The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a concert that defined a generation. Thousands of music and peace-loving men, women and children part of the hippie counterculture flocked to Max and Miriam Yasgur’s Bethel, New York farm for three days of blissful freedom, exploration and performances by some of the most legendary artists of all time.
The rain, mud, crowds, Volkswagen Microbuses carrying hordes of flower-children and the anti-war sentiment in a world on the verge of positive change; it all created a magic that is almost impossible to revive or recreate. However, promoters of the Woodstock brand tried to rejuvenate the iconic festival for its upcoming 50th anniversary.
The promotion failed when partner Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live revealed they were no longer backing the festival, stating that they didn’t believe they could put on a show that lives up to the Woodstock name. The festival was canceled until further notice, but promoter Michael Lang stated publicly, “We are committed to ensuring that the 50th anniversary of Woodstock is marked with a festival deserving of its iconic name and place in American history and culture.”
As a teenager, I remember my father teaching me about Woodstock, showing me the footage of all types of people dancing and uniting in love and a common cause. Clouds of smoke billowed through the air, women who looked like gypsies danced in long and colorful skirts shaking tambourines with the music. Children ran naked and free. I remember thinking, “I was I was there!”
Headliners such as Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Santana sang with passion. Their lyrics held substance. They sang about peace, love and equality. They sang to change things in the world.
The proposed Woodstock 2019 lineup before cancellations included acts such as Miley Cyrus, The Lumineers, Chance the Rapper and Halsey. As much as I enjoy listening to today’s music, it is mostly entertainment. That’s it. There’s no call to action. Most of today’s artists don’t tell you to love your brother or stare in wonder at the beauty of the natural world.
The original Woodstock of 1969, took place in a time when our country was fighting the spread of communism in Vietnam. A wave of young souls who celebrated peace, the hippie counterculture, expanded their minds through the use of psychedelics and protested the injustices carried out by the establishment, or “the man”, was sweeping through the nation. And they did not just talk about peace, they shouted for it. Hundreds of thousands of hippies took to the streets in 1965 alone to protest the Vietnam War, according to the History Channel.
It is summer and that means festival season is upon us. Huge events like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man and Electric Daisy Carnival are top picks for festivals among young crowds who take to these venues, clad in special festival attire and equipped with smartphone cameras and GoPros. They may look down at their phones and see a notification of the latest school shooting or crime against humanity, only to swipe it away and load a picture to Instagram.
Today’s Woodstock would be seen through the eyes of a camera lens or Snapchat story. The raw energy, organic atmosphere and spirit of a festival this acclaimed through the years would be lost on the apathetic youth of today. The true magic of the original Woodstock was that there were no smartphones. Concert-goers were motivated to enjoy their psychedelic experience for reasons other than Instagram clout. People danced in the rain to the sounds of change without posing for a camera, they danced for themselves.