Tuesday, May 21, 2013
In 1969, four men by the names of John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Mike Lang, set out to organize a music festival that, little did they know, would become one of the most well-known music events in history.
Although the festival created a huge amount of problems for the poor guys, including thousands of dollars of debt and approximately 80 lawsuits, it set the stage for the long history of successful festivals to follow.
By the end of the Woodstock Festival, more than 500,000 people had attended - some abandoning their cars in the middle of the highway just to walk to the massive concert, and helicopters had been issued to airlift performers to the stage. Movies have been made about it. People are still talking about it, and it seems pretty clear, the festival was pretty legendary.
But though it may have changed history, will there ever be such a festival again?
It would seem that way, considering the mass explosion of festivals in recent years. However, it also seems that music festivals have a different meaning now than they did more than 40 years ago.
During the time of the Woodstock Festival, Americans faced the adversities and challenges of the Vietnam war. The festival liberated the younger generation, allowing them the freedom to define themselves as their own, express themselves and even protest. Aside from immense rain and dangerous conditions, the party raged on - complete with drugs, sex and rock n' roll.
From Woodstock Nation: What Created Famous Mud-Filled Festival by ABC News -
"Woodstock created a can-do spirit among the generation," said [Joel] Makower. "People came together under the unpleasant circumstances and helped everyone else and survived what everyone outside the festival grounds dubbed as a "disaster."
With the Vietnam War still raging overseas and anti-war protests raging at home, Woodstock became a place where those people likely to be affected by the draft could converge.
"Nobody was really aware of how big this sort of counter culture was and how deeply their ideals had penetrated," said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. "The thing about Woodstock is that it really came out of the blue. Nobody really anticipated what it was going to become."
Today, it seems that music festivals are an excuse to try a bunch of hallucinogens and jam out to bands that many people haven't even heard of, as in the "Lie Witness News" Coachella segment, from Jimmy Kimmel Live:
Coachella first began in 1999, with approximately 25,000 people attending. Most recently, the festival attendance skyrocketed to more than 80,000 attendees in April.
But though we are still technically in a war, you don't see the same attitude at festivals today. Kids go to festivals to "rage," dress up in funky costumes for a day and pretend to be hippies - only to go home to their normal routines with nothing but a few Instagram and Facebook photos.
I have been to a few festivals, and am waiting to find the connection that was so obvious at Woodstock. Lightning in a Bottle has been the closest festival I have seen, which included yoga classes, motivational speakers, music and vegetarian food. Yet this last time I went, it didn't seem as sincere as the first time. Speakers preached about the end of the world and solar flares, meanwhile "hippies" listened and nodded to every word, ignorant and brainwashed. To be honest, I was a little heartbroken by it, and vowed to never go back.
That being said, there are a lot of beautiful aspects of this festival. And I did have some unforgettable experiences.
At the time I attended, so did approximately 30,000 other people. Nothing compared to half a million.
With the endless choices of festivals this year - Coachella, Bonnaroo, What the Festival?, Sasquatch, Lollapolooza, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), Country Thunder, etc. - one can only hope that eventually, another festival will take place that will shock the nation like Woodstock did.
Unfortunately, I don't think we'll ever see one again. But I could be wrong.