Monday, August 17, 2009

Today in History: 40th Anniversary of Woodstock

On a farm near the rural town of Bethel, NY became the site of what is considered by many to be one of the most pivitol moments in music history. It started as a simple concert festival however turned into a symbol that defined an entire generation. The music festival was originally billed as: "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music." Worldwide it became known as Woodstock, which went beyond just being a musical event and became a mark on the timeline of history.

Woodstock originally launched as a music festival with the intention of have an audience of no more than 50,000 people. Ticket Sales were limited to just record stores in the greater New York City Area. However, nearly 180,000 tickets were sold beforehand with an anticipated 200,000 additional people that would show up at the gate. The concert organizers had a decision to make. Reinforce security and fences to keep people without tickets out (which was believed would cause violence) or invest their money into a bigger stage and sound system. Woodstock in turn became a free concert for all that turned up. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 people showed up to the 600 acre farm owned by Max Yasgur.

As people arrived traffic became an absolute nightmare. Radio stations as far as Manhattan were telling people to not attended because of their inability to get in. To make the problem even worse, rain had fallen over the last few days causing mud and hazardous conditions for parking vehicles in nearby fields. Despite all the hangups and issues getting the festival started and the bands lined up the music began. Concert-goers were enthralled with the rich music that was played for hours and hours on end. In addition, despite the massive crowds, unsanitary conditions, and lack of food there was no violence and only 2 fatalities. Fearing the damage and massive crowds camping out at Woodstock the organizers received a call from the New York Governor threatening to bring in the National Guard on the final day of the concert however he was convinced not to. Afterwards however the county was declared a state of emergency.

I encourage anyone to research and learn about the concert and specifically the impact it had on the culture of the day. CCR member John Fogerty, being one of the first bands to accept the Woodstock invitation, commented on the concert and their performance at 3am.

"We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn... there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: a quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, "Don't worry about it John. We're with you." I played the rest of the show for that guy." -- John Fogerty
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