Turning a profit appears to be the goal of this rock festival
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on July 15, 1994 in The Diamondback, the daily newspaper of the University of Maryland, College Park. The opinions, dated political references and poor grammar expressed here do not necessarily reflect the writer’s current opinions, knowledge and journalistic skill.
The biggest sell-out of this year and perhaps this entire decade has to be Woodstock ’94. Baby Boomers, or “baboos” as we Generation Xers supposedly now call them, have outdone themselves for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock.
The generation that turned themselves from hippies into yuppies, who promised love but delivered divorce, has now outdone itself by celebrating one of their own great milestones with a profit-making venture that hopes to cash in on the memories of baboos as well as from the wallets of a younger generation. The whole enterprise makes me sick with the putrid stench of raw hypocrisy. Let’s compare.
The “Woodstock Aquarian Exposition,” as the tickets for the original concert read, promised “Three Days of Peace and Music.” Max Yasgur’s farm, located in the Catskill Mountains 90 miles out of New York City, became a mecca for 400,000 kids who flocked to hear great music, share good drugs and rebel against the establishment of their choice.
Although tickets were sold, the gates were crashed on the first day by the 300,000 without tickets. The last thing these young baboos wanted was to be told they were not welcome at their own music festival, so down the walls went. Now how do these baboos celebrate such refreshing anarchy? By beefing up security and cutting the attendance from 400,000 to 250,000 people. Tickets, which the promoters of Woodstock II promise you will need, cost $135, eclipsing the $18 cost of the original three-day music festival.
“There might be some people who try to come, we’re not being naive, but we believe we have a great ability to cut off access to people getting anywhere near the place,” said John Scher, a promoter of Woodstock ‘94.
Michael Lang, one of the organizers of the original and of the redux Woodstock, was asked in an interview last month if the new Woodstock was better planned to control the crowds than its predecessor had been. “Very,” he laughed. “This is quite a different operation.”
The epiphany of the original Woodstock was Lang’s vision. He answered a New York Times classified ad put out by Joel Rosenman and John Roberts that read, “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investing opportunities and business propositions.” Lang’s idea and their money copulated and Woodstock was born.
“The first one started out to be a business venture … but the drive behind it was not simply a business venture,” Lang said. He would be hard pressed to say the same for the sequel. Make no mistake, Woodstock ’94 is more about making money than making music.
Everyone wants a piece of the action. The only way to purchase tickets is through Ticketmaster, currently being sued by the band Pearl Jam for trumping up concert ticket prices (as monopolies often do). If you don’t go to the event, fear not, the concert will be available on pay-per-view for four or five hours every day at a cost of $34.95 a day, Polygram Diversity Ventures, which owns the A&M music label, paid $30 million for the film and music rights.
The director of the Oscar-winning split screen film “Woodstock” hates the 1994 version of the event he chronicled. He calls it “WoodStock II: An All Con$uming Experience,” referring to the corporate sponsors and nearly 1,000 food and souvenir stands that will be at the August festival. Among the Woodstocking stuffers: souvenir programs, commemorative coins, a photo book for the coffee table, hats, sweatshirts, you name it. A T-shirt will probably cost more than the $18 admission price of the original festival (which had no T-shirts by the way). Corporate sponsors include Pepsi, Haagen-Dazs and The Wiz.
This summer’s Woodstock comes with a general store, automated teller machines and enough food and water for more than a quarter of a million people. This includes the 1,300 “peer security” personnel that will not only guard the eight-foot fences, but search everyone entering the complex; drugs and alcohol are strictly prohibited.
So we have a well-organized corporate brain in control of this Woodstock, but at a cost. Port-o-potties instead of pot, ATMs instead of acid, fence instead of freedom.
The conspiracy against another “real” Woodstock is amazing. After the original, the state of New York passed an anti mass gathering act to prohibit unorganized concerts. Max Yasgur’s famous farm is not only unavailable for the anniversary concert, but locals have put up roadblocks and covered the sight with 200,000 pounds of chicken manure to discourage pilgrims.
About the only thing both Woodstocks have in common (they are not even in the same county) is an incredible music lineup of the coolest in contemporary musicians. The original concert included such greats as Joe Cocker; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; Creedence Clearwater Revival; The Who; Jefferson Airplane; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead.
Woodstock ’94 is equally great, a wet dream for Lollapalooza organizers, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arrested Development, Bob Dylan, Allman Brothers, Cranberries, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, Porno for Pyros, Johnny Cash, Melissa Etheridge, Henry Rollins, Jimmy Cliff, Shabba Ranks and the Spin Doctors make up most of the talent. Crosby, Stills and Nash will be the only band returning, but not the only homecoming among the artists.
Steve Tyler was among the 400,000 muddy fans at the original concert 25 years ago. One year later he started his own band, Aerosmith, and will return this summer as a performer. Tyler should prepare himself for a warped capitalist contrast to the “three days of peace and music” of his youth.
The first Woodstock turned a farm into a great concert. Woodstock ’94 turned a concert into a farm for milking a new generation of fans. At the original farm site is a defaced stop sign that appropriately reads, “STOP greed.”
David Allan is a senior journalism major.