Woodstock music and art festival was held on August 15–18 in 1969, 50 years ago this weekend. It drew an audience of over 400,000 people. Originally promoted as an “Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, it was also referred to as the Bethel Rock Festival or the Aquarian Music Festival. Afterward, it just became known as Woodstock.
Woodstock was the brainchild of Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts. Lang had experience as a promoter, who co-originated the Miami Pop Festival where 25,000 people attended a 2-day event. Roberts and Rosenman, two New York City entrepreneurs, financed the project.
The initiative was formalized between the four men in January of 1969 as “Woodstock Ventures.” Difficulties sprang right from the beginning; in securing a location and differences of approach and vision on how the event should come together.
At one-point Roberts and Rosenman considered pulling out of the project. Eventually, with the help of a local realtor, the venue was secured at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, forty-three miles southwest of Woodstock.
Yasgur’s rolling hills formed a natural bowl that sloped down into a valley, which was capped by Filippini Pond on the north side. The stage was set up at the bottom of the hill directly in front of the pond, creating a scenic backdrop. The pond, now famously known as the skinny-dipping pool.
Concert organizers told the town they were expecting not more than 50,000. Although, the actual expected turn out of the event was 200,000 based on advanced ticket sales of 186,000. When people began showing up by the tens of thousands three days before the concert was to begin and fencing not fully secure, Woodstock became a free event, drawing more than twice the expected turn out.
Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first to sign a contract in April 1969. After Creedence, more big names came on board. Thirty-two acts in all performed outdoors in spite of the periodic rain. Performers were airlifted by nearby Stewart Air Force Base to ensure order and safety of getting in and out of the concert venue.
The concert was headlined by legendary acts like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Joe Cocker, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Creedence performed at 3:30 a.m. before a sleeping audience, which left bad feelings towards the event with the band. Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform and took the stage 8:30 Monday morning. By then the crowd had thinned to about 30,000.
Woodstock was one of the biggest rock festivals of all time and became highly regarded as a pivotal moment in rock music history.
The concert was remarkably peaceful given the overwhelming mass of people. Although, there were two deaths, one by an insulin overdose and one by tractor accident. And two births were recorded.
The owner of the farm, saw the event as a success. “A victory of peace and love.” With nearly half a million people and the potential for disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe, instead there were three days of music and peace.
“If we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future … “Max Yasgur, Dairy Farmer, Bethel NY
Like Woodstock, Sea.Hear.Now is an art and music festival. Add in the surf culture, along with ocean environmental concerns and you’ve got a green music movement.
Also similar to Woodstock, Sea.Hear.Now is produced by four men: Danny Clinch, Tim Donnelly, H.M. Wollman and Tim Sweetwood.
“Sea. Hear. Now is committed to raising awareness about the issues facing our ocean environment, including the global plastic waste crisis and climate change.”https://www.seahearnowfestival.com/
These types of festivals are happening all over. It’s a movement known as the green music industry and the Sea.Hear.Now festival is exemplary in its leadership to that cause.
Last year’s inaugural event (see my gallery of images here) had an audience of over 20,000 and the carbon footprint was close to zero. How was that possible? A partnership with Surfrider Foundation which included incredible organization, thoughtful planning, and lots of volunteers.
This group is all about sustainability.
“We had 11.88 tons of recycling – Over 9,500 fans went reusable with an official Green Wave cup or bottle – 35,252 plastic bottles were saved from use by Manna Hydration [water] Stations – 551 fans rocked & recycled with the Surfrider Foundation.”
Volunteers were given T-shirts and large plastic bags to walk around the event grounds with and pick up garbage. And there’s more…
“100 volunteers cleaned up the Jersey Shore with Surfrider on International Coastal Cleanup Day before the fest – Over 500 fans chose eco-friendly transportation by bicycling to the fest – And half a ton of food was donated.”
All that leading by example and creating awareness of the environment is only one part of a much larger picture: music, art, and surfing. All cornerstones of the culture of Asbury Park.
This years headliners will be the Dave Matthews Band, The Lumineers, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. They’ll be joined by a plethora of bands that will play all day and into the night over the two days of September 21-22.
Danny Clinch will have a pop up gallery at the event as well as conduct interviews with some of the musicians discussing their other artistic talents and performing.
Even though fifty years have passed, there are some things that will never change. Each generation will have a love of music, along with that music will be a message.
Woodstock’s message was to promote peace and love in a tumultuous time – Sea.Hear.Now is about reclaiming what is rightfully ours: a clean ocean and a clean earth for ourselves and future generations.
Sources for this article came from Wikipedia and Sea.Hear.Now Festival.com
This article was edited on 8/20/19