There are many music festivals around the world, but there is nothing like the Woodstock Music Festival. Considered as the world’s greatest music festival ever, it brought some of the world’s biggest musicians into one place. Beyond being a successful concert however, Woodstock is considered as a cultural phenomenon that resonated in music history and beyond.
The story of Woodstock began in 1969, when Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts organized a music festival to be held at a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. In spite of the differences in approach by the promoters and the logistical issues they encountered along the way, the news about the upcoming festival spread like wildfire. They initially expected only 50,000 people to attend the festival, but an estimated 400,000 actually poured in throughout the 3-day festival, which started on August 15 and ended in the morning of August 18, 1969.
Over the course of the festival, 32 musical acts performed on-stage at Woodstock. The festivities started at 5pm of August 15, with Swami Satchidananda giving the invocation for the festival. Day 1 ended at 2am the next day, with Joan Baez, who was already 6 months pregnant at the time, being the closing act. On the 2nd day of the festival on August 16, big names such as Santana, Grateful Dead, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane were the headliners, which stretched up to 9 AM of the next day.
The third day of Woodstock proved to be a fitting closure for the festival. Big performers of the time such as Country Joe, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Johnny Winter performed on this day. However, the performance that stole the show happened at the very last act. Jimi Hendrix, together with his new band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, gave what critics would say was one of the most iconic live musical performances of the 20th century.
Initially, most of those who covered the event focused on the chaos caused by the event. There were talk of hippies, massive traffic, illicit drug use, and some deaths. However, the reviews eventually became positive, as more people saw not only the exceptional performances that graced Woodstock, but also the festival’s ultimate message of love and peace. The documentary based on the music festival also received critical acclaim, while giving additional perspective on what made this event click.
The Woodstock Music Festival is known for more than just phenomenal musical acts. It is considered as a historic moment in the counterculture movement of the 1960s, and a tough act for future music festivals to follow.