Michigan’s ‘Woodstock’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary [Video]
Most who attended agreed, The Goose Lake Music Festival near Jackson was better run than Woodstock and now, some of the legendary performances are being released.
The gates opened on August 7, 1970 on what promoter Richard Songer promised were 'permanent festival grounds' on what he called Goose Lake Park near Jackson.
The Goose Lake International Music Festival had a Michigan-heavy lineup of rock acts slated including Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, Iggy and the Stooges, and Brownsville Station. National acts included Rod Stewart's Faces, Chicago, Jethro Tull, and Joe Walsh and the James Gang.
Songer had sunk over a million dollars into the site, located on 390 acres, and had promise to become a permanent festival site. The park learned lessons from the debacle at Woodstock the year earlier and provided spacious campsites situated along the lake with names like 'Tokalot' and 'Tripalot', and plenty of restrooms for the concert goers.
The site was patrolled by a security team made up of young people who generally looked the other way when it came to casual drug use. Festival goers praised the grounds and the concert sets, despite a few sound issues, went off without many problems.
In short, it was BETTER than Woodstock and yet local authorities were not impressed. The open drug use and nudity brought the authorities down on the scene. Governor William Milliken called it 'deplorable', while Attorney general Frank Kelley promised 'we have seen...the last rock concert of that size'.
And it was the last.
Songer was convicted of dealing drugs in 1971 and Grass Lake II was never held.
But the memories were strong.
John Laycock of the Windsor Star praised the festival, writing that "The Organization Men of Goose Lake have resurrected the spirit of Woodstock without the discomforts" and that "the giant amphitheater was superbly equipped."
Internet comments attached to a YouTube documentary of the event are generally positive:
Mickey wrote, "'Burn-out-loser Festival' is what it was called by everyone I knew who went there."
Denny said, "I was there. 17 and high, high, high."
and klmullins65 said the idea was solid and in use now: "The promoters of the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, TN must've used Goose Lake's model... they bought the property and developed it specifically for multiple festivals. Luckily, the community is basically supportive of the festival."
The crowd ranged between 200,000 and 600,000 depending on who you talked to, and many area roads had congestion, but never reached the level of problems that traffic caused at Woodstock.
Some of the festivals best performances live on, especially Iggy and the Stooges' break out set.
An old recording of that set was discovered by engineer Jim Cassily, and has been digitally preserved and will be released Friday, August 7 on third Man Records.
The locals in that area were not impressed, or were they?
A few performances are available on YouTube, including bad video of Iggy.