Woodstock was a rock music festival that took place near Woodstock, New York in a town called Bethel. The festival took place over three days, August 15, 16, and 17, 1969. The original plan for Woodstock was an outdoor rock festival, "three days of peace and music" in the Catskill village of Woodstock. The festival was expected to attract 50,000 to 100,000 people. It was estimated that an unexpected 400,000 or more people attended.
If it weren't for Woodstock, rock and roll wouldn't be where it is today. Woodstock became a symbol of the 1960s American counterculture and a milestone in the history of rock music.
The original plan for Woodstock had been to build a recording studio in the town of Woodstock (Sandow, 1). Woodstock had become a rock center when musician Bob Dylan and a rock group called The Band settled there. To promote the idea of the studio the four partners of the music festival (Michael Lang; Artie Kornfield; John Roberts; and Joel Rosenman) decided to stage a concert, which they officially called the Woodstock Festival and Art Fair. The Monterey Pop Festival held in Monterey, California, in 1967 inspired the Woodstock festival (Sandow, 1). The Woodstock partners eventually rented a field from a prominent local dairy farmer, Max Yasgur, who owned land about 48 miles from Woodstock.
Early in the week before the festival, it became clear that the event was going to
draw a much larger audience than expected. People from as far away as Michigan and
California came to listen to the 24 rock groups ("Age, 1"). Thousands more people
would have come if police had not blocked off access roads. By the day before the
official opening, traffic jams miles long blocked most roads leading to the area. The
intense traffic on Route 17B towards Bethel, New York that afternoon didn't seem to
bother anyone as people all exchanged friendly waves. They knew that they were all on
our way to the same place to enjoy "three days of peace and music." Had the festival
lasted much longer, as many as one million youths might have made the trip to Bethel.
What started off as a promotion for a music studio, ended up as one of the most
significant political and sociological events of the age.
The main attraction of the festival was an all-star cast of top rock artists. Some of the greatest musicians of the 1960s performed, including singers Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez as well as the bands The Stone; and Creedence Clearwater Revival (Sandow, 1). Singer Joe Cocker and guitar player Carlos Santana, up to then unknown, became overnight stars. Some performers who were scheduled to appear could not due to traffic problems. Jimi Hendrix ended the event with a freeform solo guitar performance of "The Star Spangled Banner."
The dictionary defines a hippie as one who doesn't conform to society's standards and advocates a liberal attitude and lifestyle. Most of the people at Woodstock were not hippies in the commonly accepted sense: a good half of them, at least, were high school or college students from middle class homes ("The Big Woodstock, 33"). But at Woodstock they exhibited to the world many of the hippie values and life styles, from psychedelic clothing to spontaneous, unashamed nudity to open and casual sex, and also illicit drugs. Youthful imaginations were captured, most obviously, by the hippie sound: driving, deafening hard beat of rock, music that is not just a particular form of pop but the anthem of revolution. A hippie's goal is to accomplish peace, love and freedom in society. To be a hippie you must believe in peace as the way to resolve differences among people, ideologies and religions ("The Way of, 3"). Most hippies believe that the way to peace is through love and tolerance. Loving means accepting others as they are, giving them freedom to express themselves and not judging their behaviors according to a narrow definition. This is the core of the hippie philosophy. Freedom is the leading quality in this system. Freedom to do as one pleases, go where the flow takes you, and being open to new experiences. This causes an attitude that allows for maximum personal growth. Sure this lifestyle is risky, but that's life and avoiding risk leaves one unprepared for the unexpected.
A controversial, yet still notable cause for the success of Woodstock was the availability of illegal drugs, specifically marijuana and LSD ("Woodstock '69: Three days, 3"). About 400 people experienced bad trips on acid at the festival. It is widely believed that a large amount of the population at the festival was smoking pot or tripping on acid, and if you weren't, there is a great chance that you had a contact high throughout the festivities. As the saying goes, "if you remember the '60's, you weren't at Woodstock." The drug laws were suspended throughout the festival because the police were afraid of a potentially dangerous confrontation, so they cooperated and the crowd cooperated in return. Though the rules were bent in favor of using drugs during Woodstock, one cannot overlook the few drug overdoses that lent a tragic atmosphere to the Woodstock festivities.
Continuous rain caused an abundant amount of mud at the festival. The spontaneity comes from the fact that the rain caused the site to be switched twice, which resulted in the loss of preparation time. On the opening day of Woodstock, the stage was not finished, the sound system had been dangerously thrown together, and last but not least, the rain and muddy ground had disintegrated the gates and fences. Many people got into the festival for free because of the rain. During the festival, many people would also go skinny-dipping in a farm pond to get the mud off ("The Big Woodstock, 21"). The rain and mud helped add a peaceful touch to the festival.
Woodstock has become a major symbol of the 1960s. It has become a historic symbol with different meanings to thousands of people. From peace and love, to sex and drugs, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair is responsible for this reputation of the 1960s. well when she commented, "what started out as a disaster turned into a miracle and you could tell when you listened to those who had been there, you heard wonder in their voices and saw it in their eyes and they said, 'We were all there together. It was beautiful.'" Woodstock was held together not by it's artificial rules but by it's common loyalties and the commitment of it's people to each other ("Woodstock '69: Three days, 2"). Of the 400,000 Aquarians at the festival, all of them came together. "There are a hell of a lot of us here. If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy next to you is your brother." Everybody remembered ("The Big Woodstock, 1"). There were no rapes, no assaults, no robberies and, as far as anyone can recall, not one single fight. This yearning for togetherness was demonstrated in countless major and minor ways. People shared food and shelter of their own with total strangers. There was lack of obvious conflict despite conditions that were ready for panic and chaos. The generous assistance of the Hog Farm help bring everything together. A New Mexico hippie commune took care of kids who were on bad trips from LSD. It was demonstrated to the adult world that young people could create a kind of peace in a situation where none should have existed ("The Big Woodstock, 33). The youth of America got together well beyond the festival itself.
Overall the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a great success. It was unexpected, remarkable, and memorable. The festival of course caused some inconvenience to the surrounding communities and some area residents were suspicious of the unconventional looks and behavior of the young people who attended. Yet the festival was peaceful. America's youths surprised many people by the festivals success. If it wasn't for their peaceful ways, the festival would not have been as prevailing. This event is though by many to mark a high point in the American counterculture (Sandow, 1). So much more came out of this music and art festival than expected. Woodstock has changed the outlook on rock and roll, the 1960s, and togetherness. It proved that when people come together for a commendable cause, good things happen. That good thing was Woodstock.