Woodstock Rocks On, but The Beat Is Quieter 

Woodstock Rocks On, but The Beat Is Quieter 
Posted by CN Staff on February 26, 2004 at 22:17:12 PT
By Denny Lee
Source: New York Times 
Woodstock, N.Y. -- For a place synonymous with music, Woodstock is eerily silent at night. The Tinker Street Cafe, where Bob Dylan composed two influential albums of the 1960's  "Another Side of Bob Dylan" and "Bringing It All Back Home"  is now a hushed photography gallery. The Bearsville Studios, where artists from the Band to Muddy Waters recorded albums, may soon become a private residence. And the Joyous Lake club, where Phish once threw surprise concerts, has been shut more than a year.
But the music lives on in ways unexpectedly chic and quintessentially bohemian. Despite a popular image burnished by countless CD reissues and VH-1 retrospectives, Woodstock is no longer just a shrine for burned-out hippies who cling to the Woodstock festival of 1969 in the tradition of former high school quarterbacks reliving past glory. New recording studios are cutting hit records. Homegrown bands are headlining national tours. And musicians of all stripes, from chart toppers to club crawlers, continue to flock here for inspiration  and, in some cases, good real estate deals  amid the gently rolling Catskills. Last year, according to The New York Observer and several local newspapers, David Bowie paid $1.16 million for a 64-acre property on Little Tonche Mountain near Woodstock, where he plans to build a palatial retreat for himself and his wife, the model Iman. But Mr. Bowie is only the latest and most recognizable name to be seduced by this close-knit town with a long reputation for breeding musical virtuosity.Most are like Peter Levin, a keyboard player from Manhattan, who first came to Woodstock to get away from the cacophony of the city, but found himself in a music-minded Shangri-La. "It's really easy to start a good band up here," said Mr. Levin, 61. "I'm in five or six bands right now. There are musicians making seven figures living down the street from musicians who barely eke out a living."Two years ago, Mr. Levin bought a 150-year-old farmhouse for about $300,000. His synthesizers and entire Manhattan studio soon followed. His 30-acre wooded property provides soundproofing for neighbors.Ensconced in a 1924 estate that sits atop its own mountain overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir is Allaire Studios, which opened in 2002. It features a 2,000-square-foot recording room with 45-foot vaulted ceilings, three Steinway pianos and 16 apartments for artists and their posses. To get there, one must traverse a private switchback to the top of Tonche Mountain."Norah Jones just recorded a part of her last album in here," said Mark McKenna, Allaire's studio manager, referring to "Feels Like Home," which came out this month. "Musicians come here for the space, privacy and serenity."Recording studios are an integral part of this musical landscape. Woodstock's history of arts and social reform may date back to 1902, when a wealthy Englishman started the Byrdcliffe arts colony. But the better part of its music heritage can be traced to 1969, though not for the reasons most people think. As every local musician knows, the festival didn't even take place in Woodstock in Ulster County, but about 50 miles away in Bethel in Sullivan County, N.Y.Albert Grossman, who managed the Band, Mr. Dylan, Janis Joplin and Todd Rundgren, founded the Bearsville Studios that year in a secluded field on the outskirts of town. Bearsville nurtured a local industry and today there are more than a dozen professional recording studios in and around Woodstock, ranging in size from Allaire to smaller studios like the Clubhouse. In any given month, the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream has at least one band staying there to record at a nearby studio.After Mr. Grossman died in 1986, however, Bearsville  along with a rambling compound that includes a 250-seat theater and a second recording house  fell on hard times. The studio, where R.E.M. recorded three albums, has been put on the market by Mr. Grossman's widow, Sally, for $725,000.Other music landmarks have been silenced. Only one place devoted exclusively to live music is currently open in downtown Woodstock  the Colony Cafe. Otherwise, Tinker Street, the main thoroughfare, offers little in the way of tunes, except perhaps for the wind chimes and meditation bells sold at nearly every gift shop in town.On weekends, the town swells with day trippers who dust off their tie-dyes to hunt for hippie paraphernalia. There is no shortage of marijuana pipes, patchouli, herbal chai, Afghan hats and Tibetan knickknacks. There is one Woodstock for musicians, and another for nostalgic shoppers."We sell mostly to tourists, Westerners and a few Dharma students," said Sering Yoden, who owns the Tibetan Emporium on Rock City Road. On warmer days, drummers have been known to plant themselves on the village green and hash out a few beats. But on a sunny afternoon last Sunday, the only people there were four teenagers playing Hacky Sack and seven older women who were carrying signs, including one that read: "Women in Black for Global Peace and Non-Violence.""This is a movement to bring our silent voices into the street for a potent political voice," said Jane Toby, 63, who teaches Italian in New Paltz, N.Y. As Ms. Toby stood in silent protest, the driver of a Subaru waved in a show of solidarity.Subarus, however, are slowly being displaced by S.U.V.'s as Woodstock, and much of the Catskills, draws more affluent New Yorkers. "Woodstock is the next Hamptons," declared Allen Gurevich, a commercial real estate agent from New York, who was nursing a beer at the Woodstock Lodge, a former dive bar that now serves mojitos and merlot. "We've got Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler and Uma Thurman."Mr. Gurevich, 32, who is renting a house with several friends, wants to buy something in town. But prices may be out of reach, if not for Mr. Gurevich, then certainly for many young musicians. "We've had a huge upswing during the last five years, especially after 9/11," said Joan C. Lonergan, the broker at Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty. The price of a three-bedroom house on three acres averaged $349,000 last year, compared with $259,000 in 2001. And the newer arrivals did not come to awaken their musical voice, but for Woodstock's proximity to New York and nature. "It's very laid back," said Enrico Palazio, 50, who owns a supermarket in Brooklyn and has a house overlooking Indian Head Mountain. "There's no pretension and a good amount of New Yorkers."But musicians are not singing the blues. Mic Todd, the 23-year-old bassist for Coheed and Cambria, an emo rock band whose members grew up in the area  and is often cited as the next big thing coming out of Woodstock  said that the town's musical heritage is too entrenched to be stifled by rising real estate prices. "The only problem," he said, "is that there's no place to play in front of an audience."That might soon change. Janet Morra, a music promoter and fund-raiser from Croton-on-Hudson, recently made an offer for the Joyous Lake. "We want to bring live music back to Woodstock," she said. "And we're going to do it right this time. We're going to have really good alcohol  all the types of martinis that money can buy. And we're going to have disco."Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Denny LeePublished: February 27, 2004Copyright: 2004 The New York Times Co.Contact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Wood Stock 69 Who Never Left Serves as Woodstock Host For The '60s, Sage and Timely
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