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I Need a Miracle Every Day
by Haven James

More news as we blaze on toward summer with a heads up for a returning hero coming to the Joyous Lake this weekend, plus, an afterview of the miracle on Maple Lane, the Block Party to celebrate Woodstock's 212th birthday.

If you're looking for action this Friday night [06/09/99], the Lake is the place. Blues legend John Hammond will demo his classic mastery of the idiom singing and picking songs from his newest CD release, Long As I Have You (Pointblank/Virgin Records) plus many more from his previous 35 records. Prolific to say the least, Hammond has been there/done that for what seems like forever yet all the while maintaining the enthusiasm and freshness of a first-time presentation.

Hammond's maturity as a substantiated blues master has produced a rare and almost curious statement of security with this newest CD; on cuts one through 12, he doesn't play a single note. Little Charlie and the Nightcats lay down a series of burning blues riffs and Hammond provides the vocals. From classic Willie Dixon to obscure Baby Boy Warren with some T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Rogers mixed in, the album covers a lot of ground. Hammond produced these passings and then plays out the last three cuts himself with J.J. Cale producing.

Nominated for many Grammy Awards, Hammond is one of the best. His picking style includes everything from basic walking bass rounds to chordal leads that accompany themselves. Vocally he's got the range and breadth to evoke the deepest and darkest and then soar to salvation. Catching him live is a treat so if you can, call 679-0214 for advance reservations or visit the site.

Last weekend [06/05/99] saw a landmark event hit the hamlet. The gala birthday party hosted by town folk for town folk in celebration of 212 years of Woodstock life was a smashing success. Everybody involved in producing the event went way out on a limb, and remarkably, it didn't break. Not only that, rave reviews keep pouring in from cheers for the bands, praise for the food and kudos for the promoters to sincere appreciation for the courage showed by the town board and the venerable constabulary. In fact the word is, both the board and the cop shop complemented the affair and concur that doing another one before the season ends is a mighty fine idea. Will wonders never cease!

"It was a perfect evening, everything fell into place perfectly, it is almost like it was meant to be," the illustrious musical director Dr. Pepe mused, adding, "Seems like everybody had a good time and they're screaming for more."

The guesstimate is that something like 1500 people traversed the affair over its eight-hour duration. All thousand ears of corn were eaten plus bundles of tacos and such. The nettles beer was a big hit and almost like an act of divine intervention, the Woodstock Brewing truck never made it to the scene and wasn't even missed. No offense, Nat, we love your beer, but maybe for a fledgling run at a free town party the clarity of sobriety was a blessing in disguise. There were absolutely no mishaps, no problems and no objections or complaints from any quarters. This is truly a first for Woodstock.

Pepe reviewed, "It was perfectly how I envisioned. I envisioned it like a very sweet evening for everybody in Woodstock.... One person came up to me the day after and said, `I'm so glad this happened because I was worried that all the heart had gone out of Woodstock and to have something like this, it reminds me it's still here again, you know; people happy to see each other.'"

Production Manager Peter Walther chimed in almost mimicking the gushing, "And he said it was so great, even Lazlo danced with his wife!" An in joke, perhaps, but everyone collapsed in laughter.

The musicians were in top form and the sound was quite good; somehow Ted Orr got a good mix and the back lot of Houst served as a perfect amphitheater. Pep reported, "There were kids swaying when Sham's band SPIV was playing, there were like 30 teenage girls swaying in front of the stage in a wave, it was just beautiful." Younger kids opened up a bail of hay in the back and were jumping into it while others romped in the adjoining field. A lot of folks spoke of running into old friends they hadn't seen in ages. They all sat and chatted on the hay bails while others danced and twirled to the music. The porch at the Landau was a great spot to watch and listen to the concert and stayed packed throughout the evening. Clearly any of the businesses that stayed open benefited, and the entire event proved that people can work together to make for a delightful time.

Since Saturday there has been a lot of talk about a follow-up. The production team is reviewing the options and continuing to proceed slowly and thoughtfully, absolutely determined to maintain the spirit that made this first block party work. Peter noted one key townsfolk can do if they want to see a round two: "I think the main thing that will make the next one happen is go thank your town board member, just let them know you appreciate it that they let us live a little bit here." Another key factor, of course, is that everything was free, many many people donated a lot of time, energy, stuff, money and caring to pull this off and they all deserve a hearty thanks. There has been some talk of enlisting some sort of sponsorship to support future events like this and that could work as long as strings and conditions don't go with the package. It's not an easy task but Pep and Pete and Donna and countless others do seem up to the task. Equally, they all deserve a very hearty thank you for bringing it all home.

We're going to sign off with a closing message from Dr. Pepe, it's kind of a personal reflection and maybe a little long but it's as straight ahead as you're going to get: "I wanted to say this up on stage but... for me, the essence was like giving a party for someone you really care about, really really care about. The people who come, you don't ask them to pay $2 for a piece of cake, you don't ask anybody for money, you just go and do it because you like it. And the thing is there had been some other people talking to us about putting together another event, we did this out of love and out of our heart. Once it starts to get into any kind of notion of self-interest or greed, it ruins the whole thing. I'm really finding that in order to make your life happen 100 percent you have to just give it away, everything you've learned and acquired, everything you consider to be you, you have to give it back or else it's no good, it doesn't do any good for anybody. And the more you give out, the more you give back, it just grows a million times. That's really the lesson here, everybody just said yes.... Just say yes! That's the miracle of Maple Lane."

Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times

A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.

Go to the Werewolves of Woodstock page for more articles by Haven James.
Haven James can be contacted at

Posted on June 9th, 1999

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