Woodstock Tribute show coming to State Street Theater
NEW ULM — This summer marks a half-century since 500,000 youths traveled to Bethel, New York for a music festival on Max Yasgur’s farm. That festival was the now-famous Woodstock. A special tribute concert is coming to New Ulm to recreate the summer of 1969.
“Feelin’ Alright! A Woodstock Tribute Show” will be performed at the State Street Theater 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 28.
The show is written and performed by Pat and Donna Surface. The concert will also feature their band “American Pie” with lead guitarist Bill Marsh and Darrol “Butch” Schmidt on bass.
Donna Surface said she wrote Feelin’ Alright as an entertaining tribute to Woodstock. She was part of the original Woodstock festival. Surface worked for Michael Lang, the producer of Woodstock, in New York City and experienced the phenomenon first hand from behind the scenes.
Surface met many of the rock stars that performed at Woodstock and was deeply immersed in the culture and music. She was a self-described hippie. In 1969, she was in college but took a break to work for Lang at the Woodstock concert, and she never went back after starting a career in the entertainment industry.
Surface described Feelin’ Alright as a multi-media variety tribute show. Unlike other tribute shows dedicated to a single artist, this one is a tribute to the many artists at the original Woodstock in August of 1969. The goal is to recreate the feeling of the festival that inspired 500,000 people to trek across the country to upstate New York.
“We want to paint a picture of the festival,” Surface said. The show will feature songs, stories, and video from Woodstock. Since Surface has a personal connection to Woodstock, the show will feature monologues on the festival from an insider’s perspective. Feelin’ Alright is not just about the music, but about the stories connected to Woodstock.
“1969 was a year like no other,” she said. In addition to Woodstock, there was the moon landing, the continuing war in Vietnam and Judy Garland recently died. Surface said the show opens with a video to set the mood and blast audiences back to 1969.
“If you were not there in 1969, this show will truly take you back to the era,” she said.
The show is interactive and includes a Woodstock trivia segment with prizes. It’s common for audiences to attend the show dressed up as hippies. They wear a lot of tie-dyes and put on the old bell-bottoms, assuming they still fit.
Surface said she likes to ask if anyone in the audience attended the original Woodstock. If anyone has attended the entire concert, she asks if they stayed through the whole festival to see Jimi Hendrix play.
She said Hendrix was not the first choice to close the festival. Roy Rogers, “The Singing Cowboy” was the first choice. Lang wanted to see Rogers sing “Happy Trails” to thousands of hippies, but Rogers’ manager thought Woodstock was a waste of time. However, 50 years later, Feelin’ Alright does feature the song.
Surface admitted it would likely be impossible to put on another festival to match Woodstock.
“This is a different era,” she said. At Woodstock, around 60,000 people camped out two days before the concert started, before any fences or ticket booths could be set up. There was no way to stop the crowds or prevent people from bringing in anything they wanted. Today, any event with a mass audience requires a level of security impossible to impose on crowds of this size.
Surface said 1969 was a more innocent time and Woodstock was kind of miracle.
“Can you recreate a miracle,” she asked. The next best thing is this tribute concert. “People want to remember it,” she said, “and people who were not there want to experience it.”
In addition, Surface said the 50th anniversary was the perfect time for the tribute concert because no one will be around for the 100th anniversary.
Feelin’ Alright! advance tickets can be purchased at the New Ulm Chamber, Hy-vee, or online at statestreetnewulm.org. $12.50 pre-sale and $15 at the door for tickets.