Monday, August 27, 2007

Largest Concert in Southwest Virginia?

What I'm questioning is "A Concert for Virginia Tech" on September 6th. Taking the stage in Lane Stadium will be Nas, Phil Vassar, John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band. These performers are playing without a paycheck for the students, faculty, staff and first responders of Virginia Tech as a way to celebrate the return of the school year and hopefully, the return of normalcy to Blacksburg. Now that the university community has reserved their tickets, the remaining seats will go on sale to the public for $65, at 10am on Tuesday, August 28th (follow the link above). The word is that 45,000 tickets were claimed and that another 30,000 will be up for sale. (update: the actual number of public tickets turned out to be 5,000. So much for 'informed' sources).

This number is what got me thinking about the size of the gathering and its place in music history of Southwest Virginia. As it turns out, this is not even the largest music festival in the New River Valley. That badge of honor goes to the 400 acres that lies seven miles north of Galax, Virginia, in rural Carroll County, back in April of 1976. It was there that an estimated 150,000 people tried to attend Stompin' '76 in a Woodstockian festival of sex, drugs, blues and bluegrass. I say tried because the festival promoter only expected 32,000 based on the sales of $12 tickets for the three day festival. What resulted was twelve miles of gridlock when people abandoned their cars on the sides of the road when the traffic stopped rolling, hippies camping in the locals back-40 and a lot of nudity and drugs. When cars couldn't pass any further up the road, motorcycles weaved their way through. That's when the Pagans rolled in and took over "security". Performing acts like Bonnie Raitt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and John Prine had to be airlifted in.

Needless to say, the locals were not amused. This quote from Jazz News sums up their thoughts:

Many Carroll County residents were not happy during and after Stompin 76. Young, naked New Yorkers urinating on lawns, polite strangers camping in their backyards and not enough parking and camping led to epic backups. Only motorcycles could get up and down the road leading to the farm. Local residents just couldn't get home or leave, not that they wanted to leave- in fear of their homes being ransacked or burned down by the heathens.

Let's hope the concert next Thursday goes a little more smoothly and the potted up, urinating, naked heathens stay away.


David Wayne Hampton: said...

I grew up in and around Galax, Virginia. Stompin' 76 was held just a few miles from my family's farm. People still mention it today. I've heard someone call it the Appalachian Woodstock. My grandmother talks about seeing the helicopters fly over her house. I was only two at the time, so I don't remember it, but she said she didn't go down to the river where it was held until after the festival was over, and remembers the trash left behind.

cosmicblu said...

I was 18 in April, 1976. I went to Stompin with a few friends and stayed for the entire concert. It was one of the best memories of my life. Yes, there was plenty of drinking, drugs and nudity, but there was also thousands of great people and fantastic music. We went skinny-dipping in the river, danced and had a heck of a good time. Wish they would do it again! I was reminded of it...sort of... when I visited Floydfest this year. Let's put it this had to be there to have believed it!:)))

Anonymous said...

My niece is out at Bonnaroo which got me thinking about Stompin 76 today. I was 24 at the time, living in Blacksburg, and my squeeze was a musician on the road, so I took my sister from DC. Great laughs thinking about that weekend. Some guy carrying a beer cooler ductaped to his belly. Yes, lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll but that was the era. The music was great and vibes were wonderful. If anybody found my cowboy hat that I lost, hope it had a great life!

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dwaddell58 said...

It wasn't in April, it was August and it was hot. I don't know the headcount, but there had to be well over 100K. Even though the Pagans were being used as "security", there weren't any issues. Lots of drugs and booze, but it was the way it was then. I had a blast. Great music and a really fun time.