Sweetwater Woodstock

Sweetwater Woodstock

August 15, 1969

Intro by John Morris

After Richie Havens jumped started Woodstock and the second performance  there, following  Sri Swami Satchidanandas convocation, was the band Sweetwater who’d been stuck in traffic.

The band’s poor luck continued when in 1970 none of their performance was included on the 3-record movie soundtrack nor the 3-hour movie.

Their set began around 6:30 PM and they were on stage about an hour. An interesting piece of trivia about the band was it had no guitarist.

They had released their first album in 1968.

Sweetwater's debut album

The band members were:

Nanci Nevins: guitar, vocals
Albert Moore: flute, vocals
August Burns: cello
Alex Del Zoppo: keyboards
Fred Herrera: bass
Elpidio Cobain: conga drums
Alan Malarowitz: drums

And their set consisted of:

  • Motherless Child
  • Look Out
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • Day Song
  • What’s Wrong
  • My Crystal Spider
  • Two Worlds
  • Why Oh Why
  • Let the Sunshine In
  • Oh Happy Day
Sweetwater Woodstock

Motherless Child

Another bit of Woodstock Sweetwater trivia would be that the last song Richie Havens had sung was Motherless Child. What did Sweetwater open with? Motherless Child. The traditional song was one that many bands covered. Their version was less emotional, but longer and since it was a larger band playing, this version was more intricate, more percussive as was the band’s style.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Look Out

Nanci Nevins wrote Look Out. It is interesting to hear a rock band without a rock guitar, or any guitar for that matter. Flute, keyboards, lots of percussion.

Look out, somebody’s comin’
He’s got the key to your door
He ain’t who you thought of
He’s not what you’re lookin’ for

Sweetwater Woodstock

Alex Del Zoppo

Before the next song, keyboardist Alex Del Zoppo explains the reason for their being late part of which was that the “man” had to stop them and bust them.

Sweetwater Woodstock

For Pete’s Sake

Nanci Nevins describes For Pete’s Sake  as a bossa nova blues. It is an instrumental and was their third single released on June 18, 1969.

Sweetwater Woodstock

 Day Song

The band described Day Song: “We’re doing a thing now, it’s sorta’ a folkie thing, it was written by Nanci and it’s about a captain and so forth sailing his ship and it includes Nanci and her acoustic guitar and the cello…”

Captain sailed the ship today
Old Love, she just sighed
Met his mother on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Old Love sailed the ship today
Captain he just sighed
Met her father on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Sing it from your heart
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Even though we part

Sweetwater Woodstock

What’s Wrong

One of the nicest things about Rhino Record’s Woodstock release is the inclusion of stage announcements and stage patter. The collection gives a much fuller “there” experience to the listener.

Before beginning What’s Wrong, Nanci Nevins mentions that Alex had written the song and that he wrote a lot of their material. She also goes to mention Albert’s t-shirt has the band’s name on it. I suppose she felt she needed to remind the audience of the band’s name. Keep in mind that Sweetwater is technically the festival’s opening act and opening acts are typically not the best known of the performers at a show or festival.

Also heard is the sound of a helicopter in the background. It is no Woodstock Haze that that sound was often part of the whole experience.

Specifically topical protest songs were not the norm at Woodstock. That the event was a protest rally is often thought but hardly supported. Having said that, What’s Wrong heads in that direction:

What’s wrong in our schools?
Politicians are blowing their cools
Over they who refuse to abide by the rules
Though they should be separate dealings

What’s wrong at the zoo?
The animals sense all our fears coming through
Our facade yet there’s not a thing that they can do
It’s hurting their poor, helpless feelings
What’s wrong?

The song is nearly 15 minutes long and gave the band a chance to display its chops.

Sweetwater Woodstock

My Chrystal Spider

The Psychedelic Sight site ranks My Crystal Spider at #47 on the top psychedelic songs.

The crystal spider crawled into Alex Del Zoppo’s brain in a waking dream. A “fantasy experience” that yielded a surrealistic web of sound for his band, Sweetwater.

While “My Crystal Spider” ranks as the most psychedelic of Sweetwater’s songs, the songwriter says his creepy-crawly creation wasn’t necessarily the product of an altered state:

“Psychedelic substances may have helped to bring this into focus, but it is not about that,” keyboardist Del Zoppo says today.

“It’s about having a runaway pet spider in an unusually whimsical environment.”

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please
Send him back to me

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please

Sweetwater Woodstock

Two Worlds

The band goes right into the next song, Two Worlds. It was one of the five songs in the set that had appeared on their first album.

I’ve got two worlds
But I don’t belong
I’ve got two ways
Neither’s very strong

But I’m singing songs
And working too hard
I can’t stop living
I never get tired

I’ve got two loves
To keep me satisfied
No loving pain
Ever made me cry

I’m not afraid
I just want more
The things I’ve got
Is all I live for.

At the end of the song, Nanci, as many of the Woodstock performers mentions, “There sure are a lot of people here.” She then introduces the band members.

Also said at this point by another of the band members (Moore?) is: “All you cats on the sound tower got to get down…you got to come down. You gotta!

That constant reminder/request/demand that kids get off the sound towers was dominant theme of the weekend.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Why Oh Why

Here’s a little music to come down the tower by.”

This is music to get down on your knees by…so I hope you can dig it.”

I wonder what a Sweetwater song would have sounded like had they had an electric guitarist? This song is an exciting one, but I keep hearing the missing guitar licks.

Why oh why do I keep on trying. Why oh why when I know there’s
No denying. You know that I love you baby, and you know that
Love is true. If I can’t count on you baby baby then you know
What I might do.
Why oh why do I keep on telling myself that your too hip your
Gonna put me on a shelf.
Sweetwater Woodstock

Let the Sunshine In/Oh Happy Day

The band seques right into two covers: Let the Sunshine In from the then very popular play Hair and Oh Happy Day, the  very successful 1968 single by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Hey the west coast really gets things started!” John Morris

Interestingly, the Bert Sommer is the next performer and he was not only in the play Hair, but his hair and head appeared on the show’s first Playbill.

The next performance would be Bert Sommer.

Sweetwater Woodstock