Music Under Pressure

Music Under Pressure: Woodstock Goes To ... Woodstock

2016-10-31 13:04:22

Let's set the scene. The year is 2009, and Yach Paszkiewicz, the creator of what we know now as the Polish music video, has moored his creative ship at the foundation. We worked closely together and Yachu has very clearly set the artistic direction of our work from the very beginning. His vibrant imagination brought our heart symbol to life - his sets and designs burst with colours, motion, and unmistakeable warmth, which never failed to attact attention! 


Yachu was to blame for the stage sets at Woodstock Festival Poland. He would spend hours looking at designs, re-thinking and doodling on everything he could get his hands on - even on my designs! He worked nights. The foundation's offices were empty and quiet at night, and Yach as a permanent resident would let his creative juinces flow after everyone has left for the day. Once, we even managed to lock him up for the night. Poor Yach had to 'play dead' because each time he dared to move the alarm would wail again. I swear that he had to endure an entire night like this, before we came back to work in the morning. But, ;et's not digress. Yach was burning the midnight oil, searching the net, and that's how he has stumbled upon this thrilling information. There was to be a jubilee edition of Woodstock Festival. To make matters even more exciting, there were to be two concerts - one in Central Park in New York, and the second one much closer to home in Berlin!


Instead of saying hi to me next morning Yach greeted me with this information and added 'Is he f*cking kidding? Berlin Templehoff is an old Nazi airport!This is all against the very idea of Woodstock. We have to let him know that there is a Woodstock Festival Poland and it's the best place for him to celebrate the 25th anniversary!' So we began bombarding Lang with e-mails. One thing I can say about our work at the foundation is - we read, we reply, we think about what people are telling us. If you wrote to us and did not receive a reply, it means that the message might have gotten lost in our boundless inboxes...Lang remained silent. Nada. Nothing, not a word. But we kept on writing to him asking him to come to our festival and maybe we can come up with a plan to do something great. Just as we lost all the hope to get through to him, the guy replies to us! 'Yes, I've heard about your festival', he says. And that's all. But this curt reply gave us the drive to keep pestering him. 


We begin to dream - Michael, what say you, will you help us aquire contacts to some of the artists that played at the original event? Have you heard from Santana lately? What if, what if, what if? Our new friend Michael plays dumb again, and again, and again, and again. Comes spring 2009 and we are in New York working on a material for our TV programme. Using this opportunity we write another e-mail, asking cheekily if we can meet with him. And lo and behold! Michael Lang replied and we have (finally!) scheduled a meeting! 

He was just moving into his brand new office. Boxes everywhere. It was like being transported in one of the american films. Scyscraper, a porter in uniform letting people in and out. Lang was running a dynamic concert agency. When we finally met him face to face, the conversation was awfully stiff. We tried to infect him with our enthusiasm for the festival, and we did our best to describe it in vivid detail. Eventually, we stopped asking him for a favour and instead just stated that we are organising such an event anyway and if he manages to find the time we would be honoured to host him, and his wife at our festival. In the same time we realized that the idea of having an international concert is out of our reach, so we focused on convincing him to visit our festival. He did not accept, nor did he decline our invitation...but he did allow us to use the famous peace dove design for our sets. 


Off we went back to Poland, with our hopes crashed but with our heads full of ideas for the festival. The ideas were quite vague at best, but once in Warsaw, we received an e-mail from Michael's wife. She asks us if we are familiar with band Kroke from Krakow. Sure we did! We even invited it to Woodstock Poland twice, because I have heard their music and loved their vibe! The guys in the band were afraid of the festival. The Kroke made music for The Schindlers List, which has propelled them right into the circle of movers and shakers of the music world. I replied immediatelly that we are going to do all we can to have this band perform at our festival, because I expected Michael and his wife to visit us in Poland. I have also learned that Michael's wife studied in Crakow and she has very fond memories of Poland. All seemed to fall in place: Kroke agreed to play at Woodstock Poland and they did in fact give a great show! 


Let's fast-forward to May. We have two months to go before the festival. I called Karim, Voo-voo's bassist. I have a completely innocent request. I tell him what I had in mind - we would play the hits from  summer of '69, but to have them adjusted for a classical orchestra. Once I told him that Masovian Operetta Theatre would be taking part in this celebratory concert, Karim told me politely to get out of his hair. He would need at least a couple of months to prepare the material for this performance! Tough luck, I replied. We needed the scores on time for the festival! 


I, personally, live for such challenges. I just love it, when we need to something fast, when there are things happening around me. I am in my element when I can see everyone working together and it inspires me to work even harder, come up with new ideas, and new solutions. First, we had to choose the music. Then, we had to choose the artists, and then the artists, in turn had to agree to work with each-other. We had guys from Vienna, some interesting characters from New York joining our rock and classical artists. We began to rehearse. To make matters more bizzare, the artists worked in a venue, which reminded me of a barn. Once I heard their first attempts at weaving it all into one performance - it took a lot of faith to even imagine that they would manage to put it all together before the festival. In all honesty, the first rehearsal really took place on August the 1st, in front of the massive Woodstock audience. The artists literally went for the kill - and we decided, that the entire concert, even though no-one had even the vaguest idea of its runtime, went straight on CD and DVD.  Thinking about it now I think I could have changed something. Tweaked it here and there. Maybe cut it a bit shorter... but the entire recording still mesmerizes me, with the depth of the sound, the amazing feeling for the music. Mister Lang himself, with his black head of curly hair (how does he do it? he is older than me, but he can still boast a hea full of hair!) sat next to me on an amp case on stage. I introduced him to our beautiful audience, and he thanked them for the warm welcome. I observed his reactions to what went on stage - he definitely enjoyed Ewelina Flinta's take on 'Cry Baby'. After the show he just told us that, yeah, he liked it, but he knew all sounds like the back of his hand - the music we performed was a part of his life, the fabric of history of American music. I guess the orchestra part might have impressed him, but it was obvious that his wife was the one leaving with a massive smile on her lips. The next day, the gave me a set of original festival T-shirts from the 25th anniversary edition of the event. Then Michael went on to meet with our audience at the AFA tent. Despite the the crappy interpreter's attempts to spoil the talk, the audience stood its ground, and we proceeded with the talk in English. 


I met Michael a while later in New York. There was some talk about striking up a cooperation on the festival promotion field, but it all ended up in talks and an exchange of courtesies. Well, I always think that we managed to hold the jubilee concert, and even reprise it in Warsaw in autumn 2009. Listening to that particular CD & DVD give me shivers. The recording builds up, with the choir and orchestra gaining speed on 'With a Little Help from My Friends", through the brilliant and uplifting performance of Polish National Anthem to the most beautiful guitar solo in history of Polish music in "Little Wing". 




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