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Peace Patroller/Schmitsville 

David James Figueroa/So how was Woodstock?

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Peace Patroller

The doctors and paramedics, who see injuries every day, weren't interested in David James Figueroa's. "Every doctor, every paramedic, they always said, 'So, how was Woodstock?' My friends, they wanted to know about the accident."

Figueroa is lying in a hospital bed at Illinois Masonic, a huge plaster cast encompassing his not insignificant chest. He sports a goatee, a Cook County sheriff's hat, and a neat tattoo banding a big biceps. A concert-security veteran with Metro and a free-lancer at places like Soldier Field, he's a familiar face to just about any local concertgoer. When he heard that Star Security was looking for people to respond to Woodstock '94's call for security help, he volunteered eagerly. His severe back injury came, ironically enough, not out of the chaos at Woodstock but from a violent accident on the way home. A chain-reaction pileup on a narrow Ohio bridge last Monday afternoon crunched the security workers' bus between a couple of semis. Chaos ensued, and the bus filled with the smell of gasoline.

Paradoxically, the Star bus was in its element, Figueroa notes with no little pride. "We're trained for a quick reaction." While some kept an eye on the driver, who was crushed behind the wheel, Figueroa and others helped injured passengers off the bus. Outside, as help began arriving, he worked on a chain to get the luggage and bags off, then helped fire fighters lay down absorbent mats for the leaking fuel and antifreeze. Only then did he start feeling dizzy, and he lay down by the road. That's when the back spasms started hitting him.

When the paramedics came, he begged them not to cut off his precious leather police jacket. "I saw them pull the scissors out," he says. "'I don't care if I'm screaming when you pull it off,' I told them. 'Just don't cut my leather.'"

He was taken to a Pennsylvania hospital, put in a torturous brace, and flown home. Now he's in Masonic nursing a broken vertebra and a hairline collarbone fracture. It'll be months before he works again. He's been receiving a succession of callers and visitors, from Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who phoned from the road, to Cynthia Plaster Caster, who signed his brace at its southernmost point with the words "Stay Hard!!"

So how was Woodstock? "Oh man, you had a mixture: your Grateful Dead types and your Metallica types and your alternative fans." The crowd, Figueroa says, was very easygoing, and the security forces wore shirts with the legend Peace Patrol. "They didn't want any Gestapo type of thing." And the music? Fine. "I am now a Melissa Etheridge fan," he says sincerely. "She kicked ass." Any complaints? "Yeah. Santana should have played on the main stage and they should have put the Spin Doctors on the small one. They were tragic."

Schmitsville

A few weeks ago Hitsville detailed the extraordinarily strict rules critics work under when it comes to the Rolling Stones, which basically boil down to the requirement that each successive Stones album be hailed as a masterpiece surpassing all of the band's recent work. This contention was based on a survey of national magazine articles on the Stones over the past ten years; exceptions were almost nonexistent. As the Stones tour gets under way, two accompanying corollaries to this axiom are becoming clear. For the first, press people are apparently obliged to hint that this tour may be the Stones' last; a terrific example of this requirement was provided recently by the Los Angeles Times's respected Robert Hilburn in an article reprinted in the Sun-Times. Second, it seems to be mandatory to help maintain the smoke screen sent up by the band's partisans, this to the effect that the press is actually hostile to the band. Such was the tack taken in Rolling Stone's recent cover story on the band (which hailed Voodoo Lounge as "its most compelling work in years"); it was also done up nicely by columnist Jeff Greenfield, also in the S-T. Greenfield contends that Jagger is the target of "barbs" (he doesn't say from whom). "To some [again he cites no source] it is inherently ridiculous that such music is sung by a grandfather." This imputation of ageism is baseless: first of all, as far as I can tell, published criticism of the band does not exist in major press outlets, and second, those few voices of dissent in small papers charge only that the Stones put out crummy albums and sleepwalk through tours; are sellouts who do beer commercials; and are helped along in their pathetic endeavors by a craven corps of press toadies. That said, the Village Voice just published what may be the nastiest, most negative review ever written on the band. Writer Tom Carson even goes after the untouchable Keith: "The ominoso Keef of a million decadence-nerd fantasies has turned out in middle age to be the type of wizened, cheerfully fatuous working-class Englishman that you can find by the dozens in most pubs.". . . Austin songwriter Michael Hall is relocating to Chicago this month; so is longtime Poi Dog Pondering violinist (and Pravda Records recording artist) Susan Voelz, joining her expatriate bandmates Frank Orrall and Dave Crawford. Everyone's moving to Chicago: Greg Kot in the Trib just profiled Bettina Richards, the New York A and R rep who's bringing her label Thrill Jockey to Chicago. Another recent arrival: songstress Syd Straw, who's working on her second solo album.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Charles Eshelman.

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