In celebration of the 50-year anniversary of what everyone knows didn’t really happen in Woodstock, The Fugs—yes, those Fugs—will be performing at the Byrdcliffe Barn on Saturday, August 17, 2019. Ed Sanders, Steve Taylor, Coby Batty, Scott Petito, and—in spirit and intellectual soul—the late Tuli Kupferberg will perform selections from The Fugs’s fifty-plus years of politically energized, raunchy-fun proto-punk songs. In addition to Fugs classics, the August 17 performance at Byrdcliffe will include an “Exorcism of the White House,” with the audience invited to participate in a group chant of “Out, demons, out!”—reprising the legendary 1967 March on the Pentagon led by Sanders, Tupferberg, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, and others. The audience is sure to leave the Byrdcliffe Barn feeling empowered, educated, rocked, and maybe a bit sweaty.
Concert Date and Time: Saturday, August 17, 8:00 pm; doors open at 7:30 pm
Location: Byrdcliffe Barn, 485 Upper Byrdcliffe Road, Woodstock, NY
Tickets: $30 general admission or $25 for Byrdcliffe members – please purchase your tickets online now!
The Fugs originated with Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg in 1964, who started writing songs “at a feverish pace,” says Sanders. They were soon joined by drummer Ken Weaver, with a variety of different musicians in their line-up throughout the 1960s. They played and performed, a whole lot, in New York City—including a 700-show run at the Players Theater on MacDougal Street—and throughout the U.S. They made albums, seven of them between 1965 and 1970. The second album (with liner notes by none other than Allen Ginsberg) hit the charts, and their gigs began selling out; this, Sanders notes, left The Fugs feeling “treated to the very eerie sensation of sudden fame.” As a band with protest holding the top tier of its musical mission, sudden fame for The Fugs also meant receiving bomb threats and always being on the verge of getting arrested.
Fug, fugging, fugged. The band name comes from the euphemism made famous by Norman Mailer’s intricate military novel The Naked and the Dead, while the non-euphemistic variant of the word may, from time to time, be uttered in the performance on August 17. The Fugs are not for the light of heart—but Woodstock isn’t, either. Nonetheless, in the course of an FBI investigation subsequent to the 1966 release of their second album, The Fugs passed a governmental white-glove test: their music was ruled “not obscene” by the FBI. Whether this was a proud moment or a crushing disappointment to the band, The Fugs’s lyrics are memorable and raw. Sanders, as poet, historian, and raconteur, is a wordsmith to be reckoned with.
The current ensemble of the Fugs has been together since 1985. On Saturday August 17, the audience at the Byrdcliffe Barn will be serenaded, sort of, by:
Ed Sanders–founder and singer. American bard, social activist, environmentalist, novelist and for a number of years the publisher, with his wife Miriam, of The Woodstock Journal (woodstockjournal.com). He also invents musical instruments such as the Talking Tie and the microtonal Microlyre. Sanders’s recent projects include the 9-volume America, A History in Verse (Black Sparrow Press) and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg: A Narrative Poem (Overlook Press). Da Capo Press published his memoirs of the 1960s, Fug You, in 2011. In 2018 Arcade published his Broken Glory, the Final Years of Robert Kennedy, illustrated by Rick Veitch.
Steve Taylor–vocals and guitars. His beautiful voice gives the Fugs outstanding vocal qualities on tunes set to the poems of William Blake and classics such as “Crystal Liaison,” “Slum Goddess,” and “Morning Morning.” Taylor is a college professor and a noted composer who performed with Allen Ginsberg for many years. His string quartet setting to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “White Shroud” is an important twentieth-century composition.
Coby Batty–drums, percussion and vocals. Batty is a well-known musician and songwriter with his own band in Richmond, Virginia, and has performed with Don Cherry, John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, and many others. He is also a noted actor featured in movies and television productions.
Scott Petito–bass and keyboards. Scott is a well-known composer and record producer who operates NRS Recording studios near Woodstock, where many groups have recorded, including The Band and The Fugs.
Missed very much is departed Fugs co-founder Tuli Kupferberg, who passed away in July of 2010. Kupferberg’s poems and songs are popular around the world. He was also a political cartoonist. The Fugs always honor Tuli in their concerts.
The Byrdcliffe Barn—hip and warm from decades of artists partying and performing in its woody interior—is the perfect setting for an event marking the formative role that Woodstock has had on the American cultural map, both before the 1969 Woodstock music festival and after. And the erudite, beloved Fugs–still hippies after all these years–are the perfect band to celebrate that.