Woodstock just turned 50. The monumental music festival in upstate New York at Max Yasgur’s daily farm kicked off on this date, 8/15, in 1969. Nearly a half million people turned out for three days of peace and music that spilled into a fourth. It was chaotic and historic, and its musical and hippie, counter-culture legacy is in no hurry of going away.
I was too young to have any real memory of it at that time – I was just a week shy of turning 8 years old – but I’ve read and seen enough video to know I would’ve loved to have been 20-something in that field on this wild weekend.
It was a dirty, muddy (rained sporadically), poorly organized event, but in the end, everything turned out all right. Ticket prices were reasonable ($18 for 3 days in advance, just $8 on Friday, see stub below), but getting in and out of the site was nearly impossible on the congested two-laners in rural New York. Though not scheduled to go on stage first, Richie Valens opened Woodstock just after 5p ET and played every song he knew plus others, as concert-goers and musical acts had trouble getting through the traffic bottleneck.
Woodstock was overwhelmed by the mass of fans. Organizers expected maybe 200,000 to attend, but the best guesstimates put the number at closer to 425,000. It would become a “free concert” for perhaps half of the crowd when fences were overrun.
While not all the invited bands accepted the offer, many did. Credence Clearwater Revival was the first big-name group to sign on, followed by Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, CSN&Y, Santana, The Who, Grateful Dead, The Band, Canned Heat and others. The music – 32 acts in all – was ecclectic, accoustic and electric. The bands always went on late, sometimes rolling on stage the next morning during daylight hours.
My personal favorite of the bands, The Who, was scheduled for Saturday night, but went on stage at 5 am Sunday, ripping through a 22-song set. Perhaps the angry-young-man vibe of The Who didn’t fit the crowd as well as other groups did. I liked the set that Santana did earlier in the day, highlighted by “Soul Sacrifice,” seen below.