Gainesville ‘Free Friday’ concert

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GAINESVILLE — Only one rock concert made such a huge and lasting impression that an entire generation was named for it. Forty-one years ago, more than 400,000 members of the Woodstock generation gathered in upstate New York to celebrate “three days of peace and music.” One year ago, 3,000 area residents flocked to the Bo Diddley Community Plaza for the largest “Free Fridays” concert of all time, a tribute to Woodstock on its fortieth birthday, presented by a group of local musicians that dubbed themselves the Relics especially for the tribute concert.

Last years’ concert was the brainchild of local musician Bob McPeek, who proposed the idea to city event coordinator David Ballard. Ballard says, “I thought it would make a wonderful addition to our ‘Free Fridays’ concerts and knew that Bob was the perfect musician to make it happen. I just didn’t know what a huge happening it would be!”

“Nothing reminds you of a place and a time like your favorite song,” notes McPeek, who as a 17-year old drove 800 miles with three friends to attend the original event in 1969. “The music of Woodstock is in the DNA of the baby boomer generation, and it defines that magical era of the 1960s.”

Joining McPeek (guitar and vocals) on stage is an impressive cast of Gainesville’s finest talent.  The musicians include Fagan Arouh, (guitar and vocals), David Ottenberg (bass and vocals), Rob Rothschild (drums and percussion), Dan Tampas (guitar and vocals), Brad Bangstad (keyboards), Janet Rucker (vocals), Cathy DeWitt (vocals), Michelle Ott (vocals and percussion) and Alan Hill (bass). The Relics will perform songs by many of the artists that appeared at Woodstock, but this year they also plan to include songs that are representative of the era in general.

McPeek, the founder of two of Gainesville’s iconic musical establishments, Hyde and Zeke Records and Mirror Image Studios, brings 30 years of studio musical production and live performance to the stage. “I’ve known and played music with almost all these people for 25 or 30 years. They’re not only great players, but great people and great friends. To get all ‘60s on you, the vibe on stage will be as powerful as the music.”

The Downtown Plaza “Free Fridays” concerts run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Friday night this year from May 7 through October 15. The Bo Diddley Community Plaza is located on the corner of Southeast 1st Street and East University Avenue. The complete schedule for the Downtown Plaza Free Fridays and links to the bands’ websites can be found at www.gvlculturalaffairs.org. 

The Cultural Affairs Division is the designated local arts agency for Gainesville and Alachua County. Its mission is to promote cultural activity and encourage community based cultural resources. For more information on the Downtown Plaza Free Fridays, or to schedule an interview, please contact David Ballard at 352-393-8746.