The 40th anniversary of Woodstock begins Saturday 15. In honor of the groovy event, we tell you how to immerse yourself in '60s culture, right here in NYC. Can you dig it?
Tue Aug 11 2009
Where to twist and shout
Music legends like Paul McCartney and Lou Reed may fly solo these days, but the chances of seeing your favorite ’60s bands reunited are slim. Enter cover bands: Groups like the Soft Parade (which performs songs by the Doors) can often be found at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (237 W 42nd St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 212-997-4144), doing near-exact impressions of the bands they’re aping. For a real ’60s spectacular, hit up the club’s Beatle Brunch on Saturday 15 at noon ($40--$42.50), featuring cover band Strawberry Fields. The Southern-style menu includes an all-you-can-eat buffet, with treats like mac ’n’ cheese and fried chicken.
Established in 1961, the Bitter End (147 Bleecker St between LaGuardia Pl and Thompson St, 212-673-7030) was a center for the burgeoning folk movement: Peter, Paul and Mary debuted here, while artists like Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young were regular performers. The space is still alive and kickin’ after 48 years, though you’re more likely to see rising acts than classic rockers these days.
Where to get schooled on counterculture
The ’60s saw much in the way of political dissidence, from civil-rights marches to protests against the Vietnam War. Keep the radical spirit alive by hitting indie bookstore Bluestockings (172 Allen St between Rivington and Stanton Sts; 212-777-6028, bluestockings.com), where you’ll find tomes to suit any progressive viewpoint, from gender studies and queer theory to dissertations on international politics. The store also hosts events: On Tuesday 18, catch a screening of Paul Biedrzycki’s film A-Alikes: The Ballot or the Bullet—the title is from a speech by Malcolm X—about revolutionary politics in the age of Obama (7pm, $5).
Though much of the Civil Rights movement took place in the South, NYC—Harlem in particular—had its own role in the action. Harlem Heritage Tours (212-280-7888, harlemheritage.com) operates a special Civil Rights Tour, which looks at sites of political importance in the neighborhood, including the mosque where Malcolm X preached. The next tour takes place August 20 (1--3pm, $25).
Woodstock isn’t the only seminal moment of the ’60s that turns 40 this year. June marked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which kick-started the modern LGBT-rights movement in America. You can still pay a visit to the Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St at Seventh Ave South; 212-488-2705, thestonewallinnnyc.com)— it underwent a massive renovation in 2007. Come for the history and memorabilia, but stay for the weekly comedy shows and karaoke.
Where to look bitchin’
Whether you’re hunting for bell-bottom jeans or a Brit-inspired mod shift dress, you’ll likely find it at Cheap Jack’s (303 Fifth Ave at 31st St; 212-777-9564, cheapjacks.com). The 34-year-old shop moved to its current, two-story space in 2005, and its collection of vintage pieces is grouped by decade, so you can zero in on treasures from the 1960s exclusively. Screaming Mimi’s (382 Lafayette St between Great Jones and E 4th Sts, 212-677-6464) is similarly organized, and features an array of authentic ’60s items, including shift dresses ($58--$125) and men’s suits ($150--$300).
Where to reenter the age of Aquarius
No ’60s trip through NYC would be complete without a ticket to see Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W 45th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves; 212-239-6200, hairbroadway.com), which originally debuted at the Public Theater in 1967. Be prepared to interact with the cast: Members of the company romp through the crowd, occasionally stopping to ruffle an audience member’s hair or—better still—dance atop the seats, and the show culminates in a gigantic dance party on stage to “Let the Sun Shine In.” Short of actually tripping on acid (which, you know, we can’t really recommend), it’s the best way to let your hair down and your freak flag fly.
It happened here...
*Allen Ginsberg wrote his 1961 poem “Kaddish” at 170 East 2nd Street, as a tribute to his mother, Naomi. The building is now a landmark.
*In 1964, Lenny Bruce was arrested on obscenity charges at Cafe au Go Go, at 152 Bleecker Street.
*The cover of Bob Dylan’s 1963 album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, was shot on Jones Street near West 4th Street.
*Andy Warhol’s first Factory, at 231 East 47th Street, was a happenin’ hangout for icons and artists like the Velvet Underground, Dennis Hopper and Edie Sedgwick.
INTERVIEW: HENRY DILTZ
The Woodstock photographer discusses the iconic images he shot during the summer of love.