Woodstock 1969 was one of the biggest music festivals of all time. Nearly half a million people, charged with a huge potential for disaster, spent the three harmonious days, celebrating music, dancing in the mud and sleeping in the grass at a dairy farm near in New York state. It was an epic triumph of peace and love.
It was that one weekend where, against all odds, everything aligned. Free love, cheap drugs and rock’n’roll came together to create one of the defining moments of 60s counter-culture.The festival ran from August 15 to 18, as the three days unfolded, more than 400,000 people descended on a tranquil country town. It was only about 350,000 more than organisers were expecting...
The influx of attendees caused one of the biggest traffic jams of all time on the roads of Bethel. Highways and local roads came to a standstill and many concert-goers simply abandoned their cars and trekked the rest of the way on foot.
And, made the most of opportune rest spots.
Indian Hindu religious teacher, Swami Satchidananda (1914 - 2002) delivered the opening speech at the Woodstock Music Festival to a crowd of almost 500,000.
“My Beloved Brothers and Sisters, I am overwhelmed with joy to see the entire youth of America gathered here in the name of the fine art of music. In fact, through the music, we can work wonders. Music is a celestial sound and it is the sound that controls the whole universe, not atomic vibrations. Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world…” Read the full speech here.
Seating was tight, pants ... optional.
The Incredible String Band were originally slated to appear on Day 1, which featured the folk and acoustic acts, but refused to play in the rain. They were rescheduled for Saturday, providing a sweet folk-pop breather between rockers, Keef Hartley and Canned Heat.
Carlos Santana and his band were the only act to play at Woodstock without a record out, but thanks to an extended instrumental jam called “Soul Sacrifice” that the band closed their set with, they found themselves suddenly in high demand around the world.
"By the time we got to 'Soul Sacrifice', I had come back from a pretty intense journey. Ultimately, I felt we had plugged in to a whole lot of hearts at Woodstock." - Carlos Santana.
At 5am on Sunday just before the Jefferson Airplane took the stage, The Who played their rock opera titled Tommy, the story of a deaf, dumb, and blind boy who is cured of his ailments and gains stardom. It was a legendary performance.
Bad weather made for a scheduling nightmare! Bands were pushed back up to 12 hours, meaning that Jefferson Airplane's Saturday night set became a Sunday morning service instead. Following the Who’s well-received set, the Airplane plugged in and woke up anyone who’d dared to fall asleep. “Alright, friends,” Grace Slick addressed the sea of humans, “you have seen the heavy groups. Now you will see morning maniac music. Believe me, yeah, it’s a new dawn.”
Safe to say, most people probably had no idea that time even existed by that point.
Thirty-two acts performed including some of the most popular and influential musicians of the era such as Joan Baez, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone.
The Woodstock - Back To The Garden box set is a near-complete reconstruction of Woodstock, across nearly 36 hours, with every artist's performance from the festival included in chronological order. The collection holds 267 previously unreleased audio tracks, making for a near 20-hour psychedelic journey – check it out, here.
Listen to The Who on Spotify:
Listen to The Who on Apple Music: