When the original Woodstock took place, my Mother was recovering from giving birth to me just a few short hours earlier.
When I was about 12 hours old and pooping in my diaper in Ohio, Ravi Shankar took to the New York State Stage and played Evening Raga.
The story of Woodstock has been told over and over and over.
But let's aim to sum up the festival in one sentence:
Peace, Love, and Drugs
I always wondered to myself if there was only Great Music, but no drugs, would 400,000 people still have gone?
Basically a high school reunion version of Woodstock.
The successful bands were either too popular or too dead to show up, so you got the second tier bands for a night at Madison Square Garden. The music was alright, I suppose.
A half-hearted attempt to re-capture the original Woodstock.
The Forgotten Woodstock.
Yeah, forgotten for a reason. I never heard of any of the bands on the bill and watched a half an hour clip from Woodstock 89 and couldn't even figure out what was going on. The cat eating garbage in the below video (4:44 mark) was interesting. The music was Terrible.
A half a million people showed up for a mixed bill of young and old performers. The price of tickets were $135 each. About a half a million fans showed up, maybe a third (at best) paid to get in. Did I consider going for my 25th Birthday Weekend? I sure did. Do I regret not going? Nope.*
The Branding of Woodstock. 1994 was the first time the organizers really figured out how to make money on the Woodstock Name.
* Okay, I lied a little bit. I regret not seeing Nine Inch Nails' Mudstock Performance. Of course that is in hindsight. There is no way I would have wanted to sit through 20 other acts and starve half to death to see Nine Inch Nails.
The exact opposite of the spirit of the Original. Great Music, but instead of free love, you got sexual assault. Instead of peace you got riots. And instead of drugs....well, I'm sure there were still drugs, but you got the drugs in $30 Woodstock Bongs.
I tried to find out if Woodstock 99 made money and all I got was article after article about what a shitstorm Woodstock 99 turned out to be. So let's do some critical reckless speculation, shall we? According to most reports 400,000 people showed up. but unlike Woodstock 94, security made sure that the people that got in actually had tickets. So 400,000 times the $150 ticket price is easy multiplication. $60 million dollars. If the production costs were around $30 million dollars, you just made yourself a 100% profit. Now back in 1999, immediately after the concert, the promoters claimed that only about 200,000 people paid for tickets. Which means they broke even. (Ah, ah, ah, not so fast.) We haven't even mentioned the money made from vendor licensing or commercial licensing. How many Woodstock shirts were sold? How many Woodstock DVDs were sold? How much did Viacom pay for exclusive MTV rights? How much money was made on the pay-per-view? How much did they charge the vendors who screwed those kids.
The promoters basically left those kids to bake in the heat for the weekend, then wondered why they rioted over $4 water while they were waiting for Metallica and Korn.
Of course, 20 years later, Rolling Stone called Woodstock 99 the apex of "Pointless White-Guy Anger," which again shows their bias, when they should have been asking why the promoters were able to get away treating music fans so poorly while lining their pockets with millions in profit. Is it possible that the Woodstock that gave us the catch phrase "Gimme Something to Break" made $20 to $40 million in profit (outside of the lawsuits)? It is feasible that it did.
That is a VERY bad look...
Side Note: 1999 was the year that Rock and Roll was in its Death Throes. Top to bottom, Woodstock 99 was my favorite Woodstock because it wasn't really a Woodstock at all, more like a Rock Festival with a poorly chosen name.
The "Heroes of Woodstock Tour"
Oooof. Parts of the Jefferson Starship. Parts of Canned Heat. Country Joe McDonald.
Lots of old dudes taking a short jaunt across America and the drug of choice was E.D. medication.
One last bank run for nameless musicians.
Which brings us to the point, TODAY.
Artists booked for the festival were paid up front, some of them earning fees well into the seven figures; according to a court filing, Woodstock 50 paid $32 million to book its original lineup. - NY TIMES
Now bands like Michael Franti & Spearhead I kind of feel bad for. Woodstock 50 would have been a nice place to show that the road warriors are still kicking around. Country Joe McDonald? His check is like a gold watch at retirement.
But let me ask you, with over 75 bands booked, who do you think the Millionaire Artists were who made over a million dollars NOT to sing?
THEY GO PAID!!! Woodstock 50 seemed to want to re-capture the Woodstock 94 vibe. They wanted the old mixed with the new. Pop, rap, and rock with everything in between. But instead of half a million people, the promoters were aiming for around 150,000 people at $450...
...a pop. Back to the calculator, 150,000 times $450 is 67.5 million dollars. Less people, more money, easier logistical concerns. Then everything fell apart.
I can't go to New York to see Woodstock 50, you can't go to New York to see Woodstock 50, but trust me, Woodstock 50 lives on in the American Court System. You can't pay 30-some million dollars and get absolutely no return on your investment. You are going to watch the fallout from Woodstock 50 on Court TV for the next decade.
The Music would have been great, not unlike Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo. Here's the problem. Hop in a time machine and ask the dirty hippies at the original Woodstock if it would be cool if the 50 Year Anniversary edition of Woodstock was $500 a ticket and mostly the 1%-ers were there (including some of the artists). I think they would say that the future generations were missing the point of Woodstock.
Can I sum up Woodstock 50 in one sentence? Sure can.
That Woodstock Cash Cow is Dead.
Surprise, surprise, guess who else is getting paid but not performing? Pussy Riot. Despite millions of dollars of free publicity over the past decade, they're another band that has trouble recording actual music. Because I'm not fluent in Russian, I'm not sure how many songs Pussy Riot has, because some of the titles are very similar.
I want Pussy Riot to be an awesome punk band. They are not.
I mean, c'mon. You (the promoters) booked Korn to Woodstock. WHAT THE F#CK DID YOU EXPECT? The only thing that could have been worse was if the temperatures at Woodstock 99 shot up to 120 degrees and Korn sang Dead Bodies Everywhere.
Editor's Note: One of the favorite bands in my youth was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When the Woodstock 99 Riots broke out, they weren't trying to antagonize the crowd by singing Fire, they were presenting an homage to Jimi who was at the original Woodstock. The media never seemed to point out that the song Fire was on the Mother's Milk album and on the RHCP's Greatest Hits album. Fire was often part of their setlist. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were "coincidentally" booked in Japan for the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. I wonder if it was the Chili's Choice or if the Woodstock people didn't want any of the Woodstock 99 associations.
I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers way, way back in 1989. They were awful. I saw a band tearing apart at the seems and on the verge of breaking up.
Fred Durst will still be performing in an empty field at Woodstock 50.
It's gonna sound a little like this.