Woodstock '69 is remembered mostly as a peaceful gathering of counterculture hippies living up the true meaning of the phrase "sex, drugs, and rock n roll".
Any expectation of how many people would attend was quickly washed away with the rain as hundreds of thousands of young people began arriving in the Catskills. Festival-goers saw The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, among others.
The idea was originally a money making scheme crafted by buddies John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, and their two recruits, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang. They wanted to build a vacation-retreat-cum-recording-studio in upstate New York, and not even Roberts' pharmaceutical inheritance would be enough to support their dreams.
Despite the rain, the technical difficulties, and the unintended mass exodus of hippies and rock-loving youth to the Catskills, the original Woodstock was a perfect storm that became the definition of a generation.
The organizers, bless their hearts, were still in thousands of dollars of debt by the time the festival was said and done. It was wildly successful, but their newfound fortune had to be funneled right back into loans and lawsuits.
(Crushing debt as the result of an amazing music festival seems to be a common story. US Fest, anyone?!)
Woodstock remains an enigma as, decade after decade, people attempt to recreate it with less success. The most notable Woodstock iteration was held in 1999, and the media coverage was plagued with stories of fires, violence, and poor planning that led to many injuries.
There is one set to be held in August of 2019, and it blends contemporary musicians with some of the same groups that played at the original festival 50 years ago, including The Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana. Will it fall into the same troubles, or will it transcend space and time to chill us out and remind us that we are floating on a tiny rock in a cosmic system that is bigger than we will ever be?
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