Legendary Woodstock Photos That Will Go Down In History
Woodstock: The Original Music Festival
Nearly half a million people flocked to Bethel, New. York’s undulating meadows to celebrate love, peace, friendship, life, and music (among other things) during the Woodstock event of 1969.
There has never been anything precisely like it before. With these rare historical images from that year, you can see what those three days of peace, love, and music were actually like! Keep scrolling to learn more!
A Symbol of the Sixties
Tie-dye was all the style in those days, even if it now seems trite. A few enterprising hippies offer their handicrafts to festival guests here. Because no official festival goods were available, these — and styles on the following slide — would have to suffice.
A simple rug-like cloth could serve as an outfit and worked for both genders. The colorful fabrics made the event seem somewhat livelier and were famous to all.
The Flowered Hair
At today’s major music festivals, such as Coachella and Bonnaroo, guests are frequently just as concerned with what they’re going to wear as they are with the acts they’re going to watch. However, festival classics like the floral crown, which dates back to Woodstock, will never go out of style as long as there are festivals to attend.
This simple yet surprisingly appealing fashion was quite popular, especially to ladies. The locals would crown themselves in beautiful flowers of different species and colors, attracting people close.
Young, Wild, and Free
Woodstock is well-known for not charging any fees for admittance. But that wasn’t intended to happen. When it became evident that the grounds were popular with young people, the event organizers had to relinquish any hope of making any money.
Young people are generally quite cautious about spending a lot of money at a single event. These festivals were predominantly flocked with the youth, and charging a fee just to participate in the event would highly discourage them from coming altogether. This move encouraged young ladies and gents to attend and spice up the whole festival.
Unforgettable Moments for Unforgettable People
Woodstock was as unforgettable for the musicians that performed there as it was for the audience. Jefferson Airplane members are pictured here, with singer Grace Slick in the center, dressed in white. Over the three days, 33 performers performed, including many other stars.
Performances from artists from all over the state were welcome. This inclusion encouraged mingling among stars and musicians, even encouraging duets and mixed performances. Peers mixed over the three days sharing drinks and meals whenever possible, knowing they wouldn’t see each other again in a while.
The Birth of a Legend
People nationally attended the music festival in upstate New York. Nobody could have predicted that it would become one of the most iconic concert series in history. And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want to miss a concert with 33 of your favorite artists, would you? This event was going to be one of the biggest concerts yet.
Just think about it! Thousands of people congregated in one location for three days, all to see their favorite singers perform. The anticipation was palpable, the performances were legendary, and the crowd did not disappoint, cheering and partying for three days. The festival’s original location is now home to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which hosts performances throughout the year.
All Aboard the "Mary Jane" Bus
The hippie subculture is known for its music as much as it is for its drug use. Substances went hand in hand with the theme. Hippies would party hard. During the festival, it can be estimated that over half of the attendees consumed “Mary Jane”, although no one got arrested.
However, there were surprisingly no known incidents of any uncouth behavior. Substance users were perceived as violent individuals; this event was an exception or perhaps disproved the myth.
Only a fraction of the 33 artists who performed at the event got to be in the footage that later turned into the Woodstock documentary, which is how most people are familiar with the concert today.
Some, such as Joan Baez, featured above, will be eternally connected with the Woodstock music festival. Others, for example, Sly and the Family Stone, were not included in the film’s final cut and are quickly forgotten or thought not to be there. But recorded or not, the memory of the event lives on to this date.
Pay Me Upfront First
For the whole length of the event, music was played continuously, both day and night, ensuring that there was never a boring moment at Woodstock. Nevertheless, behind closed doors, the organizers came perilously close to putting an immediate stop to all activities.
In order to accommodate the huge number of spectators who turned up unexpectedly, several artists insisted on being paid in cash before entering the stage. This required the organizers to visit a neighboring bank that was open on a Saturday in order to acquire the necessary funds.
Partying Among Cows
One of the 600-acre dairy farms on which the Woodstock festival was held belonged to Max Yasgur, the event’s host. It was on this land that the people came to party. The fact that he did not need much convincing to agree to rent the property may have been influenced by the spirit of the occasion.
According to the arrangement he made with the festival organizers, he would get $10,000 to use the site. Damages to the property, on the other hand, ended up costing more than $50,000. Littering and the general destruction of property contributed to this inflation.
The Costs of the Festival
Original estimates put the overall cost of the event at $750,000 by the three significant organizers, John Roberts, Michael Lang, and Joel Rosenman, who were responsible for putting the event together. In the end, they spent over $2.5 million throughout the festival weekend while only earning approximately $1.5 million in revenue.
Much of the difference was due to an unprecedented large crowd. Although it seemed as though the founders had made a considerable loss, sales from the film and a live album made up for the difference in the budget. What happened after that, as they say, is history.
An Aerial View of Event Attendees
A renowned former LIFE magazine photographer known as John Dominis, reminisced about Woodstock years later indicating that he had a good time throughout the event.
Dominis also said that, despite the fact that he was much older than the youngsters in attendance, he felt like he belonged with them. “When it comes to an older individual, you may think they’re uninviting. But no, they were fantastic!” he said.
It was a Nightmare Feeding 400,000 People
It is no small feat to feed 400,000 people for three days straight. It seemed like supplies were always in short quantities, lines were always lengthy, and the audience was always ravenous. Such strain would be too much for anybody with a weak heart.
From the above platform, a man named Hugh Romney stated to the crowds that “there’s a guy up there—some hamburger guy—who had his stand burn down last night.” He still has a little money left over, and for those who could, they helped him out by purchasing a couple of hamburgers.
Festival Founders Hit Too Many Snags
According to the Washington Post, the festival’s people who came up with the Woodstock idea were just businessmen who wanted to put on a concert to showcase their upcoming recording facility while also raising money for it. They, however, made some rookie mistakes, and some were just sheer bad luck.
Initially, it seemed that they weren’t quite at the peak of their abilities. There were three changes in the festival’s location, and construction on the festival’s stage didn’t even begin until a month before the show’s scheduled start date.
The Host and His Wife Did Not Mind Tagging Along
“By attending the event, we can turn the adversities that are currently facing America into a source of hope for a stronger and more peaceful future,” said Max Yasgur, a farmer who owned the acres of land on which the event was held. He attended together with his wife.
The year was 1973, and Yasgur was 53 years old when he unfortunately passed away. As a homage to him, Rolling Stone Magazine published a full-page obituary, making him one of the few individuals in history to receive such an honor who was not a musician himself.
The Health Department Had Concerns
Several years ago (2008), the Washington Post said that, nowadays, “no health department, nor any Woodstock-generation parents or grandparents, would permit a festival where children eat chopped veggies from garbage cans.”
According to newspaper reports and stage announcements, two births took place at the festival, but no one has claimed the title of Woodstock baby. It is still crazy trying to imagine babies born at an open-air concert.
Reasons for Gathering
It was almost impossible to complete the enormous job of feeding 400,000 hungry hippies in a short period of time. In the first place, no one had expected the festival’s magnitude to be as big as it turned out to be.
But these inconveniences did not deter people from continuing to have fun because that didn’t make a difference. The festival had people concerned about the current conflict in Vietnam, tensions in the United States, and various other issues. This festival was a safe place to get some release from the cruel world that awaited them.
Everyone Kept Their Items Close
If you didn’t stay in your blanket or tent, you’d have to trek for several kilometers to find the things you needed. And, in the absence of aisles, seating patterns, and cellphones, it would have been nearly impossible to find your way back to where you were initially situated. You would probably lose all your belongings.
Today’s festival-goers wouldn’t even know what to do if they were in that situation! It was a total nightmare trying to trace anything, especially if you did not correctly mark them or know which direction to begin looking.
The Festival Was Unhygienic, But Generally Safe
In addition to limited food, there were far too few restrooms for the amount of people that attended the event, and it rained on the festival grounds for several days straight. At times, distinguishing between muck and, well, you know, was a tough job to do.
There were just three documented lives lost in total. One person passed away due to a ruptured appendix, another from an overdose, and a third person from a tractor that ran over him. These three incidents were all unfortunate, but luckily not from physical altercations. The festival was generally a safe one to attend.
Everything was in short supply since the event organizers were unprepared for how many people would show up for Woodstock. The numbers that turned up were well over the anticipated crowds, which was good news, of course, but caught the event organizers off guard.
Food (breakfast meals, lunch, and dinner), drink (liquor, water, fruit juices, punches, and other beverages), medical supplies, and facilities were in short supply. Still, because of the communal spirit, everyone managed to get by just fine—as you’ll discover if you keep reading through this list!
The Traffic Menace
After only five days, the amount of traffic outside Bethel began to increase significantly. Thousands of automobiles rested along a 20-mile stretch of road leading from Max Yasgur’s farm. Local inhabitants were stranded, and a large number of performers had to be exited by helicopter.
Just imagine trying to locate your Volkswagen bus amid hundreds of others that are identical to it. The first to find parking ended up being last to leave for sure. You can imagine the uneasiness. Impatient artists had to improvise or make themselves comfortable until the traffic cleared.
Hippies were Against the Vietnam Conflict but Rooting for the Military
The festival’s mood was decidedly against the conflict happening in Vietnam, as many Americans began to see the altercation as needless and far too long-lasting. Ironically, though, the U.S. Army airlifted in food, medics, and even festival performers.
“They are with us, man; they are not against us,” an announcer reportedly told the crowds in attendance. People cheered and welcomed them to the festival. Their help was much needed and very appreciated by the people. Medical emergencies were airlifted away from the scene and safely taken to nearby medical facilities.
Not all Performers Could Make it to the Event
John Lennon consented to participate in Woodstock, but the United States government denied him admission into the country with a visa from Canada.
Other acts that were unable to make it to the festival included the Jeff Beck Group, which had broken up just weeks before the event, and Iron Butterfly, which was stranded at a New York airport due to a flight cancellation.
Jimi Hendrix Only Performed for a Portion of the Audience
When Jimi Hendrix performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the New York Post declared it the “single finest moment of the 1960s.” Most of the festival’s guests missed it, as he entered the stage at 9 a.m. on Monday, by which time most of them had already packed up and headed home.
Despite the fact that the gathering was much smaller than it had been the prior days, Jimi could still sense the love and excitement of the audience.
Performance Payments were Inflated
Because their festival was brand new, the event’s organizers had to pay seriously high sums to secure their main acts. Jimi Hendrix was given $18,000, and members of Jefferson Airplane received $12,000, which was double their usual fee.
Groups that demanded cash payments upfront included the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and The Who.
A Swarm of Faces
When looking at this picture taken from the rear of the stage, it becomes more apparent exactly how many people were in attendance at Woodstock. There were a multitude!
According to estimates, between August 15 and August 17, 1969, about 400,000 people descended on the little town of Bethel, New York. The majority of whom were young, accessible, and unfettered by the spirit of peace and love.
People were Stuck in Traffic Coming to the Festival
People attempted to attend the festival in more significant numbers than those who actually attended. For example, as you can see in this photograph, traffic was so severe that many attendees chose to abandon their cars miles away and walk to the festival grounds.
According to Arlo Guthrie, who said it on stage, “The New York State Thruway is closed, man.” Reaching the center of the festival was a far greater task than getting to work during Monday morning traffic.
A Star in the Making
The documentary film made at the Woodstock music festival is considered one of the best “rockumentaries” of all time by fans and critics alike.
In the case of one young director, Martin Scorsese, who is depicted on the right wearing a headset, it was a promising start that led to more than 80 Academy Award nominations throughout his career.
Those With Vans Were Lucky
If you arrived at Woodstock by a small automobile, you might have found yourself out of luck when it came to getting a seat at the festival. The persons who had the most nuanced view of the stage were the ones who were able to scale the roof of their van to the highest point.
Of course, it would have been difficult to relocate your vehicle with so many people in the area. Nevertheless, there was no compelling reason to leave the festival grounds until the final note.
People Created Their Own Shows
The Woodstock program was filled with major stars, as everyone knows. But that didn’t deter anyone with a guitar from attempting to put on their own show for the audience.
From the photograph, it appears as though the man is seated in some sort of handcrafted treehouse that he has converted into a performance space. At the time, it seemed that no one was interested in hearing him perform. But, who knows, by the end of the weekend, he might have gathered a small but dedicated fan base.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
It may sound cheesy, but in the upstate New York village where the Woodstock concert took place, Happy Avenue is a road. It seems fitting for a festival dedicated to peace and love, doesn’t it? Of course, individuals may not have been pleased with the traffic en route to the festival on this particular day.
Imagine living in one of those Happy Avenue houses and being unable to leave your driveway for the entire weekend because the streets are packed. But the positive side of this is that you could have conveniently attended the festival while having easy access to food, a restroom, and sleeping arrangements in the comfort of your own home.
Keep the Feet Clean
There were at least a few individuals at Woodstock who attempted to dispel the image of the filthy hippie, which we are all familiar with. After all, when you spend the whole weekend wandering about barefoot, it is inevitable that your feet will get a bit filthy. Fortunately, there was a water pump nearby, which enabled some concertgoers to keep their feet nice and clean throughout the event.
Perhaps, some of them used the water to cool down their bodies as well after a long day of dancing and excitement.
Yoga in the Morning
Okay, so these folks may or may not have been doing yoga, but from the photograph, it certainly seems like they were, don’t you think? It’s more probable that these two were doing some kind of interpretative dance while listening to one of the musical performances that were playing around the festival grounds at the same time.
It’s also reasonable to infer that these two individuals are under the effect of some kind of substance. After all, it was the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. However, it’s possible that the music and positive emotions were sufficient enough to get them high on life.
Pass the Doobie, Please
This picture is usually the image that comes to mind when you think about Woodstock. That woman doesn’t have a cigarette from the corner store in her hand.
No, the woman in the picture must be smoking something a little more substantial in this photo, and it’s representative of the era and Woodstock in general. You can just summarize the photograph by saying, “the event was lit.”
Unique in a Crowd
This image may be the best representation of the festival as a whole. There are people as far as the horizon, and the woman in the front is perched on someone’s shoulders, completely enthralled by the concert going on all around her.
If you look closely, you’ll notice a few more people with their arms lifted and giant smiles on their faces as they soak in what was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the majority of those present.
Eat to Live Through the Festival
We don’t hear often about the food eaten at Woodstock, but this photo proves that dedicated area did exist. It’s unclear what they’re eating, but there appears to be a food stand set up with concertgoers waiting with paper plates to grab some grub.
The people in the picture don’t appear overly impressed by the flavor of their food, but whatever they ate provided them with enough nourishment to keep them going throughout the event.
When it Rained, it Poured
We know that it rained at some time at Woodstock and that some people opted to welcome it while others tried to avoid it. A few people have put a plastic sheet over themselves to protect themselves from the rain.
This behavior may sound contradictory given the event’s free-spirited atmosphere, but they didn’t run from the rain. Having the plastic covering just allowed them to continue enjoying the show.
Wrong Side of the Woodstock Fence
The presence of a fence at Woodstock is unusual, but this guy appears unconcerned about being on the wrong side of it. He nearly looks like he’s about to break down some fence panels. But perhaps he’s just thrilled to be close enough to the main event.
This image also shows the approximate number of people who attended. Not only can you see the happy man at the fence, but you can also see the excited faces of the other attendees in the crowd on the other side.
An Award-Winning Documentary
In 1970, the four-hour documentary, Woodstock, was nominated for an Academy Award. Since then, it has been released several more times, each time with new bonuses and footage. A 26-year-old Martin Scorsese served as an assistant director on the original picture, which was his first film credit. He’s giving a peace sign in this photo, which you can see below.
Martin Scorsese later wrote that he was completely drowned in the creation of the documentary. “I was nearly completely oblivious to the audience because I was so focused on the action on stage,” he wrote.
Recording the Concert for Later
The sound system at Woodstock Music Festival was meant to deliver the guitar solos, bass lines, and screaming vocals to an enthusiastic crowd of 200,000. However, the sound system ended up having to reach nearly double that number.
Alongside providing sounds for the live audience, there were also professional sound recorders walking by the stage to tape the concert for later release. Only a few months later, in early May 1970, a triple album of selected music from Woodstock was released.
Taking Naps on Cars
Woodstock Music Festival took place over the course of three days. Although some probably stayed awake to experience the entire event, most people chose to rejuvenate themselves with naps whenever they could.
Since the place was so crowded, people found odd places to take naps – for example, on the hood of their cars. The exhausted couple above managed to catch some z’s before their favorite performers arrived on stage. It might not look too comfortable, but it gets the job done.
Hiking into the Festival
Part of the fun of Woodstock was bringing in all you needed. Sure, people packed into cars to make it to the party, but the total number of people meant that cars could only go so far.
That’s why a lot of concert-goers chose to hike into the festival. They threw clothes, food, and whatever else they needed into a red rucksack and hauled it to camp on foot. This was much faster than sitting for hours in a traffic jam.
A Monkey Went to Woodstock
It’s well known that hundreds of thousands of people attended Woodstock in 1969. What’s less well-known is that at least one monkey was at the historic event too. Just take a look at the photo below!
Although the girl is smiling, the monkey looks a bit scared or out of place. Looking back at it now, with the eyes of people who’re conscious of animals being treated well, it seems like a very questionable thing to do. There was far too much noise and commotion for the monkey to relax.
The Who Takes the Stage
British rockers The Who were meant to take the stage on Saturday night. Like most things at Woodstock, the plans didn’t go according to plan. So, instead of Saturday night, they took the stage on Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m.
Understandably the crowd was a bit tired. Regardless, The Who carried on playing songs from their album Tommy. Part way through their set, the infamous activist Abbie Hoffman jumped on stage to object the jailing of fellow activist John Sinclair. In short, The Who weren’t fans of the gig.
Ravi Shankar at Woodstock
The sitarist Ravi Shankar had a huge influence on The Beatles and, by extension, all of the counterculture. That’s why he was invited to play at Woodstock. Shankar took to the stage alongside Alla Rakha and Maya Kulkarni. For 45 minutes, they graced the crowd with their music. It was well received.
As the rain was coming, they ended the set and stuck around a bit. Like The Who, however, Shankar wasn’t a big fan of the concert. Soon after he started to distance himself from the counterculture.
Back in the days of Woodstock, Santana was a relatively obscure band. They were known by some who were into the jam band scene of San Francisco, but outside of that, their name led to blank stares.
Carlos Santana, the lead guitarist, helped front a band that pioneered a fusion style that mixed African polyrhythmic beats with influences from Latin jazz and American blues. The reason they got a chance to play was that Bill Graham, their manager, was also an influential concert promoter. Graham made sure they were on the bill.
Joan Baez Plays First
The folk singer Joan Baez was an integral part of the 1960s counterculture – which is why she was immediately booked for Woodstock. In fact, Baez has the unique distinction of being able to play on the first day of the festival.
She took to the stage at 1 a.m. on the first night and went through classic songs such as “Joe Hill.” It wasn’t an easy show for her, though. Alongside being six months pregnant, her husband was in a Texan jail for refusing to enlist in Vietnam.
Crosby, Stills, & Nash Were Newbies
When Crosby, Stills, & Nash landed the opportunity to play an hour set at Woodstock, they were a bit nervous. Why? Well, in the words of singer and guitarist Stephen Stills, it was “the second time we’ve ever played in front of people.”
Despite that, they put on a marvelous set that took listeners through classics like “Blackbird,” “Marrakesh Express,” and “Guinnevere.” The band continued to play, break up, reunite, and play again for many years after that – often with the addition of Neil Young.
A Crowded Festival
Exact numbers are hard (or, more accurately, impossible) to come by, but estimates put the total number of people at the Woodstock Festival between 300,000 and 500,000. That’s quite the number for a relatively small farm in New York.
The picture above gives a nice bird’s-eye view of what it looked like. Sure, not everything ran smoothly, but most of the half a million people had a good time. Also, it’s rumored that at least two babies were conceived during the concert.
The Crowd Was Peaceful
Even though there was a small city of people running around and dancing at all hours of the day and night, there was surprisingly little reported incidents. It would be naive to assume nothing went wrong, but when compared to other gatherings of 500,000 people, Woodstock was pretty peaceful.
The fact that peace-loving hippies were the main attendees probably helped. Most of them were ideologically against or actively dodging the conflict in Vietnam, so they weren’t about to start altercations in New York.
Finding Quiet in the Chaos
The image of Woodstock in the public imagination is that of constant music and bustling activity. However, the picture below shows that it was possible to find a quiet little corner to catch your breath – near bales of hay nonetheless!
The picture itself represents the countercultural world quite well. Notice how the American flag is displayed upside down to show discontent with the government. On top of that, it’s a nice rural scene with plenty of simple clothing strewn about.
The Government Was Wary
When a half a million people gather for a concert, the government takes notice – especially when a majority of that half million were actively opposing that government. To try and stem any potential chaos, nearby towns tried to shut down the music.
The county of Sulllivan declared a state of emergency. Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York, was keen to send in the military. Luckily, the smooth-talking organizer John Roberts dissuaded Rockefeller from taking such a drastic move.
Embrace the Wet Weather
Rainy weather and mud might be a dealbreaker for some, but the hardy hippies at Woodstock didn’t bat an eyelid. When the clouds came rolling in and the rain came drizzling down, the concert-goers ended up playing in the mud rather than running for cover.
That was partly due to the fun of it, and partly due to the lack of infrastructure. Woodstock was kind of a last minute deal, so a roof ended up failing, fences ended up collapsing, and sanitation wasn’t the greatest.
Camping at Yasgur’s Farm
Woodstock was meant to be put on near Middletown, New York. However, when residents learned of what was to happen, they quickly voted against the idea. So, the organizers were at a standstill until Max Yasgur stepped in.
Yasgur owned a 600-acre farm in Bethel. He loaned it for $50,000 and the concert was a go. Thousands of people came in, set up camp (as you can see from the tent above) and enjoyed three days of music (and mud sliding).
Sly and the Family Stone Have a Great Set
At 3:30 in the morning, the funk pioneers Sly and the Family Stone took to the stage. The crowd was hyped up and ready to dance. Their set is generally regarded as one of the best sets of the entire three day event!
In particular, the songs “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Stand!” were instant hits. The performance was recorded and reissued as singles that became massive hits for them in 1970. The band continued to perform after and had a huge influence on other artists.
Couples at Woodstock
Woodstock was full of single folks, but there were also plenty of couples who left cute pictures for posterity. (Just have a look below!) Many of them built teepees and other shelters to sleep in during the three day festival.
Although the concert was a bit chaotic, there was also an organized effort to keep people informed of their surroundings. For example, a production crew would periodically deliver messages that notified people of unattended kids walking around as well as other important announcements.
Joe Cocker Sings His Heart Out
The singer Joe Cocker was paid less than other performers at Woodstock, but that doesn’t mean he performed with less talent or heart. In fact, many remember his rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends” as one of the best covers ever.
His unique mannerisms on stage – a sort of air guitar playing mix with deep emotional involvement – really stood out to fans at the time (and fans to this day). Cocker ended up having a fantastic performance.
The Incredible String Band Wasn’t a Crowd Favorite
British rockers The Incredible String Band were meant to perform on the first day of Woodstock, shortly after Ravi Shankar’s appearance. However, the rain made them reconsider and they demanded to perform on the second day.
The problem with the second day was that their music didn’t fit in with the hard rock acts that went before and after them. The audience wasn’t ready for such a shift in mood and their performance wasn’t received well. Their act didn’t make it into the famous film.
Exiting Was as Hard as Entering
Exiting the festival was no easier than entering. Many had to hitchhike or walk out of the venue into the crowded stretches of roads, while others carpooled back to society and normal life.
As seen in the photo, festival goers were dirty after days in the rain, mud, and partying to their favorite music.
Medicine Had to Be Helicoptered In
Due to the roads being unusable and the crowds being so thick, medicine had to be flown in via helicopter and then transported on foot.
Today, there are medical tents set up around festivals to assist festival goers if they get hurt or are feeling ill.
Janis Joplin Was Nervous Before Her Set
Janis Joplin was one of the main performers at Woodstock as well as one of the most anticipated performances. As a result, Joplin was completely overwhelmed by the size and scope of the audience there to see her perform.
Out of nerves, Joplin spent most of the day backstage getting high, and therefore was not that great of a performer. Other performers declined to perform at Woodstock (Jethro Tull) due a dislike of hippie culture and concerns over attendees lacking clothes in public.
The Festival Was Created By Four Young Men
This photo offers a unique and awesome view of the crowds at Woodstock. It was such an exciting event that brought in so many people and really became emblematic of the hippie movement.
The festival was put on by four young men and turned out to be the most popular music event in history.
It's Called Fashion, Look It Up
Go to any modern-day festival and you’ll see an abundance of mass-produced flower crowns atop the heads of many gatherers. It is no coincidence! The free-flowing style of Woodstock directly translates to today’s more commercialized festivals.
Although today is more centered on the style of the festivalgoers, Woodstock was a place for personal self-expression and freedom that transcended commercialism.
Before the era of social media, promotional posters were used to spread the word about the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in Bethel, New York.
On it, a schedule with a list of performers including Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix appear on the left side of the poster.
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Singer Grace Slick put on an epic performance with American rock group Jefferson Airplane. Jefferson Airplane was based in San Francisco, California, and is considered one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock.
They were established in 1965 and were able to achieve international commercial success.
Lack of Clothes as a Form of Self Expression
Although the fashion has become iconic since the debut of Woodstock, epitomizing “hippy culture,” there were some who opted to ditch their clothing on the festival grounds.
During an era of free love and expression, many were trying to push back against the confines of social contracts and restraints and thus tried to embody a counterculture in nudism.
Jeans For Sale!
Today, festivals have a plethora of carts to choose from to get some food, a beverage, or take home a souvenir. However, at the original Woodstock, the festival was a free for all and many arrived with dollar signs in their eyes at the thought of so many people gathered in one place.
Not to mention the weather during Woodstock, between the rain and the mud, it would be no wonder someone wanted to buy a new pair of pants.
A Young Girl With a Unique Past
A hippie dad immortalized his daughter as part of one of the most iconic music festivals in the world. You can see he came prepared with a bottle of milk for her to enjoy while he took in the music and sights.
We’re sure that if or when the young child (turned adult) ever saw this moment in her and her father’s life she would be more than amused!
Celebrating the Woodstock Teepee
Some concert-goers slept in tents but quite a few constructed their own teepees. As we saw from the picture of the Woodstock couple previously, these teepees could be quite stylish. The one shown below is a recreation meant to get at the feeling of what it was like back in 1969.
In 2017, the land where Woodstock was held became part of the National Register of Historic Places. It also got a name change – it’s now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Now, Onto Woodstock 1999
Woodstock 99’ was the second largest musical celebration (after Woodstock 94’) that tried to recreate the magic of the original festival of Woodstock in 1969.
Like the two prior, it was held in upstate New York, this time in Rome, with approximately 400,000 people in attendance over four days. It was a crazy whirlpool of madness, to say the least.
Trying (and Failing) to Recreate the Magic
From July 22 to July 25, 1999, people traveled to the desolate area of Rome for 72 hours of music, art, and “love,” though the way it turned out would prove that the 1969 Woodstock could never be recreated.
The idea of the 1999 Woodstock was to be an improvement on the 1994 Woodstock, which was described as smelling of “beer, vomit, and excrement fermenting…” Yikes.
There Was a Solid Lineup
The 1999 festival had a pretty 90’s fabulous lineup. There were the likes of Jewel, DMX, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, The Offspring, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band…
Limp Bizkit, Everclear, Ice Cube, Fatboy Slim, Creed, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elvis Costello, Godsmack, Everlast, Willie Nelson, and much more. Basically, it was a late nineties music lover’s dream.
Not Every Performance Received Applause
Not all performances went so swimmingly, of course. The crowd took a personal dislike for performer Kid Rock.
While performing his set, the audience began pelting water bottles at the musician. Good thing he had his drum stick to defend himself against the angsty crowd.
Limp Bizkit Basically Started an Uproar
During their performance, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit told the crowd that there were “no rules” during their lively performance of their song “Break Stuff.”
Naturally, the crowd became pretty animated, and they decided to well…break stuff. It got rowdy.
Cash was Hard to Get
It was also no easy feat to feed, hydrate, or do anything else that required money unless you came with a nice bundle prior.
People had to stand in incredibly long lines in order to access their own cash, which created a lot of frustration and added to the impending crazy nature that was about to befall Woodstock 99’.
It Wasn’t Cheap to Stay Hydrated
On top of the difficult time accessing the funds to stay healthy, it also cost a pretty penny to get your hands on some water.
While the ethics of charging $4 (in the nineties no less) is pretty murky, that was what the attendees signed up for. It is safe to say that water was not the only substance being consumed, so water was deeply necessary.
Not only was hydrating oneself difficult, but feeding oneself was another story entirely. A slice of pizza (you know, dough, cheese, and tomato sauce?) cost $12.
We think these factors are important to consider when reading about what ended up happening at this festival.
Lack of Water Led to a Mess
Because water was so expensive, people began to get dehydrated and thus resourceful. The crowds began breaking the water fountains leading to a massive mud puddle.
Needless to say, this was hugely disgusting. But festival goers, in the free-spiritedness, soaked in the fun (and smell).
People Began to Tank
It is not hard to piece together what consumption of certain substances and adult beverages will result in when combined with a lack of food and water.
People began to really hit a wall, and within the madness were not shy to plop down on the floor and take a nice nap.
People Left Their Clothes Behind
To best imitate the Woodstock of 1969, some chose to shed their social shackles and roam upstate New York in their birthday suit.
We suppose that made it easier to roll around in the mud party and throw caution to the wind. Plus, better to feel the breeze with.
This Included Performers as Well
Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage in his birthday suit and gave a full frontal performance that festival attendees likely will not soon forget.
Never one to shy away, Flea bounced and swung around with glee and stamina.
“Peace Candles” Were Given Out
After the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, “Peace Candles” were given to the crowd. The name of these would quickly become tinged in irony.
Though we are sure the candles were handed out with the purest intentions, what followed was anything but peaceful, and this is where the madness really took hold.
Burn it to the Ground
People began using their “peace candles” to light the venue on fire. What could go wrong giving a large crowd of intoxicated festival patrons access to flames?
After we saw what happened with the water, surely adding another element to the mix is completely sound, right?
While some chose to light things on fire with their free candles, other chose to treat the venue like a giant playground.
Some climbed the towers all the way to the top (very dangerous, we’re sure that goes without saying). Once at the top, they hooted and howled in their freedom and craze.
From Fun to Fear
According to MTV, “Some in the crowd feared for their lives. Andrew Kimbler called his family from a pay phone, explaining that he wanted them to know what had happened, ‘in case I don’t make it out.’”
The festival, which had all the potential for fun, excitement, and experience, began to literally go up in flames.
The Flames Spread
The flames became an incredibly real danger to human life and property. The blaze ripped through and spread through to the trailers that held important things.
When people saw that it was effecting the trailers that held merchandise and the like, it activated something more intense in the crowds. People began stealing.
A Lot of Money Was Lost
Thousands and thousands of dollars were wrongfully taken in merchandise, food, water, and whatever people could get their hands on.
By the morning time, when looking over what was missing, it was discovered that even an ATM was missing. How? We don’t know either. One vendor named Russ Mour said he lost “a million and a half bucks.”
A Rough Scene
By the end of the festival, the scene of the concert looked more like the scene of an apocalyptic film. There was garbage dispersed everywhere and people wandering around aimlessly in the wreckage.
The amount of damage and garbage left behind was a tough sight to see, and made the entire festival bear the mark of a mistake. Three people lost their lives.
It Was a Good Try
We think it’s safe to say that the attempt at recreating one of (if not the) most iconic music and arts gatherings that the United States has ever seen did not go great.
Somethings are meant to be left in the past and appreciated from afar. Magic doesn’t usually happen twice.