The Woodstock Music and Art Festival took place on a weekend in August of 1969, between the 15th and the 18th. The producers of the festival (see picture below) were Artie Kornfeld, Michael Lang, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman. Originally the festival was supposed to happen in Wallkill New York, but after the citizens of Wallkill backed out the producers were forced to move it around until eventually a farmer named Max Yasgur rented out his land to the producers. So while the concert was named after the city of Woodstock New York, it actually took place in the small rural town of Bethel New York. Woodstock was and is still culturally and historically significant. Not only was Woodstock the forebear of music festivals, it also is widely considered the “crowning jewel” of the counter culture.
When you think about the circumstances which lead to the concert it is pretty astonishing that it was so successful. First of all, they did not have a set venue until right before the festival. Also way more then the anticipated number of people showed up, about twice as much as what they were expecting. This huge amount of people drained their resources very quickly which lead to a lot of hungry and dehydrated people wandering about covered in mud and in desperate need of a bathroom. Surprisingly even under these conditions only a handful of people died that weekend. Even more surprising more surprising none of the deaths were a result of violence on the part of the festival goers.
The music from Woodstock was also legendary. From the very beginning the producers advertised a lot of famous musicians that were set to play sometime over the weekend. “Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, the Who, Janis Joplin and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were among the line-up“. The performers and performances that weekend were unforgettable. One of the my personal favorite performances of the festival was Jimi Hendrix’s portrayal of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Its a very interesting interpretation of such a well known and important song. It was a pretty legendary performance and I can only imagine what it would have been like to actually be there hearing it live instead of settling for videos. A lot of the performances were commentaries on real world issues, specifically the Vietnam War which the counterculture famously opposed wholeheartedly. Country Joe and the “Fish’s I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die-Rag” was a pretty famous anti-war performance that happened at the festival. Under the catchy and seemingly upbeat music the lyrics are actually dark and emotional. The performances were varied, but nonetheless enjoyable and memorable. Overall, the music really fit with the overarching theme of peace, love, and freedom.
From everyone’s descriptions of Woodstock and from watching the movie I would say that the… of Woodstock was feeling contentedness, joy, and freedom even though you are dehydrated and hungry and muddy in a crowded mud/ feces-filled farmland surrounded by good music and drugged up youth. Woodstock had a unique atmosphere that other music festivals, including the Woodstock anniversary festivals, desperately tried to replicate.
The reason that I am writing about Woodstock and not about another event or festival is because of Woodstock 2019. 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. In honor of Woodstock turning 50 the producers are planing a festival. In several interviews producer Michael Lang talked about the fact that the festival was in its planning stages so they don’t even really know who will be on the line-up yet. I think that the festival has a lot of potential to be epic, regardless of who is on the set list. Though I definitely see why many people are skeptical of its success, Woodstock 1999-the 30th anniversary and the most recent Woodstock festival- was a total disaster. But I think that people should keep an open mind because now the producers no what not to do in 2019 and there are countless great artist to choose from for the line-up.
Woodstock 1994 did not quite capture the spirit of its predecessor, but there were some similarities like the fact that hundreds of thousands of mud covered people hung out in a muddy field all listening to music surrounded by drunk and high festival goers. And while the festival wasn’t by any means violence free it ultimately didn’t end in disaster. Also artist like Green Day and Bob Dylan were part of the set list. This was a pretty important milestone in Green Day‘s career.
Woodstock 1999 was a total disaster. What was supposed to be a weekend about music, peace, love, and honoring the memory of a piece of American History became a full blown American history became a full blown riot with arson, rape, and destruction. The atmosphere was completely divergent from that of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. After having to suffer through some pretty bad conditions as well as being riled up by some of the acts festival goers became fed up and took out their outrage by setting fires, looting ATMs and stores, and performing in other instances of violence. Despite all of problems with Woodstock 1999, and there were a lot of problems, I liked the music overall. I thought that there were a variety of great or interesting acts.
In conclusion, Woodstock was really cool in the 1960s and it has potential to be really cool in 2019. I think that the original had a very unique atmosphere that people try to recreate time and time again with little success. Woodstock is significant in American history and it has left lasting impacts on American society and culture then and now.