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Suddenly 15 Again, 40 Years after Woodstock

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I just attended the Outside Land Music Festival in San Francisco, with my teen son and two of his female friends.

outside lands music festival 15 again after woodstock

Bruce Sallan: It proved to be a rare opportunity to relive my youth, experience those feelings of excitement only a 15-year-old can feel, and vicariously share it all through their eyes and the excitement they radiated the entire time.

The lineup was extraordinary and included Incubus, Black Eyed Peas, Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, and Tom Jones, the current retro star of this generation. The Welsh hipster didn't disappoint as, at 69, he put on a show that rivaled any of the younger headliners. The crowd of kids knew every word of every one of his songs.

There was an omnipresent smell, described aptly by Dave Matthews as "Eau du Reefer," which quickly brought me back to 1969. Between that and the sloshing beer, it was quite a job to keep an eye on my three charges for the two days we went to the festival.

For the four of us, the Dave Matthews Band was the highlight. I sucked in my fears, as a middle-aged, over-the-hill dad, and worked my way through the throngs and stood, 30 feet from the stage, for the entire 2 1/2-hour show with my son and his friends, dancing, screaming, and digging every amazing minute of it.

Only by resurrecting the phrase "I dug it" can I convey how deeply the festival thrilled me. First, the experience took me back 40 years. In 1969, I too was 15. I missed out on Woodstock solely in the sense that I did not spend that August weekend in rural New York with Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, and the rest. I lived Woodstock in other ways, as I ditched college classes to take road trips to the hippie enclaves of San Francisco. Thankfully, I only minimally indulged in the drug aspect of it. But sex and rock 'n' roll was there for anyone breathing. And, I was breathing.

To be explicitly clear, nothing untoward happened on this recent trip for me and the kids except joining throngs of people enjoying the sunshine and loud rock 'n' roll. No mud, acid, naked bodies, or any of the hallmarks of Woodstock or my relatively innocent trips to San Francisco when I was older and in college.

That brings me to the second reason I dug the festival. I enjoyed seeing my son and his best friends dig it. Being 15 in the days of Woodstock meant frequently and joyfully crowding together with your friends to celebrate, with music, the discovery that growing up was in the immediate future, and meant new freedom, new opportunities, and new kinds of power. Maybe being 15 has always meant that. At this festival, I watched my son experience it, and I was terribly happy for him.

Finally, I dug it because I discovered that my son treats women very well. Made me feel old and made me feel proud at the same time as he looked after his two friends the way a man should protect the women in his life. With thousands of people milling about and their desire to brave the crush of the crowd to get up close, it was a challenge for him that he fully met and conquered.

The ironies and comparisons were further heightened when I saw "Taking Woodstock" shortly after we returned. That film so wonderfully captured the look and feel of the period that I almost smelled the dope in the air while listening to the music that seems as contemporary today as it was 40 years ago. It was just a terrific evocation of the times, the 60s, maybe better than any other film about that period.

As I reflect on my own feelings at 15, and edited and reviewed the photos I took on this trip, our own Woodstock-type experience, I knew my son and his friends had an incomparable experience. And, so did I. There's no doubt, even if I'm just a guy.

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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Natalie September 4, 2009, 3:40 AM

This was an awesome article. Made me smile! And made me thankful that there are parents out there who enjoy their children, and their childrens experiences this much!

David September 4, 2009, 7:44 AM

I have read almost all of Bruce’s writings, thanks to their presence on his website. This one is among my top two or three favorites. What Bruce has obviously done over a fifteen-year period is to patiently, with careful choices and artful attention to interpersonal communication, construct a strong, healthy bond with this son. Bruce’s success was proven when this son CHOSE to attend this event with his dad! What a REMARKABLE accomplishment in parenting. From Bruce’s other columns and blog posts, I have learned that this fifteen-year-old son is a “normal” teenager, with a social network of “normal” friends his age, all of whom are hoping to catch the favoring winds of the teen years while trying to steer clear of the accompanying shoals. The son is making good progress in becoming increasingly and responsibly independent … yet at the same time, he seeks out “quantity” time with Dad by going on a road trip with him. A beautiful balance struck – congratulations, Bruce! – that led to a great adventure for ALL members of this picaresque crew. The photos of them as a group suggest that they WANT to be together, reaching out and loving each other across the generations.

Scott September 4, 2009, 8:24 AM

As usual, a refreshingly different take on parenting and on this current crop of teenagers…thanks, Bruce.

I am convinced that even after decades of the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate, that there is a special place in human development for the role of parents. I’m guessing that this young man has learned a lot from his father, perhaps in spite of himself. It may very well be that the capacity to take responsibility and to show concern for those around you is an inherent part of many/most young humans. BUT, acting on that instinct and working hard at making it real in one’s life is, I think, substantially a learned characteristic. Good for you, Bruce and good for your son that he has a good role model and that you have the joy and privilege to observe him becoming a man.

Trace September 4, 2009, 9:46 AM

I know Bruce and his son, and this story makes me so happy. It is so wonderful to know that there are people in this world who are really and truly in touch with their kids and their lives…and are parents at the same time.

Never September 4, 2009, 10:20 AM


Awesome trip. You have got to be a great dad. This is undoubtedly the best blog or artical I have read from you. When you write from the heart it totally come through how much you love your life, your wife and your boys. Keep it up.

Just Jo September 4, 2009, 10:20 AM

Bruce, that is what life is about…Making fantastic memories that our children will be able to take with them and look back on. Wonderful photos of a weekend shared by all. Thank-you so….much!!!

Bob September 4, 2009, 1:51 PM

Bruce, you’ve never grown up and we all know that.

Paul Burri September 4, 2009, 3:15 PM

Another insightful column. My wife and I read you every week in the Santa Barbara News Press. Keep up the good advice.

Jeff Vaughn September 4, 2009, 9:57 PM

Great article! Makes me wish I’d been to this fest. My sons are a little younger than 15, but I can’t wait to take them to something like this; I know they’d have a great time and so would I. For now, I’ll settle for seeing the movie about Woodstock Bruce recommended.

Kathi Browne September 6, 2009, 7:55 AM

I wish I could have moments like those with my kids. Back in their younger days, they always wanted mommy to do things for them, and I would have to comfort my husband by saying, “someday they will be all yours and not want me any more.” Well, that day is here. I could never suggest a concert or even a local fair.I guess this is one of those rare times when being a DAD, rather than a mom is actually an advantage.

Logan Spangler September 6, 2009, 8:49 PM

AMAZING ARTICLE!! What a wonderful trip we had, I’ll never forget it. Thank you so much for such a great experience!

arnie September 7, 2009, 11:41 AM

this trip was by far the best experience of my life. As you said, nothing went wrong at all and everything ended up to work out perfectly. This is something ill look back at when im 60 and always remember. It was great that you got to join us for dave matthews band and experience being right there in the middle of the sea of people…..even if you were the oldest one around. Thank you so much again for this experience.


Kirsten Wildman September 10, 2009, 12:15 AM

Reminds me of my days following The Grateful Dead, starting the pink floyd concert on stage and being completely blown away at the The Who!!! There is nothing like bonding with your group, listening to epic music in one the most magical cites in the USA! Nice to hear they all took care of one another,so sweet
wish I was there- what a cool thing to do with them. I took my daughter and friends last year to a concert series Lalapooluza in Chicago- WE rocked it and I think my coolness factor grew! But really we all had crazy fun in a funky hotel & one night and a yaucht on the lake. Went with my sister in Law and my nei and nephew(cousins all about the same age- And with my step-daughter and son-in law they follow phish but enjoyed the family renion!!!

Gillian September 13, 2009, 12:01 PM

You did make me feel 15 again.

ally September 13, 2009, 12:05 PM

I want to experience that tingle of first love again. Thanks for a sweet journey and GREAT pix.

Carol September 13, 2009, 12:08 PM

Bruce, I really enjoy your stories with photos and this one made me feel like I was 15 again. Wish I had the money and time to do what u did.

PostalDad September 14, 2009, 7:39 PM

What a wonderful thing to accomplish as a dad! My wife and I look for vacation spots with are kids all the time, and what you did is something to look forward to. Thanks for that, Bruce. I’m glad all of you had a great time. Even though you WERE the oldest one there. LOL

TED G September 23, 2009, 9:19 PM

Awesome. i cant wait for that experience. We just bought my son a guitar - maybe we’ll take lessons together.

bruce Sallan October 5, 2009, 9:02 PM

Ted - don’t just talk or write about that - it’s a GREAT idea and you’ll get so close to your son! DO IT! April 20, 2011, 7:40 AM

15_again_40_years_after_woodstock_outside_lands_festival_taking_woodstock.. Keen :)

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