DEL MAR — “Cactus” Jim Soldi and wife, Sharon Whyte, and the band Back to the Garden will kick off a celebration of the 44th anniversary of Woodstock at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at Seagrove Park.For those too young to remember, Woodstock was a musical festival held Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, 1969, at a farm in New York State which united a crowd of 500,000 wearing tie dye shirts and peace signs around a message of peace, openness and free expression.
“A lot of our fan base is baby boomers but we also get many young people at our performances which is heartening to see,” said Soldi who plays guitar and sings vocals.
Whyte performs piano, accordion and also vocals. “The (Woodstock) era represents a time when everyone had value and was searching for their individuality and expressing it,” she said. “One of my favorite things while we’re performing is to watch the faces of people in the crowd as they go to a place where people were powerful. Life is different now and we need to get ‘back to the garden.’”
The band’s name is a reference to lyrics written by Joni Mitchell for the song titled “Woodstock,” which became an anthem for the event made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1970. Other band members include Rick Nash, bass; Larry Grano, drums/vocals; and Marc “Twang” Intravaia, guitar vocals.
“Marc’s an amazing player, and it was actually his idea to put together an all Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young show,” Soldi explained.
Seven-time San Diego Music Award winner Eve Selis will be a special guest.
In addition to CSNY favorites, the band will play songs made famous by groups the artists were previously associated with. Earlier in his career David Crosby was with The Byrds (“Hey, Mr. Tamborine Man”; “Turn, Turn, Turn”); Stephen Stills and Neil Young with Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”) and Graham Nash with The Hollies (“Bus Stop”).
While performing, Whyte is inspired by an analogy created by friend and fellow musician, Dennis Caplinger.
“Dennis explains that when their band is playing it is like creating this wave that they send to the audience,” she explained. “And the beauty of performing live is that everyone feels and experiences it. That’s what we do: We create something on stage and push it out to everyone in the audience.”
Whyte was born in Washington, D.C., and spent her early years in Japan before moving to San Diego around the age of 5. Although she was classically trained on the piano, her future would also include the accordion.
“I love the breathability of the accordion,” she said. “You can’t do that with the piano.” From 1986 to 2000 she played with the Savery Brothers and Ventilators. In 2008, she left a successful career in information technology and computer support to become a full-time musician.
“Sharon is one of the most requested accordion players around because of Zydeco,” Solti said.
It was era of the ‘60s and early ‘70s that she yearns for.
“We want to go back to nature and really support and have respect for the Earth,” she said. “The music of that time is a reminder of who we are and the fact that you can be powerful and stand up for what you believe.”
Soldi grew up in El Cajon where his family owned Valley Music. His father was Cactus Soldi, who was known for playing the fiddle in Tex Williams’ version of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” His mother, Ginger Snow, sang country swing with Spade Cooley, Tex Williams and Smokey Rogers.
“Cactus” Jim Soldi lived in Nashville for four years where he played with Johnny Cash. At one time or another all band members played with major acts including Kenny Loggins, America, B.J. Thomas, Kim Carnes, Eric Johnson and Albert Lee.”
The performance is sponsored by the Del Mar Foundation.
“We put these on so that citizens of Del Mar and visitors can enjoy a beautiful concert and sunset by the beach,” said concert chair T. Pat Stubbs.
Soldi, Whyte and Intravaia also perform as Cactus Twang and Whyte at Le Papagayo in Leucadia. For more information, visit back-to-the-garden.net.