By Laura Latzko
In August 1969, a half a million people gathered on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, for what would become one of the most well-known music festivals.
Often associated with the countercultures of the time, the festival had memorable performances the era’s most popular acts.
The Rialto Theatre will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock with a night of music on Friday, August 16. The show will spotlight music from Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who via tribute acts from around the country. One of those acts is The Who Experience, who will perform hits like “Who Are You,” “Baba O’Riley” and “My Generation.”
Based in California, The Who Experience was founded in 2016 by musicians who wanted to recreate the iconic band’s concert experience.
Guitarist Tim Cason, the “Pete Townshend’ of the group, says the musicians do The Who justice.
“It seems like we are preserving a part of history,” he says. “We have focused so hard on getting this band together and tight so that we can carry on what we believe is the greatest music and the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever.”
The Who Experience tries match The Who’s style as closely as they can, including the use of synthesizers, which was rare for an act of that time. The Who Experience has a lead singer with a raspy voice, a guitarist with boundless energy, a crazy drummer, a stoic bassist and a skilled keyboardist.
The costumes, smoke and laser effects, as well as the energy, mannerisms and sound are authentic, Cason says. When the package is presented, Cason says, he can see fans “transformed and gone to another place.”
“I love that from the stage, when I see people singing along, dancing and jumping up and down, and they know the music. They are Who fans to the heart,” Cason says.
Cason started as a bassist at age 10 and took up the guitar at 16. As a child, he listened to The Who but didn’t see them perform live. He watches Who videos and has found mimicking Townshend’s movements organic. The musician’s fingering technique, however, was challenging.
“I think Pete Townshend made the guitar very simple. He wasn’t trying to make it a lot of crazy notes,” he says. “That’s why when he was playing live, he was able to jump around and be a maniac.”
The Who Experience’s concerts attract people of different ages, including long-time fans and younger people just discovering the music. Cason says the band’s music is timeless and therefore relevant.
“I believe that The Who has influenced more bands than anyone. If you look at their songs from the earliest days until the ’80s, it is such a broad variety of songs,” Cason says.
What: Woodstock 50-Year Celebration
When: 8 p.m. Friday, August 16
Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street
Cost: $20 general admission
Info: 740-1000, rialtotheatre.com