As we approach the fourtieth anniversay of Woodstock 69 next Saturday, I have been thinking a lot about why exactly it is that I so desperately wish that I could have been there.
Woodstock 69 for me, epitomises the peaceful and free flowing vibe of the 60s and stands out perhaps more than anything else, as THE event in musical history. Its easy to be idealistic and take a romanticized view when reflecting upon times gone by, (particularly when the time in question was a good fifteen years before I was a shadow of a concept) but even so, there something intrinsicly alluring about a a festival whose philosophy was contained in these simple words-
THREE DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC
Whether intended or not, the cultural impact of Woodstock and its mission statement was of epic proportions. Woodstock had a profound impact not only on the direction of music, but also politically and socially. In uniting half a million people for the first time in a muddy field, Woodstock reinvented individual perception and group mentality took on a new level of meaning. Joni Mitchell wasn’t a performer at the festival that year but articulated my point when she spoke of Woodstock and said; ” Woodstock was a spark of beauty, ” where 500,000 people, ” saw that they were part of a greater organism.”
Although over 100,00 entry tickets were sold for Woodstock 69 they became completely unnecessary. By Wednesday 13th August, two days before the festival was due to open over 60,000 people filled the site. Roads leading to the 600 acre farm in Bethel, New York became congested beyond recovery and the fences and gates to mark the festival peramiters were never completed. Rather than declare it a catastrophic mess (as you can imagine happening today,) organisers embraced the enthusiasm of festival goers and pronounced it a free for all, further weaving and a free and liberal mentality into the fabric of the weekend.
And then there was the line up….
I have been lucky enough to have seen two bands from the original Woodstock line up in recent years; Sly and The Family Stone at Lovebox two summers ago, and Crosby Stills and Nash at Glastonbury this year. If these twenty-first century performances are anything to go by, Woodstock would have been one hell of a show. AND there was JIMI HENDRIX… The Who and Janis Joplin amongst other iconic figures.
Woodstock 69 exemplified for the first time, the true power of music. On the one hand for the musician, music was as always an expressive tool, a complex and passionate language coveyed through performance. However on this occasion, the sheer size of the audience and the resulting atmosphere enticed mind shattering performances from the Woodstock musicians. On the other hand, for the participant in the Woodstock crowd, music became a life altering, magical experience, invoking strong emotion, political direction and social awareness. Woodstock broke down barriers and changed attitudes. Joel Rosenman one of the festical organisers summed it up when he said;
“Over the decades, the history of that weekend has served as a beacon of hope that a beautiful spirit in each of us ultimately will triumph.”
To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, The Idea Generation Gallery has combined forces with Genesis Publications to put on an exhibition of previously unseen photography from Woodstock. The exhibition is well thought out and includes performance and backstage shots as well as photographs taken from within the crowd and campsites to give a rounded presentation of the Woodstock experience.
To find out more about Woodstock ’69 visit the official website – www.woodstock.com/1969-festival
Idea Generation Website – www.ideageneration.co.uk
Genesis Publications – www.genesis-publications.com
OH HOW I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN AT WOODSTOCK…….I LOVE YOU JIMI