Woodstock: 50th Anniversary of the Legendary Music Festival

From 15th - 18th August 1969 America held arguably the most legendary music festival of them all: Woodstock.

With a 400,000 strong crowd it defined a generation, the swinging sixties youth counterculture movement, and brought together some of the best music artists in the world.

A 1970 documentary directed by Michael Wadleigh chronicled the event and it went on to be an Oscar-winning film. Half a century on we're taking a look at three days of peace and love that resonate to this day.

Woodstock 1969

The performances have become legendary, in part as several attendees didn't make it beyond 1970. Unfortunately, the world lost Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix the year following on from Woodstock.

As such, the 1970 documentary now stands for a number of things. A record for the world of their musical abilities. Plus a documentation of a counterculture ideal, one that may seem naive now but had a genuine message of tolerance behind it.

But Woodstock 1969 was home to some exceptional music. For many, The Who very much stole the show. The Londoners had battled for hours with the organisers to ensure they received pay for their performance.

Very much cash-strapped at the time and battling for their long-term survival, when they went onstage at 5am they performed a blistering and truncated set of Tommy.

The performance of See Me, Feel Me is particularly legendary.

As is the moment activist Abbie Hoffman ran onto the stage after Pinball Wizard. Guitarist Pete Townshend responded by whacking Hoffman around the head with his guitar.

But there were many other highlights, including an electric set from Janis Joplin at 2am. Santana also went to make their name at Woodstock, with a riveting performance of Soul Sacrifice that concluded with a legendary drum solo from 20 year old Michael Shrieve.

Woodstock created many legendary moments - more so than any event we can think of other than Monterey Pop Festival 1967.

Richie Haven’s vigorous opening acoustic set was matched by Jimi Hendrix’s closing one where he played the Star-Spangled Banner in seeming defiance against the Vietnam war.

To commemorate the event there’s a new documentary out - Woodstock: Three That Defined a Generation (2019).

Although the music was amazing and the event progressive, it certainly wasn’t a green one. You can read our notes on how to hold a green festival for ideas there.

But what Woodstock 1969 does represent is a legendary event steeped in mystery, brilliance, and freestyle creativity.

Intended for no more than 50,000 people, over 400,000 descended on Bethel, New York.

Organisers Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts then abandoned any ideas of turning the festival into a money-making exercise. It became a free event and the defining moment of a generation.

To watch the 1970 documentary now is like gaining access to an exclusive club. A behind the scenes, all-access account of a defining moment from culture in the 20th century. As many a hippy from the era would say, it certainly is a far out viewing experience, man.