Woodstock was a legendary festival that lasted from 15-17 August, 1969. The "free" concert (it ended up costing $2.4 million) was sponsored by four very different men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang.

John Roberts was the rich kid, he supplied all the money. Joel Rosenman was also a rich kid, they each met on a golf course. Artie Kornfield was the Vice President at Capitol Records. His earlier claim to fame was writing Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve". Michael Lang was a huge hippie, he managed a band called Train (no, not today's Train) and came to Artie hoping to get them signed. They became friends, discovering they were on the same sort of path, and also that they grew up in the same neighbourhood.

So how were these two groups of men brought together? Lang and Kornfield wanted to host a big rock festival, gathering money from the revenue to build a recording studio. However, they needed seed money. Their lawyer recommended Roberts and Rosenman.

The four met in February 1969. "We met with them in their apartment on 83rd Street in a high-rise," Lang recalls, "They were kind of preppy. Today, I guess they'd be yuppies. They were wearing suits. Artie did most of the talking, because I think they seemed puzzled by me. They were curious about the counterculture, and they were somewhat interested in the project. They wanted a written proposal, which we had but we didn't bring with us. We told them that we would meet again with a budget for the festival."

By the end of their third meeting, the "little party" they had planned in Woodstock had turned into a concert for 50,000 people, the world's biggest rock 'n' roll show ever. The four partners made a corporation in March 1969. Each held 25 percent. The company was called Woodstock Ventures, Inc., after the Ulster County, New York town where Bob Dylan lived.

Now they needed a venue to host "the biggest rock concert ever." For $10,000, Woodstock Ventures had leased a tract of land in the Town of Wallkill, New York. Cornfield and Lang advertised the festival as an "Aquarian Explosion", and by April 1969, Woodstock was being advertised in the underground cultural papers, like the Village Voice, and then to Rolling Stone. In May, ads began to run in the New York Times. By then, the slogan had been decided as "Three Days of Peace and Music", hoping that the vibe of peace would...well...be peaceful, and keep order.

After booking acts such as The Who and Janis Joplin, everything seemed to be going along smoothly. However, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned Woodstock on July 15, 1969. With less than a month until the festival, the promoters literally went around in a helicopter, searching for sites. Elliot Tiber tried to help out by renting out his land, but then realised it was too small and swampy. So, he and Lang went to Max Yasgur, a local farmer, to see about his land.

This time, Lang liked the lay of the land. "It was magic," Lang said. "It was perfect. The sloping bowl, a little rise for the stage. A lake in the background. The deal was sealed right there in the field. Max and I were walking on the rise above the bowl. When we started to talk business, he was figuring on how much he was going to lose in this crop and how much it was going to cost him to reseed the field. He was a sharp guy, ol' Max, and he was figuring everything up with a pencil and paper. He was wetting the tip of his pencil with his tongue. I remember shaking his hand, and that's the first time I noticed that he had only three fingers on his right hand. But his grip was like iron. He's cleared that land himself."

With everything in order, on August 15, 1969, at about 5:00, Richie Havens, the first performer at Woodstock, took the stage. He had to stay on for more than he expected, because there was NO ONE else there! It didn't go off without a hitch.

The film crew, on the first day, began running out of film. The second performer, Melanie, was very unknown and had to be let onstage by singing to security!

It started raining lightly around midnight as sitarist Ravi Shankar was playing. By the time Joan Baez finished "We Shall Overcome," a warm thunderstorm was pounding Yasgur's farm. In three hours, 5 inches of rain had fallen.

The second day, the music was supposed to start at 7 PM, but many felt that was too late, and people would get restless. On top of that, the management of The Who, Janis Joplin, and The Grateful Dead refused to put their acts on without advance payment.

Also, there were many bad drugs out there. A sixteen year old boy had pounds of marijuana, and was selling it, and eventually got busted. There was also many bad acid trips, many by accident. Lots of people would drink what was available, they had no choice. Little did they know that there was acid in their Kool-Aid.

One man, obviously under the influence of something, felt like Janis Joplin was in love with him. "I knew that if I could just make passionate love to her, everything would just be all right and she would fall in love with me forever." he said. He rushed the stage, and policeman dragged him away.

The stage was still wet from the rainstorm (not to mention the mud EVERYWHERE), and during the Grateful Dead's set, they were all getting shocked as they played their guitars.

Now, the Who, who had just released the album Tommy, were performing right after midnight. Abbie Hoffman, head of the Yippies, and Michael Lang, sat on the side of the stage as the Who played. They had been taking acid all night, trying to stay awake. At the end of "Pinball Wizard", Hoffman stormed the stage, taking a mic, proclaiming "I think this is a pile of shit, while John Sinclair rots in prison!" John Sinclair had been busted for being in the possession of two marijuana joints. Pete Townshend, the Who's guitarist, not knowing who Hoffman was, proceeded to yell "FUCK OFF my fucking stage!" and hit him in the head with his guitar. Following Hoffman's departure, Townshend remarked "I can dig it."

Day three began at sunrise, with Grace Slick's vocals on "White Rabbit" filling the air. Jefferson Airplane played, and the promoters found yet another problem. People were hungry. And all there was mush with peanuts. Wavy Gravy, the leader of the "Hog Farm", who was suppling the food, called it "Breakfast in Bed for 400,000 people," Even though it wasn't very filling.

Joe Cocker played his songs as it rained torrents.
drownzsurf was there! He says:
"We hiked out through mud, losing my sandals, and soaked. We tried to stay dry under trash bags."

"We hiked in many miles from the site. My friends left the night before. I was pumped up on some psychedelicatessan and made it there in time for "Feelin' All right" It was something..millions all grooving, buzzed, nothin' but lovin' music"

By noon, as rock group The Band played, it was hot, and people were worried about heat stroke. Other concerns were pneumonia, since many concert-goers had been drenched for two days. Iron Butterfly, a pioneer of heavy metal, was scheduled to play, but Lang and the other organisers worried that the band's type of music might be dangerous under the circumstances. And so, they did not play.

A short but thunderstorm began in the late afternoon, making some people leave early. One attendee, Leo O'Mara, noticed a guy wearing a muddy raincoat and a huge smile. O'Mara wondered why this guy was so happy in such miserable weather. "Then I noticed that there were three other sets of legs under that poncho," O'Mara said.

Well, at least someone had fun.

Meanwhile, headliner Jimi Hendrix was roaming around in the crowd, talking to girls and being part of the crowd. He even spent some time in the "freak-out" tent, before roadies carried him off, as he was being a nuisance.

Three people died at Woodstock, one of them drug freak-outs and overdoses. Drugs were everywhere, they were unavoidable. Even the promoters took drugs while at the festival. Artie Kornfield was given a pill, which he figured was Dexedrine (speed), but it ended up being a sort of mushroom.
He began hallucinating that the not-present National Guard was shooting into the crowd. His experience was written about in Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock":

"And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes
riding shotgun in the sky,
turning into butterflies
above our nation"

"I was dosed. It was my first psychedelic, and it happened at Woodstock," Kornfeld said. "I never would have chosen that place deliberately, never to do it at Woodstock...I decided that we needed help. It was 12 hours before Hendrix," Kornfeld said. "I was Thorazined out of it. That's why I missed Hendrix."

The next casualty came that day, also. John Pinnacaia, an 18 year old attendee, stepped on what "must have been some kind of bottle," and became the second Woodstock casualty when he bled to death.

At 9 am, Monday, 18 August, 1969, after playing 12 songs, Jimi Hendrix launched into the Star Spangled Banner, waking up many who decided to stay. After playing four more songs, Jimi left the stage, and Woodstock was over.

Although faced with many legal battles, many were settled out of court. Six weeks after the festival, Rosenman and Roberts bought out Lang and Kornfeld's part of Woodstock Ventures for $31,240 each. The two groups of men severed friendships. Two years after the festival, "Woodstock: The Movie" came out. It was a surprise hit.

Woodstock has been remembered for the past thirty plus years as the ultimate consummation of the Hippie counterculture's way of being. "If you were part of the culture," noted one attendee, "You had to be there."

"To dance like at Woodstock, you would be sunburned, have a Chianti bottle in hand, and waving both hands loosely in the air, with head bobbing sideways in rhythm with more than a quarter of a million happy souls." -drownzsurf

The Performers:

Day One

Richie Havens
Sweetwater
Bert Sommer
Tim Hardin
Ravi Shankar
Melanie
Arlo Guthrie
Joan Baez

Day Two

Quill
Country Joe McDonald
John Sebastian
Keef Hartley
Santana
Incredible String Band
Canned Heat
Grateful Dead
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Janis Joplin
Sly and The Family Stone
The Who

Day Three

Jefferson Airplane
Joe Cocker
Country Joe & The Fish
Leslie West/Mountain
Ten Years After
The Band
Johnny Winter
Blood Sweat And Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Day Four

Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Sha Na Na
Jimi Hendrix


thanks to: Woodstock: The Movie, Vh1 Behind The Music: Woodstock, Once Upon a Time at Woodstock, and drownzsurf.

we are stardust
we are golden
and we've got to get ourselves
back to the garden

The 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair

It was the biggest bash of the decade, maybe the century. Though it was originally anticipated to earn $500,000, it ultimately cost more than $2.4 million. Some would say that that was a small price to pay to have created a defining moment for a generation -- others paid the debt out of their pockets.

The Woodstock Music and Art festival was sponsored by four very different, and very young people who pretended to have business savvy just long enough to get in over their heads. The idea made its first public stirring in March 1968 when the pair of John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, looking for a plot line for a sitcom they had been writing, took out ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal with an innocuous tag line: "Young Men With Unlimited Capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions."

Instead of ideas for a sitcom, Capitol Records VP Artie Kornfield and freelance bum Michael Lang pitched them a different kind of idea: to stage the wildest, craziest culture exposition and rock concert ever seen by mortal man.

Lang had done something of this nature once before when he had organized the Miami Music festival in 1968 with drew an alarmingly large crowd of 40,000 people; he felt like doing it again. This, of course, required money.. that Kornfield and Lang did not have.

John Roberts happened to be the heir to a personal hygiene fortune in the form of a multimillion-dollar trust fund. He was a 26 year old Army Lieutenant who had, in his entire life, been to only one "rock concert": the Beach Boys. Rosenman was a bit more worldly, being a law school graduate and an on-again-off-again guitar player in seedy lounge bands.

Through a bit of "Odd Couple"-esque serendipity, in the fall of 1968, corporation documents for "Woodstock Ventures" were inked and plans were set out to put together a gathering of 50,000 people (Lang hoped for 100,000) and a budget in the neighborhood of $300,000.

The first site for the festival was a leased a tract of land in the Town of Wallkill owned by Howard Mills, Jr. $10,000 got them 300 acres in an industrial park with proper zoning and a blessing from the city planning board. But Lang hated the venue saying it represented all the things that his festival was supposed to be against. This was not going to be a problem for long as rumors of the "clientele" of the show and the sheer numbers began to leak to the residents and by the time 1969 rolled around the festival was officially shut out of Wallkill. Despite the festivals' slogan of "three Days of Peace and Music", the residents of Wallkill doubted that the concertgoers would show them either. The Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned Woodstock on July 15, 1969.

Randomicity happend.

The random factor in this case was Elliot Tiber. He ran a small hotel at White Lake Resort which had a problem of having no customers, and he needed some way to get them filled to pay his mortgage. Of course, he had something to help with this in the form of a town of Bethel permit to run a "music festival". The permit was for the White Lake Music and Arts Festival, a very, very small event that Tiber had hacked together up to drum up business at the hotel, though attendance was small: "There were maybe 150 people up there," Tiber said.

He called Woodstock Ventures and somehow got a message to Lang who came out to the hotel the next day. The White Lake Festival used a muddy patch of 15 acres behind the hotel, and Lang knew that it wouldn't accommodate ten thousand, let alone his hopped hundred thousand and almost left then and there.

Ellliot did have another option for Lang, however, by the way of his friend, a Bethel dairy farmer by the name of Max Yasgur. He was telephoned and a while later Lang surveyed the farmland. Much has already been said about this so we'll keep it to how Lang said it best "It was magic."

The Woodstock partners have since admitted that they were engaged in creative deception. They told Bethel officials that they were expecting 50,000 people, tops. All along they knew that Woodstock would draw far, far more. "I was pretty manipulative," Lang said. "The figure at Wallkill was 50,000, and we just stuck with it." Lang was now planning on a quarter million people. But they got the rights to the 600 acre parcel for $75,000, plus another $25,00 for some use of surrounding areas.

But Bethel, with a population of 3,900 country people, wasn't set to handle the coming flood of humanity -- two weeks before the festival 180,000 tickets had already been sold. However, not everyone was against it: Ken Van Loan, the president of the Bethel Business Association, took it upon himself to convince the town that this festival could be a great boost for the depressed economy of the area. "We talked to the county about promoting this thing ... it would be the biggest thing that ever came to the county."

So "Woodstock" was poised to become the biggest thing ever, and yet the stage had only begun construction a week before opening, and nothing else existed on the site. Lang called his buddy, Stan Goldstein. Stan called The Hog Farm. The Hog Farmers built the needed kitchens, shelters and other structures as well as recruited security guards and generally handled all of the "human interfacing" that the four founders seemed inept to do on their own. The Hog Farmers had also built heir own alternative stage, just in case.

On Thursday, the train wreck had begun. "Route 17B was jammed for roughly 9 miles, all the way back to Monticello and beyond." said Fred W. Cannock, a State Police officer helping to supervise traffic. Of course , Woodstock organizers blamed state police for the traffic, citing that they had refused to enact the festival's traffic plan. A handful of civilian security guards and off duty police were on hand to help handle the crowds, but with an estimated 25,000 people and hour, it was like trying to catch a waterfall with a thimble.

And yet, though all this, something was missing. In all the commotion of the assemblage of the site they had left out a crucial but seemingly tiny detail: Tickets. There were no ticket booths.

Lang had thought Goldstein had taken care of it, and Goldstein had thought his Hog Farm friends had. The pre-sells had tickets and had paid for them, but apparently no one else, the walk-ins, had. Some ticket takers has been assembled with yellow vests and change boxes, but the task soon seen as essentially fruitless. "So Wavy (Wavy Gravy, head of The Hog Farm) and I said the only thing to do is take down the fence. So, we - Wavy and I - unrolled the fence about 100 feet, and the people all came pouring in." said Babbs, a friend of Goldstein and Lang.

In the end, officially almost 500,000 people managed to get in, most without paying any money. By Sunday morning, some attendance estimates were being carried out by quadratic analysis of aerial pictures, which by the account of the Bethal Town Historian actually showed nearly 700,000.

By the time the festival was winding down, the four Founders has some different music to face up to: all told they had sold over 1 million dollars in tickets, however it cost them over twice that much to run the show. $150 thousand for the acts and promotion and almost two million in actual production costs, and still another $100 thousand to clean and restore the field and to pay attributable property damage to Bethal and the State government. Over $600 thousand dollars in costs were defaulted on before the end of the week. 18,000 tickets were refunded to would-be attendees who were stuck on the clogged roads. Six weeks after the festival, Rosenman and Roberts bought out Lang and Kornfeld share in the corporation for $31,240 each. In the end the debts were paid by John Roberts and the sale of the movie right, a movie which Micheal Lang and Artie Kornfield saw no remuneration for.

The last standing monument, physically anyway, was handled by Wayne Saward, a welder. It's a 5 1/2 ton marker made of cast iron and concrete; landowner Louis Nicky paid $650 for concrete and casting the iron at a cost ratio of $3400:1 in relation to the debt incurred by Woodstock Ventures, Inc.

Of course, it wasn't all bad: some willful entrepreneur managed to sell birdseed for $6 dollars an ounce to some of the more confused concertgoers.

When is was realized that tickets were futile, John Morris, one of the conscripted stage announcers, made the second most famous sound bite from Woodstock (the first being "Don't eat the brown acid", of course.) Some of these lines were used in "Dirt", by "Death in Vegas", which is what gave me the impetus to write this in the first place.

This is one thing that.. I was gonna wait a while before we talked about. Maybe we can talk about it now so you can think about it.. it's a free concert from now on. That doesn't mean that anything goes, what that means is we're going to put the music up here for free. What it means is that the people who're put -- backing this thing, who put up the money for it, are going to take a bit of a bath. A big bath. That's no hype, that's true, they're going to get hurt. What it means is that these people have it in their heads that your welfare is a hell of a lot more important, and that the music is, than the dollar. ... Now, the one major thing that you have to remember tonight,. when you go back up to the woods to go to sleep or if you stay here, is that the man next to you it your brother. And you damn well better treat each other that way because if you don't then we blow the whole thing, but we've got it, right there.

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