Woodstock Music and Arts Fair [Woodstock]
- Jesse Jarnow
Some 400,000 fans attended this iconic music festival of the late 1960s. It was held from 15 August 1969 to 18 August 1969 on a dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York, located around 40 miles southwest of Woodstock, New York, and around 100 miles northwest of New York City. Traffic jams, torrential rain, widespread use of psychedelic drugs, and disorganization by the event’s promoters provided a chaotic atmosphere for both concertgoers and performers. Documented in a hit movie and a soundtrack album that reached no.1 on the Billboard chart the following summer, Woodstock subsequently achieved mythic status as a generation-defining event. Performances by Jimi Hendrix (including a solo electric guitar version of the “Star Spangled Banner”), The Who (performing their rock opera, Tommy), and guitarist Carlos Santana (performing the 11-minute guitar jam, “Soul Sacrifice”) have become important parts of the rock canon. The festival was funded by the independently wealthy John Roberts and organized by head shop owner Michael Lang and associate Artie Kornfeld. Much of the logistics fell to a team borrowed from Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, the Manhattan rock venue. When 20,000 people arrived before the gates were slated to open, the promoters declared it a free festival, at the behest of Hugh Romney—the former nightclub comedian turned Merry Prankster and Hog Farmer known as Wavy Gravy—who emceed the festival and helped man the medical tent. Friday night it began to rain, causing a series of near-disasters, from a collapsing stage to exposed power-lines, but the performances went on. “You could feel the presence of invisible time travelers from the future who had come back to see it,” Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia said later. Acclaimed sets included Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band, and Sly and the Family Stone, as well as one of the first appearances by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Though she had opened for CSN&Y two days earlier and subsequently wrote a hit song about the event, Joni Mitchell did not perform. (Nor did Bob Dylan, who actually lived in nearby Woodstock.) The Who did not begin their set until 4 am, playing ...