Journal of Michael Baum / Travels of an Artist
This is the ad I tore out of Ramparts
Magazine in 1969 advertising Woodstock. It makes interesting reading.
Notice that Jimi Hendrix is not on the line-up.
Note the price of admission. I still couldn't afford it even at that insanely low price. But I went anyway hoping to sneak in. As it turned out, due to the last minute change of venue, the fences weren't up, so I walked right in. That was the beginning of an amazing experience.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon and
roamed the fields of Yasgur's farm looking for a place to camp. We found a
great spot next to one of those nude swimming ponds you see in the photos.
While roaming the fields, we got a flat tire. No spare, of course. So, next morning, we found a pole, removed the wheel, shoved the pole through the wheel, hoisted the pole on our shoulders, and set off to get the tire repaired in White Lake. This is a tale not-worth-telling, except that the road to White Lake had literally become a parking lot. People had left their cars where they stopped in the traffic jam and walked on to the concert. (That was just the beginning of the legendary traffic jams created by Woodstock. You've heard the rest.) Anyway, there were homes all along the road, the residents completely trapped in their driveways amid a sea of hippies. What really moved me about all of this was that many of those folks had set up card tables along the road and were giving away, water, lemonade, even food to anyone who stopped by, sharing what they had, even though trapped with the rest of us. Believe it or not, even including the music, this is one of my best memories of Woodstock.
And I think this spirit of pulling together in a bad situation is what allowed Woodstock to work. And it was a bad situation, in spite of the music. Not enough food or drink. Hopelessly overwhelmed bathroom facilities. Mountains of garbage. Rollicking thunderstorms. And half a million people closely packed onto a muddy, stinking hillside for three days. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see where that kind of situation can lead. And most of us saw it. The managers of Woodstock saw it and did a marvelous thing. They turned it into a historic event, the coming out party of the love generation. The eyes of the world were upon us, they said. It was our chance to show everyone what our generation was all about. We just had to pull together, share what we had, help each other. And we did...for three days.
My personal experience: I remember sitting on a pile of filled-to-bursting garbage bags. It was hard to find anywhere else to sit. The air smelled of garbage, garbage bags, wet grass, mud, and of course, pot. I was wearing a garbage bag trying to keep dry. I was hungry, tired, dirty, and absolutely enraptured by everything around me. The music was incredible. And the spirit of the people was even more incredible. I had a distinct sense that we were making history. And you could see that awareness on everyone's faces. I went to many other rock festivals in those days, and none of them felt like that. Woodstock was one-of-a-kind.
I took no drugs during the concert and didn't need any, except maybe to stay awake during the non-stop music. I remember listening to Sly and the Family Stone (I think). The next thing I knew, I was watching The Who. I was so tired I had fallen asleep sitting there.
I remember Sunday morning, listening to Jimi Hendrix play the Star Spangled Banner. We were on our own kind of battlefield that morning. And in dawn's early light our flag was still there.