Curt & Alicia's All-American Road Trip Vacation to the Land of The Band
It was late in December 2002 and I was deciding what to do with my upcoming vacation time. This was several months since I had discovered how incredible the music of The Band truly is, several months since their music had literally changed my whole outlook on life, several months since I had went out and bought every single album, every single DVD, poster, etc.
By now I had become a daily visitor to this fabulous website and I was inspired by Laura and Dean Petix's trip to Saugerties/Woodstock. It hit me like a freight train...drive 1,253 miles from my home in Minneapolis, Minnesota all the way to the Catskills to see Big Pink and other site related to The Band as well as the towns of Woodstock, Saugerties and Bearsville. In addition to upstate NY I made plans to catch the February 15th Levon Helm and the Barnburners show at the Turning Point in Piermont, NY.
On Tuesday February 11th, we set out in my Cadillac (The Hawk would be proud) and made stops in Chicago, Pittsburgh and State College eventually rolling into Woodstock well after midnight in the early hours of the 14th. As excited as we were to see it, we knew it would be stupid to try to find Big Pink in the middle of the night in some place we had never been before so we waited until the next day. After taking a quick little drive down Tinker Street to get a look at the town of Woodstock we crashed at a hotel in Saugerties.
The next day was beautiful (as far as winter is concerned) we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to see the famous house and other fun sights. We set out for Big Pink and found that it was surprisingly easy to find thanks to Laura and Dean's notes and our trusty Ulster county map. Then after some very cautious West Saugerties driving down Stoll Road and Parnassus Lane through the woods...there it was...BIG PINK!
We parked, got out and just took it all in. If you're reading this it's more than likely you're a huge fan of The Band, so you can appreciate what it felt like to stand there knowing what had happened at the very spot you're at. My mind kept flashing the famous Elliot Landy shot of the guys in their suits in front of the house on Easter Sunday, 1968. After I came back down to earth, the camera came out and we snapped some shots. Everyone creates a picture in their mind of what a place looks like, especially when you have never seen the place or have only seen one shot or one angle (which was the case here). It was surprising to find that there are some other houses very close to Big Pink. But I remember hearing Rick say in an interview that the house was on 100 acres so that leads me to believe that since The Band's time there, the land has been sold off in pieces. Finally we came to the profound realization that we could not just hang out there forever so it was onto the town of Woodstock for the a stroll down Tinker Street.
We hit the shops and found some really interesting stuff and people even more interesting than that. At a record shop I was finally able to pick up Jericho, High on the Hog and all the solo stuff from Rick, Garth and Levon that I had not been able to get in Minnesota. After lunch we checked out the Bearsville Theatre, Zena Road, Glasco Turnpike and any other place we could find in Levon's autobiography.
This was on Valentines day so a romantic dinner for two was in order. Having just dropped into town and not knowing the area that well, we decided to stop into the first place that looked good and try it out...bad idea. The magic word was of course "reservations" and we had not made any. Suddenly this mom and pop pizza joint in downtown Saugerties seemed perfect. Alicia and I enjoyed great pizza and beer and I found "The Weight" on the jukebox, it was perfect.
Saturday the 15th came and we were off to Piermont for the Levon Helm and Barnburners show at the Turning Point. We had dinner that night at the club and while enjoying our after dinner drinks at the bar waiting for the show the man walked in...Levon. Everybody went downstairs for the show and we got our seats and some more drinks. Suddenly Jimmy Vivino and Chris O'Leary came on stage and informed us that the bass player was running a little late and that they were going to play a little before the show, jokingly calling themselves "The Self-Righteous Brothers".
Then Levon, Pat and Jeff joined Chris and Jimmy for the first show of the night...and what a show it was. The folks sitting next to us were surprised that two 24 year olds would drive this far to see this show and I explained, "well you're here cause you love the music too right?"
Then after the first show were headed upstairs to the "backstage" area where Butch Dener greeted us at the door and we went inside to meet Levon and the Barnburners. My career in radio has introduced me to many musicians, but nothing has ever come close to this experience. What I thought was going to be a quick meet n greet, maybe a snapshot and an autograph turned into an hour long conversation filled with great stories, laughs and priceless memories that will last Alicia and I a lifetime.
Not that anyone reading this was ever in doubt but make no mistake about it...Levon Helm is the coolest cat in any town and the nicest human being on this planet.
Thanks to Levon, Chris, Pat, Jeff, Jimmy and Butch for the best night of our lives...you guys are the greatest!
In conclusion, I will inform you that this trip is a must for any true fan of The Band.
Enjoy the pics!
--Curt and Alicia in Minneapolis