Robin Westle: In the Summer of ‘69

Fifteen year-old Robin Westle spent the summer of 1969 at a self described “hippie camp.” One day she found herself among a group of girls herded into a bus with tents and sleeping bags. They arrived at fields slick with mud and thick with stoned, half naked people. Each camper was given two paper bags, one for lunch, one for dinner. These were devoured by noon. They had arrived at “Woodstock.” (She sings Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit.”)

The concert stage was almost an hour away. Counselors, many, she tells us, never seen again, departed in search of drugs. “Then Richie Havens took the stage and the experience became real.” The rest of this parenthesis, her show’s highlight/raison d’etre is alas, very brief. We hear not about impressions, discomfort, sights, people, but only a march back to sleep and the bus. Our loss. “Woodstock” (Joni Mitchell) and “Come Together” (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) follow, trenchant and full, showcasing alto range.

Before Woodstock, Westle sets the scene or, rather her scene, wholesome and naïve despite, at last, getting high with besty, Susie Essman (who went on to a recurring role in Curb Your Enthusiasm). Still, we’re not sure what the singer is thinking or feeling. She practically never smiles during the show and is unconvincing as stoned. Was it a good time?

Afterwards, evidently changed, the young woman began to make her own clothes with special preference for tie-dye and evolved into the socially/politically active woman she remains. “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (Robert Lamm) aptly expresses transition/confusion.

We close with “We Shall Overcome” (Pete Seeger) and “I Shall Be Released” (Bob Dylan). Tracy Stark offers layered, period arrangements and on point harmony (throughout). Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill’s “It’s Getting Better” is seemingly directed to the artist’s husband of 43 years, not the era.

Westle’s style is consistently longlined which tends to take bounce out of songs. Perhaps a result of her civilian career as a speech pathologist, she seems over conscious of enunciation. The performer is, however, warm, sincere, and can be funny when she allows herself. Our memories are disinterred. Hers remain only glimpsed.

Photos by Tricia Baron

Robin Westle: In the Summer of ‘69
MD/Piano-Tracy Stark
Bass-Owen Yost
Directed by Eric Michael Gillett
Don’t Tell Mama
December 30, 2019

About Alix Cohen (747 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.