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Woddstock – A Festival Of Music And Art Essay, Research Paper

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 500,000 people to a pasture in Sullivan County, New York. For four days, the site became a counterculture nation in which minds were open, and drugs were accepted. The fans were attracted by the presence of the most famous rock bands and performers of the time. The music began Friday afternoon August 15 and continued until mid-morning Monday August 18

The counterculture’s biggest bash, which ultimately cost $2.4 million, was sponsored by four men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang. John Roberts supplied the money and he had seen one rock concert, by the Beach Boys. Joel Rosenman had just graduated from Yale Law School, and was playing guitar for a lounge band in cheap motels. Artie Kornfield was a vice president at Capitol Records, and he wrote songs and produced music. Michael Lang had produced one of the biggest rock shows ever, the Miami Pop Festival, and was a manager of a rock group called Train. The oldest of the four was 26 yet they made a great team.

One of their ideas was a cultural exposition/rock concert/ extravaganza, the other for a recording studio. To this day, the founders of Woodstock disagree on who came up with the original idea for the concert. They decided the profits from the concert would be used to pay for the recording studio. The four partners formed a corporation in which each member held 25 percent. The company was called Woodstock Ventures.

They immediately searched to find a site for the concert. For $10,000, Woodstock Ventures had leased a tract of land in the town of Wallkill, New York. The 300-acre Mills Industrial Park offered perfect access. It had the essentials, electricity, and water lines. Nonetheless, Lang and Roberts were unhappy with the site. Woodstock Ventures set to work on the property, all the while searching for an alternative. The Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned Woodstock on July 15, 1969. To the applause of residents, board members said that Woodstock Ventures plans were incomplete. A man by the name of Elliot Tiber heard about Woodstock Venture’s problems in Wallkill, and informed them that he had a permit for a music festival to be held in the town of Bethel, New York. Woodstock immediately began looking for land in Bethel, when they found Max Yasgur. Yasgur’s 600-acre farm was perfect for the concert, a little rise for the stage, a lake in the background. Woodstock Ventures ended up renting the land for $100,00.

The group settled on the slogan of “Three Days of Peace and Music”. They figured “peace” would link the anti-war sentiment to the rock concert, and they wanted to avoid any violence. Woodstock Ventures were trying to book the biggest rock’n'roll bands in America, but the bands were reluctant to sign with a new company. Woodstock Ventures solved the problem by promising paychecks.

Bethel, with a population of 3,900 souls wasn’t set to handle the coming flood of people. Two weeks before the festival, Woodstock Ventures had already sold 180,000 tickets. A week before the festival, Yasgur’s Farm didn’t look much like a concert site. On August 7, Woodstock Ventures had a pre-festival festival on a stage still under construction. Quill opened the show and Bethel residents sat on the grass, expecting theater. Instead the Earthlight Theater stripped and screamed obscenities at the shocked crowd.

By the afternoon of Thursday August 14, Woodstock had 25, 000 guests. Stands were ready to sell souvenirs, like hand-woven belts, headbands, and drug paraphernalia. Over the hill, carpenters were still banging nails into the main stage. The sound system was a space amplifier borrowed from the Grateful Dead.

Day One of Woodstock was supposed to be for the folkies. Three days of music started at 5:07 p.m. on August 15, 1969, with Richie Havens. Havens played for nearly three hours since the other acts hadn’t arrived. Then Country Joe McDonald, Sebastian, and Swami Satchadinanda played. They were not invited to perform at the festival, but they were used to kill time. Finally, the bands had arrived via a large U.S. Army helicopter. Bert Sommer, Sweetwater, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie Safka, and Arlo Guthrie played while waiting for Joan Baez. By the time Joan Baez finished “We Shall Overcome” a thunderstorm turned Yasgur’s farm into a mud swamp. Within three hours more than five inches of rain fell.

Saturday August 16, 1969 – the attendance was estimated at 250,000 that morning, the biggest audience in history. The day began with Quill, Keef Heartly, Santana, Mountain, Canned Heat, and the Grateful Dead. Saturday ran much smoother, but by noon, the sun was beating down on Bethel. The afternoon continued with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane. By Saturday evening, there was no food left. The trucks carrying the food could not get to the festival due to the crowds, and vacant parked cars.

By Sunday, the state police figure was 450,000 and attendance kept rising. Joe Cocker began around 2:00 and the concert was delayed due to the rain. After the rain, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Year After, and The Band played into the night. At 12:00 a.m. Blood, Sweat and Tears began and was followed by Johnny Winter, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and finished with Sha-Na-Na. Jimi Hendrix began Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. to a mere 40,000 people. He had wanted to “close the show” with his rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner”.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was officially over at 10:30 a.m. following Jimi Hendrix on August 18, 1969. Woodstock had 5,162 medical cases, and 797 documented instances of drug abuse. There were three births and eight miscarriages. Woodstock had two deaths by drug overdose and the death of Raymond Mizak who was killed in a tractor accident.

The late Max Yasgur never seemed to regret it all and said it from the stage Sunday afternoon, “I think you people have proven something to the world: that a half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music—and have nothing but fun and music”.

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