By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL August 15, 2006 Weve come a long way, baby boomers.
Or have we?
In 1969, Mike Grant drove from New Paltz with a bunch of friends for an Aquarian Exposition in White Lake.
Everybody was here, he said. All my friends were going.
He was 17 and ready for three days of peace, music and mud . . . and everything that came of it.
My ex-Marine Corps stepfather was going to kill me, he recalled.
So what was it like, coming back 37 years later to Bethel Woods for Woodstock weekend and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY)?
Uunggh, Grant said. I have to drink out of a paper cup!
Yes, the baby boomers were back in Bethel to hear the four aged hippies who claimed their title on that very ground as the voice of a generation.
The Woodstock nation is grayer, slower they spent the first half of the 3 1/2-hour show in their seats before finally getting up to rock out in the free world.
Were here to see Crosby, Stills, Nash and not so Young, one boomer quipped at 50 a baby, not quite old enough to have attended the original show.
The sellout show timed to bring CSNY back to town for Woodstock reunion weekend was a stop on the quartets Freedom of Speech tour.
The paper cups Grant bemoaned were a request from the band no plastic or glass bottles were allowed in the pavilion for the politically-charged show.
Theyve come here to settle peace, said Susan DiCostanzo of Kauneonga Lake, same thing they came here for all those years back.
The setlist was heavy with songs from Neil Youngs recent Living With War album, the bands message augmented frequently by the display of a tattered peace sign or a yellow ribbon.
A screen dropped and raised behind the rockers played out a CNN-style LWW broadcast, recounting the casualties in the Iraq war thus far and revealing President George W. Bush as he flip-flopped on the war.
Graham Nashs first reference to the commander-in-chief brought much of the crowd to their feet with raucous cheers.
A few walked out as the night went on, a few boos were mumbled, but the mixed crowd of gray-haired boomers and their more youthful progeny nodded and sang.
Lets Impeach the President, with the lyrics posted on the screen, brought the entire pavilion and the lawn to their feet for a sing-along.
But it wasnt all about the war.
The nostalgia factor ran high with Ohio, Southern Cross and Chicago, and the ragged Stephen Stills and Young, 61 and 60 respectively, proved their mettle with extended guitar solos.
The Mighty Cros David Crosby, working on his second liver and the oldest member of the legendary band (he turned 65 the day after the concert), stood like Father Time with his flowing white mane that he almost cut.
Crosby took a tour early Sunday with Sullivan Countys most famous hippie.
Duke Devlin came to Bethel in 1969 he stayed so long, they put him to work.
The North Branch resident is now the site interpreter at Bethel Woods, in charge of taking the bands down to the original site for a tour.
He said the vibe is definitely here, Devlin said of Crosby.
Devlin said Sunday was 37 years in the making, but nothing could bring back the Age of Aquarius.
Its not exactly Woodstock, its Bethel Woods, he said. And Bethel Woods is grandiose.
Woodstock was simple with the mud, the sleeping under the stars, the free love.
Its remembered with what Devlin calls the tomb of the unknown hippie, the monument thats long stood on the original site.
Bethel Woods has taken hallowed ground into the next era.
But the address will always be Woodstock, Devlin said.
Amanda Brown is the granddaughter of Mr. Woodstock.
Her grandfather, Art Vassmer, served peanut butter sandwiches to hundreds of hippies who descended on Bethel unaware that they were going not to a concert venue but Max Yasgurs dairy farm.
She wouldnt have missed Sunday.
Its Crosby, Stills, Nash . . . and Young, thats why Im here its all four, she said. Really, I would have come here anyway, as long as the tickets werent much over $200.
The whole town is here, Brown continued.
Her grandfather was there too, she said.
His spirit is here.
Brown took a seat on the lawn near friend Katrina DiCostanzo.
DiCostanzo, 23, knows all the words to CSNY classics because of her parents.
We brainwashed our kids with the music of yesteryear, her dad, Frank, said with a laugh.
The musical experience was unequaled.
These days Brad Burnett runs Brim Recycling in Cuddebackville, but he spent his 20s on the road with groups like the Police and Pat Benatar.
He equated the acoustics at Bethel Woods with the best venues in the nation.
Burnett has a farm on Hurd Road, and he grew up in Sullivan County.
He was 17 when Woodstock came to town his family went but wouldnt take him along.
Sunday, he got that chance, bringing along some 40 people to relive the counterculture of the 1960s.
Were like old hippies, Burnett said. As far as this ... Woodstock ... weve really grown up in the world.
Maybe not Roy Howards place, but here, he said.
Mike Grant was disappointed at the Woodstock reunion in 1999.
He was in shock walking in the gates on Sunday evening.
But Woodstock is still here, he said.
I think probably a lot of this will have been lost anyway, Grant said. If this is the way theyre going to keep it alive, so be it.
Spirit extinguished or lost, it was reignited Sunday night when Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reclaimed the mics to once again rail against the establishment.
With just a 20-minute break, CSNY carried on until 11 p.m. After taking a bow and turning down the lights, they returned to the stage.
At the mic, Stills quipped, Looks like we missed one.
Guitars at the ready, they began to sing:
I came upon a child of God. He was walking along the road.
And I asked him, where are you going, And this he told me.
Im going on down to Yasgurs farm, Im going to join in a rock n roll band, Im going to camp out on the land, Im going to try an get my soul free
We are stardust, we are golden, and weve got to get ourselves back to the garden.