Music festivals happen all around the world now. Belgium’s Tomorrowland and the United Kingdom’s Glastonbury draw music lovers from every corner of the globe. Before modern-day music festivals, though, there was 1969’s Woodstock festival, which lay the groundwork for every music festival to come. It featured 35 of the biggest acts of the time and was also a platform for free speech regarding the Vietnam War. There has never been a festival quite like it since, which is why it continues to be one of the most remembered historical events in recent history.
Some Missing Acts
Some key musicians did not play at Woodstock, and they were definitely missed. John Lennon had planned to be there, but his visa did not come through.
He had been very vocal about his lack of support for the Vietnam war, which may have contributed to why he could not enter the country. Bob Dylan was also meant to perform, but he had a family emergency, which prevented him from attending. This in no way hindered their careers, though, as they both continued to have a massive fan following, which is still true today.
There are quite a few iconic images from Woodstock, but none quite as memorable as this couple who have just woken up, and wrapped a blanket around each other.
Jefferson Airplane was crooning in the wee hours of the morning, and Bobbi Kelly and Nick Ercoline began to sway to the music. Their love can be seen shining through in the image, and the two later got married. They became the symbol of love for Woodstock.
While Santana is now a household name, the band was relatively unknown when they performed at Woodstock. They began playing psychedelic Latin-themed music, which was very different than the heavy rock and roll which had come before them.
The music swept through the crowd and got them moving in a way that the rock had not. After that performance, their album became a hot commodity. Now, they are a household name, and if you don’t know them, you should check them out!
Early into Sunday morning, Janis Joplin performed at the festival. She gave one of the most incredible performances of her career, full of fire and soul as it was usual of her.
The “Queen of Psychedelic Soul” had a solo act and sang festival hymns such as “Piece of my Heart” and “Try (a Little bit Harder)” among other covers.
Melanie Safka is an American musician who was only 22 years old when she performed at the Woodstock Festival. She wasn’t quite famous at the time but those 30 minutes on the stage immortalized her forever.
Some of the songs Safka performed were Close to It All, Beautiful People, and Mr. Tambourine Man. She’s called “The First Lady of Woodstock”.
The Festival ‘It’ Girl
We are used to seeing Victoria’s Secret models frolicking around at Coachella while they do some product promotion for various brands, but Woodstock was different.
The ‘It’ girl at this time was Veruschka von Lehndorff, from Germany. She dressed up in true festival style and was an impressive 6’3, which meant she definitely stood out in the crowd. Veruschka became the face of fashion for the festival. A few years later, she would leave the fashion industry, stating that she did not want to be seen as “bourgeois.”
Woodstock hosted over 500,000 festival-goers, which meant that a venue that could hold that many people had to be found.
A dairy farm in the state of New York offered to host the festival, but they had no idea just how many people were going to show up for it. As more and more people poured onto the farm, it became clear that it was going to be overrun. The number of people caught the eye of the Governor at the time: Nelson Rockefeller.
Getting To The Festival
At first, people were able to drive on to the farm and set up their camping spots for the following days’ activities. However, so many people were coming that a lot of cars could no longer find parking spots, or even make it on to the farm.
Long lines of cars could be seen trailing away from the farm, and traffic jams were created all over the town known as Woodstock. During this time, a lot of festival-goers simply left their cars parked where they were and walked onto the grounds. This meant that many vehicles appeared to be abandoned, and blocked off the roads for the entire weekend.
With Woodstock now a part of history, we know that it was free to all that decided to attend it. Initially, 100,000 tickets were printed and sold at around $8.00 apiece at the time. The tickets quickly sold out, and more and more people began to try and find some from hawkers.
The organizers saw that the demand for tickets was high and decided to simply make the event free. That was how 100,000 people turned into half a million. The festival itself only made $1.5 million in total, which meant that the organizers lost about a million dollars because it cost almost double that to organize.
It takes months to organize a festival. A venue has to be found, vendors selected, caterers hired, and so much more. Woodstock was originally called An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music.
This name changed as soon as the location of the festival was announced, and people began to show up a day or two in advance. Everyone wanted to make sure that they had the best camping spot possible, and that they would be able to be front and center once the musical acts came on stage. Nobody wanted to miss seeing Jimi Hendrix’s guitar solo.
All About The Music
While some notable acts were unable to perform, many others graced the big stage. Joni Mitchell, whose songs are still played by fans all around the world, managed to attend. She belted out some love ballads and made her audience sway to the rhythm of her smooth voice.
Some of the other big names who graced the same stage were Santana, The Who, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, along with many others. Together, they all worked to create the magical community of music lovers that shines through in pictures of this festival. There was a whole lot of free love going around.
Festival fashion now for festivals like Coachella is not that different than the fashions found at Woodstock. Faux fur-trimmed vests, leather pants, flared jeans, and a lot of flower crowns could be seen on all of the festival-goers.
The women did not wear a lot of make-up as the theme for the weekend was peace and love, not anything to do with showing off. All of the clothes from the late 1960s fit in perfectly with the festival fashion of today, we’ve just added a lot more glitter.
Feeding The Festival Goers
As the organizers had budgeted for 100,000 people, they found themselves running out of food for the festival-goers quite quickly. They had purchased enough for the weekend, which was about enough for 300,000 for a total of three days.
That meant food was in short supply, and they needed to call in some help from the government to come and get food into the festival grounds. A local Jewish Community Center from Bethel also sent some food.
Food was in short supply until the whirring sound of incoming helicopters from the National Guard were heard. They brought in some much-needed food and water for the festival-goers who had been partying for the entire weekend.
Everyone was thrilled that they had come to save them, as, until that point, food had been rationed and shared amongst everyone. Even during the food crisis, there was no violence, just peace, and harmony.
According to the regulations for music festivals, not only does enough food and drinks have to be provided to attendees, but so does medical aid. Woodstock had a lot of different substances being passed around, which meant that the first aid tents had all of their cots full.
Many people were dehydrated or had suffered some bad reactions to the substances they had decided to ingest. The National Guard brought 45 doctors to check-out the festival-goers who needed help. They also brought plenty of food supplies.
The festival was completely non-violent, and it remained that way. In this photo people are scaling the sound towers, trying to get higher, fearless. Some would say that that they were even trying to get higher – rather spiritually than physically. This photo totally captures the freedom of the 60’s.
A lot of papers were under pressure from their editors to produce articles that shed a negative light on the Woodstock festival. They wanted the public to view it as a bunch of hippies protesting the war, and living in a bog.
This was not the case at all, it was simply a moment in time for everyone to bond over their love of music, and peaceful living. People complained to all of the papers until some positive articles were written.
Meet The Mascot
The Vietnam War was a time rife with protests and draft dodgers. Many people disagreed with the United States of America’s involvement in the civil dispute. The mascot during this time was “Pigasus” and it also became the mascot for Woodstock.
Pigasus was even used as a candidate for the presidency during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Needless to say, he did not win the nomination, but it did attend Woodstock.
Opening The Festival
With so many musical acts lined up, and so many vehicles blocking the roads, it actually became impossible for tour buses with the musicians to drive to Woodstock.
Helicopters were quickly hired to bring in acts like Jefferson Airplane so that Woodstock could officially begin. The band members from Jefferson Airplane performed on the first and the last day of the festival. When they weren’t performing, they mingled with their fans.
Songstress, Joan Baez, took the stage as the last act on day one. She was noticeably pregnant and could feel the energy raging through the crowd. She fed off of this and gave one of the best performances of her life.
All of the musical acts played far longer than they were meant to because they loved the atmosphere of Woodstock. There had never been a crowd quite like it, and nobody wanted that electric feeling to end.
Two Hours Of Silence
Most music festivals shut down once it gets too late. The musicians and the festival-goers need to get some sleep if they are going to have enough energy to continue for the entire weekend. Woodstock was different.
Reportedly, there were only two hours where people had quiet, and no acts performed. Everyone caught a few minutes of sleep and then got ready to party once more. By the end of that weekend, people must have slept for a week!
The Best Performance
There were a lot of acts that played over the three days, but Tim Hardin’s “If I were a carpenter” is considered to have been one of, if not, the best of the festival.
He was notorious for his stage fright, which often made it difficult to get him on stage. He also struggled with addiction. However, that night he got himself on stage and gave the best performance of his life. Sadly, his personal life began to fall apart after that.
Fun For All
As this was a festival geared towards promoting peace and love, it became known as a family-friendly one. Many festival-goers brought their children to listen to the messages of peace, and to hear some of the best music to ever be created.
There was entertainment created specifically for children in the form of puppet shows, and concerts which featured kid-friendly songs. The puppet shows had all sorts of fantastical creatures in them.
The festival also saw two new lives enter the world when two babies were born during it. One young mother went into labor in a vehicle that was one it’s way to the concert, and another one was actually born on the festival grounds.
As soon as the babies were born, helicopters were sent in to collect them to make sure there were no complications. All the babies were healthy, and it made for a pretty amazing story for how they were born.
The ultimate aim of Woodstock was peace, and that was achieved. All throughout the festival, people practiced free love and peaceful thoughts. Nobody was violent, and everyone flashed peace signs at each other.
America was experiencing a political divide and a population that was not happy with the state of their country. This festival allowed them to air their views in a safe space, all while listening to some of the best music of the century.
The Sunrise Tower
Hundreds of people marveled at the magical sunrise over the Woodstock Music Festival, New York, 17th August 1969 and a few managed to climb up on the structures for a view.
It might not have been the safest thing to do, but no one was harmed in the process. It must have been quite a spectacle what they saw up there.
A lot of couples were photographed in Woodstock. They all look carefree, stylish and most important – in love. These two look like they just woke up and were cuddling under the blankets to keep warm.
They were probably waiting for someone to make some hot coffee while sitting on top of the car. They must have great stories to tell.
Peace, Love And Flower Power
It’s believed around 500K people attended the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 to celebrate their love for music. Hippies were a non-violent and passive resistance movement known for their unique symbolism.
This picture paints them pretty accurately – a young person with a flower in their hand. It was a message from the youth wanting peace and love among hard times.
A Head-Turning Outfit
Some girls became overnight fashion sensations whose photographs became iconic to the Woodstock three-day experience. These girls became fashion icons and muses to the photographers who did a visual registry of the festival.
This woman with her long blond hair and beautiful knitted outfit looked like a runway model. She was in another famous picture with a man with an afro.
A Free Ride To New York City
One of the many challenges of the Woodstock Music Festival was the ride there. The festival was held in Bethel, New York which was over 100 miles away from New York City.
People from out of state had to find the means to get to the venue and back. Many didn’t own a car and relied solely on hitchhiking.
Transport And Accommodation In One
The amount of people that congregated at the festival was unprecedented. They all needed a place to sleep during the three-day music festival, so people ended up entering the borders of the dairy farm where the event was held.
They would sleep on sleeping bags, makeshift beds or on the floor. This guy even managed to sleep on a bike.
Love Has No Boundaries
Finding a romantic partner at Woodstock was not difficult. Everyone was in the mood to fall in love and embrace mankind as a whole.
Contrary to what the country was going through outside of the festival, young people were getting together in peace and embracing every ethnic background, religion and social class. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
No sleeping bag? No problem! This guy wanted to take a nap but had no sleeping bag at hand. He managed with what was available – two cars parked together.
He laid his back down on one car hood and put his feet up on the trunk of the other car. He looks quite comfortable and relaxed. Woodstock was a dream!