While I am old enough to qualify as a member of the Woodstock Generation, the closest I came to the 1969 celebration of peace, love and understanding was watching the movie that documented the festival and its music and allowed the concert’s producers to recoup their financial losses.
I had heard about the multi-day concert, of course, in the weeks before it took place, but was under the impression it would be a bit more organized than it turned out to be, meaning that I would actually have to fork over what seemed at the time to be a steep admission fee. A secondary concern was missing probably 10 days of classes near the end of the term at the Ohio college I was then attending to thumb my way to and from Upstate New York and take in the show.
All in all, I was OK with watching the movie and not experiencing the reality of the event. Compared with the actual concert, the movie provided better sound, a closer look at the performers, a rain-free environment and an absence of Porta-Potty aromas.
Some friends of mine, a couple, went to Woodstock and took lots of photos of each other that all had a common theme: Eyes closed, blissful expressions, leaning back in a crowded VW bus en route to the festival; eyes closed, blissful expressions, leaning back on a car hood and windshield as the vehicle is surrounded by a sea of walking festival-goers; eyes closed, blissful expressions, leaning back on a backpack in a pasture facing a distant stage.
The two spent much of their time on campus blissed out and semi-conscious before going to Woodstock, so the festival couldn’t have made too deep an impression on them. I was just happy they seemed to remember the event fondly. And if they don’t remember now, at least they have all those pictures to help fill in the blank spots.
This August, the surviving promoters of the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair will present a 50th anniversary concert in Watkins Glen, New York. The musical program booked so far includes a blend of decent contemporary bands of several genres, plus several one-person acts and the remnants of bands who played at the 1969 show. And, for some reason, Miley Cyrus.
I tried to picture what it would be like to go to the 2019 version of Woodstock and join thousands of my aging contemporaries in taking in what could be our last rock and roll roundup.
l expect I would see Porta-Potties equipped with senior-friendly grab bars and toilet rails.
Many of the women would still be wearing granny glasses, only now, they’re just called “glasses.”
Craft vendors would include tie-dye adult diaper artists.
And I can almost hear an announcer passing along safety tips to the crowd:
“You’ll want to stay away from the brown rice, people. Dozens of folks who did the brown rice are in the medic tent right now being treated for some really serious acid reflux. I’m told the white rice is OK, but stay away from the brown!”
Upon further reflection, I think that once again, I’ll pass on the experience and wait for the movie.