Fifty years ago, over the course of three days, the Woodstock festival changed pop culture forever with unexpectedly massive crowds and iconic performances from some of the biggest acts of the day. So, in honor of the festival’s golden anniversary, we’re taking a look back at how things came together — and why we’re still talking about it today.
In the lead-up to Woodstock, an estimated 186,000 tickets were sold at a starting price of $18 — or about $120 in today’s currency. However, when upward of 500,000 people showed up, festival organizers decided to tear down the gates and let the masses in for free. With the sudden influx of people, Bethel, N.Y., became the third largest city in the state for the duration of the event. The original Woodstock featured 32 acts including Arlo Guthrie, the Grateful Dead, the Who, Sha Na Na and a now-legendary closing performance by Jimi Hendrix. But because of rain, about 90 percent of the crowd had left before Hendrix started his set.
Since 1969, there have been numerous attempts to recapture the magic of Woodstock, including two standout revivals in the 1990s. While Woodstock ’‘94 was largely well received, Woodstock ’99 ended in disaster — riots broke out over high concession prices and crowds set fire to one of the stages. Plans for another revival in 2019 fell through. But the Woodstock legacy lives on.
Nielsen estimates that 23 percent of Americans attended a music festival last year. That’s more than 75 million people heading to Coachella, Lollapalooza and the hundreds of other festivals in between.