It was one of the most epic and famous concerts in the history of music, with an audience of more than 4 hundred thousend 400,000 people and music played outdoors despite the rain. It was called “an Aquarian exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" and it was a festival with more importance than what is believed. You may have guessed what I’m talking about, I’m talking about the Woodstock rock festival, what was it, why it became so famous, some curiosities and what it meant for that large group of young Americans with a message of change.
In 1969 a concert was held in Bethel, New York, in the property of Max Yasgur's farm. Organizers didn’t expected such a big number of guests and decided to extend the event for three long days. While setting up for the concert they expected to have one hundred and fifty thousend 150,000 people at the concert. When it started more and more people started to show up from all over the United States, and the number of people surpassed 4 hundred fifty thousend 450,000. The organizers were shocked. There were over 30 bands from all over the United States and many of them started their careers here. Music was a new way to express the issues and feelings towards political and social actions.
The original name of Woodstock was “An Aquarian Exposition”, referring to the change in human consciousness linked to many characteristics of the hippie movement and counterculture. But why was a concert named as an astological age? Astrologers believe that an astrological age affects humanity, especially by influencing the rise and fall of civilizations or cultural tendencies. The expression Age of Aquarius in popular culture refers in this case to the hippie and New Age movements in the 1960s and 70s. The flower children recognized the suffering and unjustice of the old system, so naturally rebelled with messages of peace and love, which were symbolized with flowers. The festival has become regarded as the moment of counterculture generation in the music history. The counterculture was an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed throughout the Western world between the 1960s and the mid-1970s. It consisted of protests around civil rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, feminism, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement.
It was the people after all who made the event what it was, the bands that played were just an additional reason to celebrate. Those musicians who chose to play at Woodstock would later claim it the most powerful moment of their careers, while many who could not participate have expressed their regrets after missing the event. Among them we remember Janis Joplin, The who, Jimi Hendrix. Since then no other concert in history has been able to recapture the atmosphere that Woodstock captured.
Here are a few curiosities!
Woodstock was originally intended as a profit-making initiative. It only became a free festival when it wasclear it was attracting thousends of more people than expected.
The organizers chose at first Woodstock as location for the festival but they couldn't find suitable space, however the name remained. The event ended up in Bethel, about 70 miles away from Woodstock.
With the unexpected crowd, organizers failed to secure enough food for the festival. The food stall had little experience at an event of this size and was overwhelmed by customers. At long lastwith the increasing price of burgers (from 25c to $1), people ended up burning the food stall down. When locals heard people were starving, the Army decided to airdrop food, sandwiches, water, fruit, medical supplies and more. This encouraged the festival to continue for an additional day.
Celebrating its status of historic site, the concert area was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The farm is now known as the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It contains a campus, museum, and an amphitheatre.
Two more concerts were celebrated on the same site in 1994 and 1999 with the participation of popular artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers or Aerosmith. The shows were better organized and more successful financially but less legendary.
The phrase "the Woodstock Generation" became part of the common lexicon, in other words Woodstock was an unique event that people should remember as a music but also generational moment.
© 2021 Ilaria Masiero
Louis E on April 11, 2021: