Initially set to be a three-day concert from August 15th through August 17th, 1969, The Woodstock Music and Art Festival set up shop at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in the town of Bethel, New York after he realized that finding a location for this rock show was turning out to be a lot of trouble. He was paid $10,000 for the three-day event.
Many consider this to be the most important rock concert that was ever held, demonstrating the hippie culture of the 1960s. Though it was predicted that no more than 150,000 people would be in attendance at this festival, the total ended up being about 400,000. The festival lost money as many people did not pay to get in. A rainy and cold weekend, the traffic got so bad that many left their cars and walked for miles to attend the concert.
The on-going rain of the weekend led to piles of mud and tents, but that didn’t stop the concert go-ers from having the time of their lives. They sang, danced, and shared food, alcohol, drugs, tents, clothes, and blankets. This was the summer of ’69 and the hippie era of peace and love was in full swing.
Though the festival was only supposed to run for three days, it was extended for a fourth day due to the insatiable crowd. The festival concluded on August 18th, 1969. During the weekend, 32 acts performed.
Many iconic rockers that would later on become the voice of the rock n’ roll era performed at this festival. Among them were The Grateful Dead, Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
One of the most notable performances at the festival was put on by The Who. Due to arguments about payment, The Who did not even begin to perform until 4:00 am. As the sun began to rise and Roger Daltrey began to sing the chorus of ‘See Me, Feel Me’, political activist Abbie Hoffman jumped on stage and tried to stir the crowd into a political frenzy. Guitarist Pete Townshend knocked Hoffman off of the stage and skyrocketed the band into superstardom.
Another big act at the festival was none other than Jimi Hendrix. The Vietnam War was going on at the time and Hendrix’s rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ caused some controversy. The sounds coming from Jimi’s guitar were comparable to war noises.
Interestingly enough, there was very little media coverage of this turbulent affair. They hyped up the problems of the festival, with headlines such as ‘Traffic Uptight at Hippiefest’ and ‘Hippies Mired in a Sea of Mud’ from The Daily News. The coverage became much more positive towards the end of the festival, due to parents calling in and criticizing the misreporting based on the telephone calls from their own children in attendance.
In 1970, the documentary film Woodstock was released. It was directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese. Warner Bros. took a risk by investing in the filming of this festival, as most other production companies had turned the idea down. Woodstock actually helped save Warner Bros., as they were almost going out of business before its release.
If you ever want the real Woodstock 1969 experience, check out two of the soundtrack albums. Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More isa 2-disc (originally 3-LP) album that contains samplings from the live acts at the show. Woodstock 2 is another 2-disc soundtrack with not only the live samplings, but but also recordings of the stage announcements. So maybe if you put in your headphones and close your eyes, you might get the real Woodstock experience, even for a moment.