Yazgars Farm, the local rock band bringing Woodstock to the Southwest Florida area for 25 years, is now taking it all to back Woodstock for the 45th celebration of the festival of peace and love Aug. 15 to 17, the fifth time the group will perform at the international venue.
Kirk Richards, lead guitar and vocalist, and founding member of the group (along with Craig Swyger on vocals and guitar, Gordon McCreery on bass and vocals, Bryan Starkweather on keyboards and Ted Edwards on drums and percussion), shares how Yazgars Farm was first approached about performing at Yasgur's Farm.
"Yazgars Farm was formed in 1989, and of course we've gone through some changes, but the other guys have been in the group for at least 10 years now. We were playing The Reef around 1994 when one of the Woodstock organizers was on his honeymoon on Fort Myers Beach, drove by the venue and saw 'Yazgars Farm' on the marquis, noticed it was 'spelled wrong,' and went inside to tell us. That night, we happened to be playing a '60s show, and he asked us to play at Woodstock. We thought, 'Suuuure, buddy.' After all, you meet all kinds when you're in the band industry. But it turned out he really was with the organization and handed us his card. Sure enough, a couple days later he called, got the info in the mail, and we've been invited back every year," he explained. "So we played the 1994 show, the 1999 end-of-the-millennium festival, the 2000 beginning-of-the-millennium festival, the 40th celebration in 2009, and now the 45th reunion from what I understand they've already sold 11,000 tickets. We are so humbled to be invited back every year, and so excited to return. It just blows my mind that we get to play up there."
Kirk said Woodstock is a place that is filled with some of the nicest, kindest music lovers he's ever met.
"Year after year, the people are just so kind. They are all smiling, laughing, having a great time. I laugh and joke that one of the things that makes Woodstock such a rousing success is it's always such a colossal disaster the rain, the mud, the equipment blows up, everyone's drenched and smiling. It is such a blast and everyone works so well together, has so much fun together. It's just a bunch of good people coming together for good music," he laughed. "I met a police officer there one year who told me he has volunteered his time at the festival for 10 years and never made a single arrest. It's just a crowd of peaceful fans enjoying the music and the moment. There has never been a fight, never a theft and I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things. It restores my faith in humanity. I'm bringing my rain gear and umbrella and I'm gonna be ready. I love performing it every single time"
Aside from the band's fully original set that Saturday, for the first time since first playing at Woodstock, Kirk was asked to perform a very special, humbling ceremony to kick off the show.
"They asked me to open Woodstock this year with the Star Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix style," Kirk beamed. "I was truly honored to be given that privilege. With the 70 to 90 bands playing the venue, they asked me. I'm still so humbled by that."
He plans to open the show with his 15-minute-long Jimi-Hendrix-styled Star Spangled Banner, leading into a groovy performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, also Hendrix-style, in memory of Max Yasgur (the original owner of the farm where Woodstock takes place) and Roy Abrahamson (the current owner who recently passed). "It's my way of paying tribute to them," he said.
Kirk has been a fan of Woodstock since he was 12, at the time already playing the guitar for six years. "Oh, I was well aware of the show. Saw the movie when it came out, was really impressed with all of it. The Beetles are what got me playing in the first place, seeing them on the Ed Sullivan show when I was 5, seeing all the girls going crazy for them!" he laughed.
Interested in heading to Woodstock with the boys of Yazgars Farm? You can!
"We will have a caravan going up to the festival along with us," Kirk said. "We're leaving Tuesday, Aug. 12. If anyone would like to join our caravan, you are more than welcome contact me and come along."
About the band
One of the crowd favorites around town, Yazgars Farm performs at an array of venues and concerts each and every month. Primarily entertaining the crowd with the classic rock hits of the 1960s and '70s, the group plays up to the grunge period of rock, around the early '90s, as well as several originals with the classic rock sound.
"Some of our influences are The Beetles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd we try to do a variety of good rock music, right up to the '90s," Kirk said. "We also do some Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin tribute shows."
If you'd like to see Yazgars Farm before they head up to Bethel, NY for Woodstock 2014, stop by Rusty's Bar & Grill, Estero, Friday night, or the Five-Star ABATE concert at Peace River Saturday.
Other regular band hot spots include the San Carlos Country Club, The Blue Monkey in Naples, Cape Coral's Bike Night, Ralph's Place in Cape Coral, Weekend Willie's in Naples and bike shows at the Fort Myers and Naples Harley-Davidson dealerships, hoping to perform at the new facility when it opens later this year.
If you can't make it to either of the pre-Woodstock shows, try to remain patient for a good seven days and they'll be right back to rocking the local music scene again.
The band is also available to perform private parties, weddings and other fun functions.
For further information on Yazgars Farm, a full schedule, merchandise, to book them for a private party or to play at your venue, email Kirk at KirkEXP@aol.com, call 272-6194, visit YazgarsFarm.com or find the group on Facebook.