The Woodstock Film Festival has become an annual burst of new energy to the town, perfectly timed — after the summer bustle settles and winter threatens. For the last twelve years, sometime in October, Woodstock becomes extra rich with talent. Filmmakers, directors, actors and musicians come with creativity at the forefront of their minds. Film buffs and fans wander the village in search of new and interesting things to take in. As a local, I can say that the film festival is one of the more global events to happen here.
This year, the not-so-new kid in town, Paul Green (School Of Rock founder) is the Musical Director of the festival and he has generously flanked the weekend with a couple of local gems, making this year’s festival uniquely Woodstock-centric. The opening concert on Thursday night is our own songstress Simi Stone. And to send festival-goers home with Woodstock fresh in their minds — Jeremy Bernstein & Friends will play the Bearsville Theater at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 14. If you want a taste of who we really are in Woodstock, I highly suggest you put these shows onto your agenda.
Jeremy Bernstein is about as Catskills as you can get. His songs know just where to land in these the hills, they were born here with him, and they know all the shortcuts — connecting one valley to the next, traveling the streams down to the Hudson River.
People come here from all over the world — to ski the slopes, swim in the mountain streams, take in the fall foliage — they come for the beauty of the Catskills. But Woodstock really is an amalgamation of all that makes a renaissance — a fascinating blend of people who live and create here. Enter Jeremy Bernstein, born in 1973, the same year his parents moved to Woodstock.
He spent his formative years in a basket in his mother Alice’s classroom, who, alongside her then husband Ian Bernstein, founded the Children’s Center (one of the first alternative schools in the area), in their home. Under Alice and Ian’s Tutelage, the school later took roots on Neher Street and became a mainstay — giving many of us kids, who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, opportunities to be ourselves and flourish in an educational environment. After Ian’s retirement, the school continued (and continues) as The Woodstock Day School.
Though he began to write songs in his early teens, Jeremy went from Onteora High School, to SUNY Purchase to study photography, and from there to University of New Mexico as a painting major; he ended up at SUNY New Paltz with metalsmithing and jewelry making. His true passion eventually revealed itself to be making music. Which he does rather well…
“Growing up around all of the music and the art in the 70’s has really shaped who I am….” The Band, Dylan, The Beatles, sound-tracked his early years — add a little Parliament Funkadelic come high school, and now you can hear a some of all of that and much more in Jeremy’s brand of Funky Mountain Music. There is richness in his melodies, some pain, plenty of optimism in his voice and a whole lot of love. His music is honest and from the heart.
“I love it here in Woodstock. I’ve traveled all over the world and there is nothing quite like it. The community, the land, the mountains, and the fresh water…we are so close to New York City and yet so far away. We have access to everything we need. The wealth of talent and incredible people here is second to none. With that said you have to get out of here. Make your art, and get it to other places.”
And he does. For the last few summers, Jeremy has snuck away and spent a little time in Europe, playing his songs in Paris, London and Lyon…
“A few years ago my first solo record, Love Eat Sleep, was picked up by Collette [a well known trendsetting shop] in Paris. We sold out several times which resulted in a few great shows.”
He’s been lucky enough to have spent his childhood listening to music and then growing up to share the stage, and recording studio with those same artists who influenced him. A few years after coming back to Woodstock in 1994, he connected with Michael Clip Payne (Of Parliament Funkadelic) who culled several local artists to form a band called Drugs. Before long, Jeremy found himself touring Europe opening for PFunk, playing in 400 year old castles in Germany and sharing the stage with legends like George Clinton and Fred Wesley.