-star lineup of Scott Tipping, Chuck Lacy, Scott Stevenson and Matt Thompson. Capping off the night’s Woodstock celebration will be a tribute to Sly and the Family Stone by Mick Ducker, backed by the same lineup.
The weekend will feature activities including face painting and a tie-dye station along with food trucks.
“We want to really make it fun,” Gloria said.
Gloria, who is 48, was born after Woodstock took place. But she appreciates the impact the festival made.
“The music that happened at Woodstock is what was popular music when I was growing up,” Gloria said.
Gloria said she is looking forward to performing the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as part of the festival.
“I feel like we got a pretty sweet assignment, honestly,” she said. “As a songwriter, it will probably affect my songwriting for a really long time. Once you have those harmonies, you want to see what else you can do with them.”
The festival’s second day will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will rewrite Woodstock history with Mary Lou O’Brien Fischer covering Joni Mitchell. Though Mitchell did not appear at Woodstock, she always wished she had.
Immediately following her performance will be Empty Can Band leader Dave Glynn with a few members of his Empty Can band performing songs by Richie Havens, John Sebastian and Country Joe and the Fish. Glynn and Gloria will perform Joan Baez and Jeffrey Shurtleff’s version of a Gram Parsons song, “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man.”
At 4:45 p.m., the band Electric Dirt will pay homage to The Band. Next up, Rebel Soul Revival will perform songs by The Who and Mountain, followed by Dave Ramont with a set featuring Arlo Guthrie and Creedence Clearwater Revival songs.
Stoopid Tiny and the Beers with Dave Nelson will offer songs by Johnny Winter and Ten Years After, followed by Funktional Family, which will channel the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
The final performance set for 8:45 p.m. will feature a Jimi Hendrix tribute by Noah Gabriel and Scott Tipping. Tipping is the festival’s musical director.
“The lineup just kind of fell into place,” Scott Tipping said. “They are people that I thought could spotlight different Woodstock artists. It was pretty simple, because we have a lot of really great musicians within the community. It was a matter of talking to artists and trying to pair them up with a Woodstock artist that we thought would work with their strengths.”
Hendrix, for example, is one of his biggest musical influences.
“I received a copy of ‘Are You Experienced?’ probably around when I was in kindergarten,” he said. “That record really just knocked me out. And, obviously, his Woodstock performance is pretty iconic, you know. It was a pretty incredible moment in rock ’n’ roll.”
The musicians featured in the festival will have free rein to interpret the songs as they see fit.
“I think to re-create the songs note for note would actually go against the grain of what Woodstock was and what that form of rock ’n’ roll was,” Tipping said. “There’s a freedom of expression within it, and the people that we have are certainly free to interpret things their own way.”
Tipping, who is 45, also was born after Woodstock took place. But he knows the important role the festival played.
“I think it was a beautiful way for the people of that generation to show the world that they could have a big festival that certainly had more people than it was supposed to have and it could be a peace and love event,” Tipping said. “It was a good moment. It didn’t come without lessons to be learned from it, but it was a pretty beautiful moment in time.”
If you go
WHAT: Woodstock 50 Celebration Festival
WHEN: 7 p.m. Aug. 16 and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 17
WHERE: The Venue, 21 S. Broadway Ave. (Route 25), downtown Aurora, between Galena Boulevard and Downer Place
COST: Advance tickets range from $14 to $18 or a two-day general pass for $30; VIP packages available