No Jackets Required went back in time to the age of peace, love and rock n’ roll with Free Love, a sold-out Woodstock tribute concert in the May Room on Friday night. The crowd of 300, many of whom were decked out in vintage tie-dye, bandanas and flowing flower-child dresses, danced and sang along during the three hour performance.
The organizing committee, led by juniors David Bendes, Chris Haynes, Jamie Wilson and Justin Rosati, took great pains to recreate the relaxed and enjoyable Woodstock vibe.
The group came up with the idea in October and auditioned bands in December.
‘We kept it as close to the original concert in every way we could,” Bendes said. ‘Every song we performed at the show was done at the original Woodstock. The set list was chosen based primarily on song importance to the actual festival and the surrounding time period, as well as how well a song would be recognized. We even set up a second stage for acoustic performances, just like at the original Woodstock.”
The acoustic performances provided an interlude between the sets, so as not to disrupt the flow of the evening or add confusion by having two bands playing at once in the smaller venue.
Fifty student performers recreated the single greatest concert in history with covers of songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker and many others.
The result was an experience that, at least musically, was parallel to the 1969 concert. ‘I’ve never been to a No Jackets Required performance before, and I’m amazed at the quality,” junior Joel Mumma said. ‘All the performers are amazing. The show is really true to the original Woodstock, from everything I know.”
In the weeks leading up to the event, the individual performers practiced 12 hours a week, and the audience took notice of this. ‘The idea was really good,” freshman Kirsten Leever said. ‘The execution of the songs was great.”
However, the show wasn’t exactly like the 1969 event it paid homage to. It wasn’t an affair filled with controversy, mud, drugs and free love. The tickets had to be purchased and the venue was secured months in advance. With this concert being staged indoors in February, some of the classic Woodstock magic was lost.
‘I would’ve liked to see more audience participation,” freshman Campbell Halligan said. ‘The crowd didn’t have much energy. The bands definitely practiced, but I felt like something was missing.”
No Jackets Required President and senior Adam Chernick provided a spot-on rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar performance of ‘The Star Spangled Banner” during the second set.
‘I’d been playing that on and off for years,” Chernick said. ‘I listened to it over and over leading up to the show,” he said. ‘It’s very poetic how Hendrix does it, using his guitar to make the sounds of “rockets red glare’ and “bombs bursting in air.’ It was fun to play. Having a solo feature was a really good and unique way to bring an end to my time with No Jackets Required.”
Many of the performers came from campus groups like Vocal Point, Midnight Ramblers and After Hours. Junior Gabe Sukenik gave a passionate performance of ‘Purple Haze” and ‘Hey Joe,” emulating Hendrix’s energetic, raspy vocals without any formal training.
‘Gabe sung his heart out on “Purple Haze,'” Chernick said.
The Hendrix songs, as well as a pitch-perfect group rendition of Joe Cocker’s cover of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends” provided the most energy and were among the show’s highlights.
The evening culminated with back-to-back performances of Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People” and ‘Dance to the Music.” That final song brought all the performers out on stage to sing along, backed with a horn arrangement by junior Brian Brown.
The original Woodstock was supposed to be all about the music, but it became a defining event for a whole generation. With decidedly less drama, No Jackets Required’s performance on Friday sure wasn’t Woodstock, not by a long shot. But it was all about the music, and the music was good.
Farrell is a member of the class of 2012.