Of all the landmarks of 1969, Woodstock has to rank near, if not at the top of the list. The “3 Days of Peace & Music” have been branded into our cultural and musical lexicons, with the myth superseding reality, for better or worse.
It would be my fool’s errand to describe the event, the musicians, the stories, etc. That’s all documented many places better than I could ever hope to. Instead, I’d like to write about how I feel about Woodstock.
I wasn’t born for almost two decades after the concert. My parents weren’t huge rock fans, and my first recolection of what Woodstock was, came from an airing of the film on PBS in the early 90’s. I was awe-struck. I’d never been to a concert let alone a festival. It did strike a chord with me though. The sheer intensity of the occasion, the variety of acts, and the communal nature of it all was like a ritual I didn’t understand. But it called to me.
A few years later, when I started getting into music beyond what my parents played, The soundtrack must have been one of the first dozen cds I bought. I played it ’till it was too scratched to re-sell. I read and marveled at the stories. I wondered what songs were played that weren’t on the soundtrack. Where was The Grateful Dead? Did Jimi play “Purple Haze”?
As time and my knowledge went on, the myth unraveled. I went to concerts, a few small festivals, and *ahem*, experienced different things I’d only heard of before. Some aspects seemed even more grounded in dirty reality while the mystique of other only seemed to deepen.
The complete performances of the various bands had been something to seek out to enhance the slim highlights from the soundtrack. Some are revlatory, while others are perfunct or even disappointing. A complete set is now commercially available, and does having a complete record enhance the event? In some ways. Being a completist, that’s very alluring.
I think Woodstock is a fine concert. It was, and remains important. I don’t listen to it very much anymore though. Maybe I burned out on it, maybe I recognize that a single festival is not the be-all-end-all. It certainly falls under the category of ‘you had to be there’.
The benchmark of Woodstock remains, but is now tempered with the understanding of unique time and place. Woodstock could never be replicated again. That’s ok. Let’s keep doing new things, and we can still put on the record every now and then.