Incredible String Band Woodstock

Incredible String Band Woodstock

The Incredible String Band was supposed to be part of Friday’s folk-oriented lineup, but circumstances pushed their performance to Saturday.  Unfortunately the so-called psychedelic-folk group using mainly acoustic instruments  followed the rousing electric and brass performance of the Keef Hartley Band. It was about 6 PM and for some in the crowd who hadn’t had “lunch” it was dinner time. They went in search, often unsuccessfully, for that dinner.

Incredible String Band did make it to the Monument, but not into the  initial release of the movie or the soundtrack.

A 2020 BBC article says that comedian and banjo-player Billy Connolly, who was a massive fan and who got to know them when they played the folk clubs of Glasgow, described the band as “hairy, exotic and interesting“.

The band consisted of: Mike Heron, Robin Williamson, Christina “Licorice” McKechnie, and Rose Simpson. They would be on stage for about a half hour.

Their setlist was:

  • Invocation (spoken word)
  • The Letter
  • Gather ‘Round
  • This Moment
  • Come with Me
  • When You Find Out Who You Are

 

Incredible String Band Woodstock

Invocation

For some this band is too difficult to approach. Their instrumentation is proficient, but their lyrics require attention. For many the huge setting was not the intimate setting to appreciate this band.

Mike Heron began with a poem.

I make a love peace with you
Lifers that move the heart
In fur and scale
Ancient associates
And fellow wanderers
You that place yourselves in this space.
You that strengthen the horn
And make quick the eye
You who run the swift fox and the zigzag fly
You sizeless makers of the mole and whale
Aid me and I will aid you
I make a peace with you
You that lift the blossom and the green branch
You that weave symmetries more true
You who make time slower,
And watch the patterns
You who eat deep 
And eat water stretching high    
You rough-coated
Your green blood
My red blood
We will mingle them
But I harm you not
That you shield me.
I make a pact with you
You who are unconfined
And have no shape
Who are not seen
But only in your action
Who have no depth
But choose direction
Who bring what is willed
That you blow my ship to pleasant harbors
I make a pact with you
You who are the liquidness of the waters
And the spark of flame
I make a pact with you
You who make fertile the soft ground
And guard growth
I make peace with you
You who are the blueness of the sky
And the wrath of the storm
I take the cup of deepness with you
Earthshakers
And with you the sharp and the hollow hills
I make reverence to you
Round wakefulness we
Call the earth
I make wide eyes to you
You who are also awake
Every created thing both solid and sleepy
Or airy light
I weave colours round you
You who will come with me
I will consider it beauty
Incredible String Band Woodstock

The Letter

Incredible String Band Woodstock
I Looked Up album cover

The Letter typifies what ISB did. In some ways, its simplicity and beauty is comparable to a Richard Brautigan poem. The song would appear on their 1970 album, I Looked Up.

Started rubbing my eyes
When I heard the birds talk
Hey Mister Sleep you’re gonna
Have to take a walk
But nothing has as much power to
Make me rise as the post man
Bringing a morning surprise
Here he comes
Here he comes
Too much I’ve got a letter
I’d better get out of bed
I said
Then I pulled the covers right
Up to my nose
I thought well the letter
Might be for Rose
Her mother she writes very regularly
Mister Postman have you got
A letter for me
Mr. Heron, yes I have yes I have
Too much I’ve got a letter
Better get on up out of bed
Came from Maria, Chicago, Illinois
And I never have met her but she sounds sweet
Like a flower
Grown on a rubbish heap
She’s got a lot of things ’round her
She’s gotta sort out
But she’s gonna make it
And I have no doubt 
Neither does she, not Maria
Maria, the plane that brought your letter must have
Felt a little bit lighter
And  air hostesses must’ve felt brighter bringing your letter over the sea
And the pilot was your Orpheus
Singing a song for you
Maria I’m singing
Hear me singing I’ll be your Orpheus too
And by the time you hear this song your
Your troubles will be gone
And you’ll be left with what’s shining
Through your letter you
By the time you hear this song your
Troubles will be gone
And you’ll be left with what’s shining
Through your letter you

Incredible String Band Woodstock

Gather Round

Before the band can begin their next song, Chip Monck asks people to sit down, to move away from the camera crane, and to descent from the light towers. He emphasized the importance of the crowd’s cooperation.

Gather Round does not appear on any ISB album.

Gather round and I will tell you,
Of the man who walked alone,
He met with me one dusty evening,
He could not recall his home.
And he was not a beggar
But people pressed coins in his hand
And his skin it was weathered
His eyes full of far foreign lands
And beneath the food they offered him
For the hunger in his soul
And the ones who wished him evil
It was written on their scroll

He had sold his heart's desire
Winding many a tangled thread,
Salted tears, he drank for water
Hopeful thoughts he ate for bread.
In the bag across his shoulder
Was a painted paper heart
Filled with several thousand reasons
Why two souls can seem to part
For he knew the truth was seldom spoke
Nor written with the ten pens of the hand
And he sought not wealth or glory
Only wished to understand
And he sang of times a'coming
When those secrets would be known
And the stars will sing in the chorus
And no soul will walk alone.

Here we are
Here we are
Here we are
Here we stay

Here we are
Here we are
'til the clouds shall roll away
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Fantastically Happy

Robin Williamson mentions to the crowd something that is often heard by other Woodstock alum: “I’d just like to say right now that I’ve never been to anything like this before and the thing that surprises me is how many of us there are and it makes me fantastically happy.”

Incredible String Band Woodstock

This Moment

This Mike Heron song would also appear on their I Looked Up album.

This moment
Is different
From any
Before it
And this moment
Is different
It’s now
And if I
Don’t kiss you
That kiss is
Untasted
I’ll never
No never
Get it back
But why should
I want to
I’ll be in
The next moment
Sweet moment
Sweet lover
Sweet now
The walls of this room
Are different from any before them
They are now
They are now
The air that you breathe
Is different from any before it
It is now
It is now
You may think that life is repeating
Repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating
You may think that life is repeating
Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no
Oh no.
Each moment
Is different
From any before it
Each moment
Is different
It’s now
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Come With Me

Incredible String Band Woodstock

This Robin Williamson song was recorded before Woodstock, but did not appear on an album until they Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending [the soundtrack for a film of the same name,] in March 1971.

I have a ship both sleek and fine
I point her bows wherever I will
The seven bright seas they all are mine
I call the winds
I call the winds her sails to fill

If you will flee away with me
And bid farewell to the land you know
I’ll show you marvels presently
And wonders
And wonders that the earth does show

The diamond mountains
– 0 Speak on sir
Shouting valleys
The caves where sleep the stars by day
Eve’s clouded bower
Adam’s garden
The secret land that love does see
O come with me
I will come with thee

The gentle spring rains will lave your face
The winds will bear your train
The morning birds will sing your song
The earth will call your name
The stars will be your canopy
The sun your candle flame
The greenygold wheat your incense sweet
My heart your windowpane
O come with me
I will come with thee

Acknowledgement

Incredible String Band Woodstock
Robin Williamson

Robin Williamson, as many other performers had already observed, speaks to the size of the crowd and thanks them for their called-out requests, but “…we thought it would be nice to do all new songs today which haven’t been recorded yet cause it’s nice for us to play them. I hope you don’t mind that. 

Incredible String Band Woodstock

When You Find Out Who You Are

The last song is  Robin Williamson tune also appears on the I Looked Up album. Again an apology for the time it took to start songs as “all the instruments got wet last night.”

It’s of a strange and furious time
When men did speed to pray
Along the road of discontent to gods of gold and clay
Some did seek security
Among the seas of change
Some did seek dear life to wound
A furious time and strange
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out why you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
Just look around and notice where you are
Just look around and notice what you see
Each moment born for you innocently
And when I see what we have made
What we have cut with the mind’s blade
Stood In the blackness feel it all
Repeated faces rise and fall
With ancient goals unwondering fail
Further obscures the ancient trail
Filling with the endless years
Rivers of my heart’s tears
You are the way
I swear you have the power
As the angels do
Spread out your fingers and
Make all things new
Change the world by the things you say
By the things you love
And by the games you play
And you make each new day
You are the way

But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out why you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
Oh how funny in your mummy’s tummy
Before you get born into
The world for to carry on
Remember young man of the time
Before you first went to school
How did it feel trying to live by the rule
Remember young man of the time
When your love stick
First rose free between your legs
Like a growing tree
Remember you walked with your lover
Like a gypsy and a gypsy queen
Under the stars where the sign was seen
Under the stars where
The leaves were green
Under the stars where the sign was seen
0 how many shining hearts
With love have guided me
And many I have met before
In lands across the sea
We used to speak of that ocean deep
How little words can say
It’s better now to ask your friend
What makes you sad today
0 how many shining hearts
With love have guided me
And many I have met before
In lands across the sea
We used to speak of that ocean deep
What little words can say
It’s better now to ask your friend
What makes you sad today
You can make it come true
Make it come true
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Goodbye

We have to leave now. I’d like to say goodbye. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Incredible String Band Woodstock