Woodstock’s Contradictions, 50 Years Later


“Fifty years later, I still have what’s left of a pair of three-day tickets to the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, numbered 39731 and 39732. They had cost all of $18 each. By the time my brother (who, unlike me, was old enough to drive) and I had trudged to the site from the car we’d abandoned by the side of a clogged country road in Bethel, N.Y., no one was taking tickets, and the fences that organizers had put up around Max Yasgur’s farm in White Lake, a subdivision of Bethel, had been or would soon be toppled. Overwhelmed and underprepared, the promoters declared that Woodstock was a free festival and welcomed the hordes that they couldn’t have turned back anyway. And as hundreds of thousands of people continued to arrive, the music and mythologizing began, along with the rain, the mud, the giddy sensation of being part of an unexpected multitude, the forecasts of disaster, the helicopter overflights to get musicians and food in and medical emergencies out, the uneven stage performances, the random and mostly friendly encounters, the lengthy set changes filled with urgent announcements, the waves of euphoria and discomfort, the sheer implausibility of the whole event. As a music critic, I have been to dozens of festivals since then, and none have been so makeshift, so precarious or so revelatory. Woodstock was an experiment that, as everyone there seemed to realize, could go wrong at any moment and, by sheer luck, didn’t. Just four months later, things went very wrong at its West Coast successor: Altamont. But the Woodstock festival was simultaneously an epiphany and an indulgence. Freeloaders were not turned away. Many of the era’s best bands were on the bill, including a West Coast contingent that made for one of the greatest Saturday nights — continuing well past Sunday sunrise — of the rock era: the Grateful Dead (though hardly at their best), Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane, with an explosive set by the Who tucked in as a British bonus. I was close enough, by the first ring of sound towers, to see and hear the concert, and stayed there, so I missed the many other idyllic, hedonistic activities that have been recounted by other festivalgoers. Woodstock was a brief moment that would provide contradictory lessons for generations to come. …”
NY Times
NY Times: How Santana Hallucinated Through One of Woodstock’s Best Sets (His Own)
NY Times: Woodstock 1969: A Story Vastly Bigger Than Editors Realized
W – Woodstock
Rolling Stone: Woodstock: ‘It Was Like Balling for the First Time (Video)
Woodstock (Video)
CNN – Drugs, dirt and hot German bikers: Two teens who ran away to Woodstock recall the adventure of a lifetime (Video)
YouTube: Messed Up Things That Happened At Woodstock


About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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