And so it was, 40 years ago today (and the previous two) mark the anniversary of one of the defining moments of popular music. Held on a dairy farm, 32 acts took to the often rain-sodden stage over four days (Aug 15-18). An estimated 300,000 people were in attendance, possibly many more as the organisers cut down the fence of the festival.
Featuring such legendary bands as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Santana; Woodstock became home to all things hippie and psychedelic. Surrounded by mud and tie-dye, the revellers partied and enjoyed live music all through the night (The Who famously started at 4am Sunday morning), a festival of this caliber has never been seen since. Bands nowadays have to finish before 11pm or the neighbours get angry.
In these modern days of festivals, there are countless held all over the UK – the majority of which fall in to the same group. This group is that you should offer something for everyone in order to attract most people, e.g. Leeds/Reading, Glastonbury, V Festival etc. Woodstock was all about the counter culture and featured the cream of folk, psyche and rock n roll. Similarly Woodstock was free, whereas most festivals now are between £120-150 for 3 days of music. The festivals are less now about the music and more the experience, which is fair enough but camping and chilling out with your friends shouldn’t cost you that much. Performances at Woodstock have become known as the best in a particular artists career, never has that happened for Leeds/Reading etc.
Woodstock though was resurrected (sort of) in 1999, celebrating 30 years of the peace and music festival. Featuring NONE of the artists from the original festival, this incarnation was less about peace and love but more about commercialism and money. Featuring such acts as Kid Rock, DMX and The Chemical Brothers it was obvious the bands booked were to cater to everyone’s tastes rather than the 1969 effort. In turn the people who arrived at the festival did not care too much about peace and love, as such there were many acts of violence and arrests. Thus tarnishing the name of Woodstock from then on.
However when the name Woodstock is mentioned the average person doesn’t think of stupid music fans burning things and causing havoc, instead it’s the hundreds of thousands of hippies who happily sat and watched Ravi Shankar from a muddy hill whilst all around was happiness and joy. This is what we need right now, a happy festival time – not some ‘band of the moment’ topping a bill which costs nearly £200 to endure. I’d take Grateful Dead for free any day.