Celebrating over 50 years of Woodstock festival
Written by Harry Knapp
It’s been 50 years since one of the most iconic moments in music history. Looking back on some of the most memorable performances, it’s not hard to see its iconic status.
In upstate New York, on a dairy farm in 1969, one of the most iconic and influential music events took place. The late ’60s was the peak of the Hippie scene, and Woodstock’s ‘three days of peace and music’, encapsulated the hippie movement in all its glory.
Woodstock becomes a free event!
After battling local authorities to gain permission to host the event, the organisers eventually found the perfect farm to host the event. There was no time to set up the festival which led to Woodstock becoming a completely free event. 400,000 people descended, but only 50,000 were expected. Despite there being not enough facilities and dreadful weather conditions, everyone powered through into the early hours of the mornings to celebrate the ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ lifestyle.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Woodstock marked only the second performance of supergroup ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’. The set was set for disaster from the start with Stephen Stills announcing he was “scared sh*tless”. CSNY also had to deal with problem member Neil Young, who showed up late and only performed 2 songs and refused to be filmed, telling the official cameramen to “get the f*ck out of my face.”
Despite the issues, CSNY went on to become one of music’s most iconic supergroups.
Woodstock also saw the performance of Canned heat’s ‘Going Up The Country’, a song that defined the ideals of the time so much that it was coined a ‘rural hippie anthem’. During Canned Heat’s performance, a man climbed on stage and instead of kicking him off, vocalist Bob Hite, shared a cigarette with him.
British music icons The Who’s 5 am performance on Sunday brought the British music scene to Woodstock. The rockers set lasted 65 minutes in which they performed the entire rock opera ‘Tommy’ with the addition of classics like, ‘My Generation’ and ‘I Can’t Explain’.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this performance was lead singer Roger Daltrey accidentally drinking a cup of tea laced with LSD that led to a very drugged up performance.
Daltrey stated “Even the ice cubes had been done. Fortunately, I’d brought in my own bottle of Southern Comfort, so I was fine right up until the moment I decided to have a cup of tea. That’s how they got me, a nice cup of hallucinogenic tea.”
On the first day of Woodstock traffic conditions led to many of the acts being late, thankfully guitarist Richie Halens was available at last minute to open the festival while the rest of the stage was being built around him.
Halens was playing an impromptu set and performed every song he knew. He managed to capture the spirit of Woodstock with his rock/folk style of playing ‘Freedom’, which consisted of with lyrics preaching freedom against the establishment.
Latin rock band Santana arguably owes Woodstock for their mass success. Months before their debut album was even released, the unknown band performed a set full of heart and soul.
While tripping on LSD Carlos Santana, claimed his guitar transformed into a snake in his arms, despite this their performance of ‘Soul Sacrifice’ which included a powerful upbeat drum solo, became one of Woodstock’s most iconic performances.
Arguably the most iconic moment of Woodstock festival was Jimi Hendrix’s performance at 9 am on Monday. Due to a clause in his contract, Hendrix had to be the last performer of the weekend, which meant after timing issues and extended sets, only 30,000 members of the audience stayed to witness his iconic anti-war cover of the Star-Spangled Banner. The performance featured a screeching guitar solo featuring bombs, guns and sirens – a fitting, but ironic, end to 3 days of music and peace.