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Woodstock: the concert of a generation

Aug 16, 2019
It’s 50 years to the day that a festival spirit was born that would shape a generation. The year was 1969, the location was a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, and the event… was Woodstock. The three-day music festival is one of the most celebrated moments in musical and cultural history, not only because of the music, but because of the ethos it created, transforming the festival experience forever.

Michael Lang, Artie Kornfield, Joel Rosenman and John P. Roberts were the brains and finance behind this spectacular event; initially billed “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music”. As with any large-scale event-planning process, there were a number of almost insurmountable bumps in the road – the first being an inability to attract big name artists. Eventually Creedence Clearwater Revival committed to playing, the first act to sign, which subsequently saw the floodgates open. Woodstock soon became the hottest ticket in town, with some of the biggest acts in the world itching to get their name on the line-up. Iconic performers like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Santana, Jefferson Airplane and Joe Cocker and The Grease Band gave the festival true star quality, which meant focus could now turn to location.

jimi hendrix woodstock phmg
Woodstock’s original venue was Wallkill, New York, but this proposal was almost immediately shot down by local residents – and any alternative arrangements were neither accepted or viable, putting the entire event at risk. Then, just a month before the concert, a twist of fate saw dairy farmer, Max Yasgur offer organisers a portion of his land in the White Lake area. Spacious enough to hold hundreds of thousands, and surrounded by the picturesque Catskill Mountains, the venue was perfect. Despite this seeming divine intervention, this last minute solution brought with it colossal complications; chief among them the fact that there wasn’t the time necessary to organise gates and tickets, as well as the performers’ pavilion, concession stands and bathroom facilities. It meant the organisers had three choices; cancel the concert, go ahead without adequate facilities, or scrap the entry fee.
phmg woodstock 50th anniversary
Miraculously, the organisers chose the latter – and this sacrifice of money in exchange for an unforgettable experience set the tone for the entire festival and ethos it represented. Around 50,000 people were expected to arrive, but as word spread, the masses came flooding in and the estimated audience was over 400,000. This was a diverse crowd of people from all walks of life bound together by a love of music, a love of peace, and a love of love. These three words were what Woodstock was, and the festival represented a welcome escape from the era of upheaval attributed to the Civil Rights Movement, and the horrors of the Vietnam War dominating the daily headlines. It was a period within which young people began rejecting the establishment in an unprecedented fashion, largely spurred on by an ever-growing opposition to the American government’s role in the war. Instead, they were being the people they wanted to be, and Woodstock was the cultural haven for tolerance and acceptance to take refuge. Such was the yearning for peace and love, not a single incident of violence was reported at a festival housing nearly half a million people; instead, they listened to music.

As the world’s leading audio branding agency, music is at the heart of what PHMG does, so we thought it only right to tap into the spirit of one of the most iconic and significant musical events of all time to celebrate our success. On it’s 50th anniversary, Woodstock was the inspiration of our Summer Soirees, with this ultimate celebration of music dominating the run-up to, the decor of, and the overall vibe of the events — making them days that will live long in the memory. It shows that Woodstock continues to be memorialised and idolised 50 years on, and will continue to be celebrated for years to come.

PHMG staff summer soiree