Woodstock 50 is cancelled, or so they reported Monday. Now, however, the organizers have released an update that they will continue with new financiers. I for one hope the festival will die once and for all, here, at its 50th anniversary.
People have a tendency to romanticize the 1960s as if the creative culture hadn’t grown out of immense social strife. People don’t protest when they’re happy with the way things are. 1969 had already seen Brown v. Board, the March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and the Watts riots. Somehow today, we manage to forget most of the uncomfortable history and fixate on the psychedelics and love-ins that resulted in a few free spirits twirling around in the mud.
50 years later, we still have a ton of the same problems. When we layer on the rose-colored John Lennon shades and tie dye fabric, the lessons that the past teaches us fade into the background, and our romantic vision takes over.
Marc Hogan from Pitchfork reminds readers, “Woodstock ‘94 featured artists fighting mud and rain, and, in the case of Green Day, literally fighting security guards. Woodstock ‘99 notoriously descended into alleged violence and sexual assault.” The reality has never been as pretty as the posters. Even the original concert saw births, deaths, hunger, horrible traffic, violence, nightmarish acid trips, not to mention that part when the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir was electrocuted by the amateurish microphone setup.
Many even look back on these gritty moments with fondness. That’s fine, as long as they appreciate that that’s life. The world is not an ideal picture from the Montreal Music Festival.
I wish people would remember this when they strike up a conversation with a stranger at a festival. These events have the potential to actualize change. If we romanticize past revolutions without understanding how they came about or how they resolved, we can get stuck in a loop. Take off the glasses. Don’t revel in your protest. Look forward.