It may have boasted only a fraction of the masses that descended in Bethel, New York, 50 years ago, but the 450 or so celebrants who traveled to the Camel Bar desert expanse this past weekend filled the Almost Cut My Hair 50th anniversary festival with enough good vibes to light up the barren Route 90 in the Arava.
Against a breathtaking desert backdrop dotted with tents and with the sweet aroma of burning cannabis wafting in the air, families with young children wearing earplugs mingled with long-haired hippies from Eilat and kibbutzim, festival-going Tel Aviv hipsters and untethered dogs with bandannas. For them, Tuesday’s election was hours away back in their lives in the big city. For this weekend, as Joni Mitchell wrote about the original event, they were stardust, golden and holed up in their magnificent garden.
A host of top-flight musical talent treated the audience to set after set of inspired music, comprised of tributes to the original Woodstock era and impressive, young Israeli bands presenting original material.
The 24 hours (Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon) that I attended witnessed an opening set by Lazer Lloyd, a true Israeli treasure. His spiritually psychedelic guitar playing, forceful singing and sheer presence set a high bar for all who followed. Shlomo Mizrahi, with his Jimi Hendrix tribute, came close (especially when Lloyd joined him for some guitar duels), and The Elevators rose to the task as the evening’s closer with a two-hour Grateful Dead set of their more song/chorus material that saw them reach a new peak as a band. DJs such as 88 FM’s Gil Matus provided between performances ’60s-infused sets that didn’t rely on the clichéd touchstones but delved deep into the era’s unsung r&b and one-hit wonders.
The next morning’s side-stage performances were nothing less than revelatory, as Amitay Lev and Amos Zimmerman, respectively, performed high-caliber sets with their bands that demonstrated that the Crosby, Stills & Nash-inspired singer/songwriter school of music is not so out of date. Check them both out now!
There was another 24 hours of music to go, but the festival had already succeeded in its aims of reminding everyone in attendance that, 50 years later, there really is nothing funny about peace, love and understanding.
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