By Hales Passino
From Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, 1969, nearly half a million free-spirited souls from all walks of life gathered on a small dairy farm nestled in Bethel, N.Y.
It was crowded. It was filthy. It was lacking in food and facilities. Humidity, pot, wood smoke and body odor pervaded the air. People couldn’t hear their own thoughts between all of the music, an intercom calling for people, maybe the occasional argument and lots of laughter.
There’d be someone tripping to the left of you and a couple to the right making love. Woodstock became one of the most influential festivals in American music history and hippie counterculture.
Woodstock was originally supposed to be “three days of peace and music,” but ended up being four. Popular artists from folk and rock genres performed at all hours of the days. On Friday, Aug. 15 at 5:07 p.m., Richie Havens was the first performer to hit the stage. A pregnant Joan Baez finished off the first night at 12:55 a.m.
Day two featured the funk and jazz fusion of Santana, the jam band essence that is the Grateful Dead, as well as rhythmic punk rock from The Who, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young appeared on day three, while Jimi Hendrix concluded the festival day four.
The 1960s had a lot to unpack as the times were a-changin’. The baby-boomer generation was determined to leave behind uptight ethics from the 1950s. An 18 year old had permission to drink alcohol and die in war, but couldn’t vote until they were 21.
During this decade, civil unrest and racial injustice were prevalent. Tragic events like the Vietnam War and assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and American minister and activist Martin Luther King left many in a frenzy. It was a time for people to band together and rebel against a system that seemingly made no sense.
Those who attended Woodstock were able to forget about the existing troubles of the world for a while and get lost within the music. However, the real beauty was the sense of unity established there as it strengthened the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests.
In an interview with NYC artist Suze Rotolo, said it best, “Talk made music, and music made talk.”
Every generation has their own critical issues that they face. The current generation lives in great uncertainty with the global pandemic looming over. There is also the continual fight for civil rights and equality shown in movements like Black Lives Matter and pride marches within the LGBTQ+ community.
Through it all, music continues to be a saving grace and expressive protest tool. Songs such as Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” promote going against the status-quo.
Live music is undoubtedly good for the soul. COVID-19 has put a stop to it for the time being, but there are loopholes to sustain the itch for a concert fix. In the comfort of one’s own home, virtual concerts allow fans to access live performances on devices like phones or laptops.
Some may be free of charge, while others may require the purchase of tickets ahead of time, much like a live performance. Artists such as Melissa Etheridge and Diplo offer free virtual concerts, while Adam Lambert and Justin Bieber perform for a small fee.
Reliving or experiencing past concerts or festivals can easily be done through YouTube, which is quite possibly the closest thing there is to a time machine. This makes the audience feel something, such as nostalgia.
Though there may not be any in-person contact between these two methods of musical experience, there is still a strong sense of community and connection that can be accessed virtually.