It’s been fifty years since the infamous Woodstock took place in the Catskills of New York in 1969. The OG music festival drew in crowds of over 400,000 and was originally advertised as a music and art festival. What ensued made history. The festival created a legacy that, for decades to come, would never be upheld in quite the same way. Now, on the 50th anniversary of the world-famous festival, we’re getting another one.
It’s not the first time a festival took place on the famed Woodstock grounds. In 1994 a commemorative festival called Woodstock ’94 happened on the same site. Artists like Bob Dylan (who declined to perform at the original event) and the Violent Femmes were on the lineup, while the rising electronic scene boasted acts like Aphex Twin and DJ Spooky at the “Ravestock” stage.
Since then, other festivals have tried to emulate the Woodstock brand by hosting events of a similar scale at the same venue. A European massive rave called Mysteryland created an offshoot in America for a couple of years in the Bethel, New York area. The event branded itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity to rave on the same grounds as the original festival of all festivals. However, its 2017 event was cancelled “due to unforseen circumstances” and it hasn’t been seen since.
Events such as Mysteryland can be a good example of how the corporatization of music festivals aims to sell a specific vision. At their core, large-scale music events that bleed nostalgia for the Woodstock era seem oddly disingenuous as they strive to create a perfectly curated image of carefree youth and rebellion.
Coachella, for example, is at the focal point of this vision. The annual event has perched itself atop the cultural zeitgeist of the day. Not all festivals serve that same purpose, though.
Today, as dozens of music festivals pop up around the world each spring, it seems like the trend has no end in sight. A massive market for festivals and other music events allow for scams like Fyre Festival to thrive. Fraud on that scale may seem rare, but ticket scams run rampant in high-profile festivals and events like Burning Man and Coachella.
Events like Woodstock once symbolized a desire for an immersive art experience and a sense of freedom, but it came at the price of comfort and overall hygiene. Now, anyone can buy into that dream without compromising their sense of luxury. Ticket packages to Coachella or luxury Plug and Play camp experiences at Burning Man often carry hefty price tags. The experiences come wrapped up into a pretty package that take the stress out of attending one of these events, which sell a one-sided fantasy of the late ’60s.
The announcement of Woodstock 50 came as a surprise to many. With a lineup that boasts acts like Miley Cyrus, Jay Z and Princess Nokia, the festival creates a definitive look at the current musical zeitgeist. However redundant a new festival may be, Woodstock 50 is, perhaps, the most worthy of all to be popping up on the festival season horizon.
If for no other reason, than the location. What we learned from situations like Fyre Festival is that not every location that seems like it would make a great festival venue can, or should, be one. The logistics of throwing a massive music event take a lot of time, infrastructure and money. Third world countries often don’t have access to the resources needed to throw these events successfully. This means that the impact of a festival can often leave lasting scars on the environment and communities surrounding the grounds.
An event like Woodstock 50 only comes around every couple of decades. We may not have needed another music festival, but there’s no denying that there is a certain significance in keeping the legacy of a festival as prolific as Woodstock alive for coming generations. If only the lineup were just a bit bigger.