“Woodstock” is less of a film and more of a statement. A statement that personifies an era, and celebrates it as a whole. What was NOT happening in the 60’s? The “peace” movement was taking over, Vietnam was tearing our old America apart with the protests and there was this revival going on of the youth. People were rising up, people were changing. And like any other decade, any other generation, people were realising that even if they did come out unscathed out of the whole deal, there would be no way that the world would remain unchanged.
The end of the decade came, and so came this music festival. The artists were all there, the protestors, the angry men who had called for a war fought using peace. There were children there, there was the youth, and they had created the third largest city in America. For three days, they celebrated their generation in something that has since, become a myth of sorts. For people who weren’t there at Woodstock, the place and time serves as something extraordinary, the start of something, the end of a lot of things. And the movie that circulates around it has become legendary too, lived to become something different, become a phenomena of our time.
Till date, listening to Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” in that dark stage raises the shivers. You feel a fraction of the feeling that those present would have felt. These people were witnessing their own tragedies and their own triumphs all on the same stage. The energy was breaking the surface and it was making them realise that the world was becoming much wider. There would be people moving away from that place in trucks who would become another generation, who would raise kids and immortalise an idea of peace that still lives on. Maybe, a lot died with that festival too, but, that moment in perfect, so, so , perfect.
When Arlo Guthrie performs the song “Coming in to Los Angeles”, you see the people having a smoke, the smell of marijuana hangs around you too, but, there is peace there. As the soulful voice punches through the hearts, the blood is only flowers. The camera moves naturally, and we see the feelings out in the open. There is no shame at Woodstock, there is no pain at Woodstock. We know that someone died there because of some sort of heroin overdose, that people were sick because of the rain. But, then we hear the woman tell us about this guy who was high, and asked her something about what color would jealousy be, and we laugh. For, no matter whether we drink or not, we know that feeling.
“Woodstock” as a film, not only defines a generation, it defines something that is integral to every teenage mind, this feeling of brotherhood of goodness of being the person they are and not pretending just for the sake of it. There is something magical to be gained from that, something that is eternal.
Heck, this is the festival where helicopters dropped flowers and dry clothes over the people when there was rain. This is the festival where the rain could not wash the people away. Where the announcer says something like, “If some of you still think that capitalism isn’t that weird you can buy some burgers and help that burger guy out there.”.
There is spirit in there. And when we see this Port-o-san guy say that he has a kid in Woodstock and another in the Vietnam war we see the two faces of america in front of us. How many were drafted in the military at that time? How many children were dying while they celebrated their generation? The moment when the question is asked comes with a rag-tag singer asking about the Nam war over the stage. The feeling forces out everywhere and almost everyone is singing out loud. The song is seeping through the bones.
Sure, we can find fault with this generation, and there are many that we could list even now. But, the times were a’ changing. the wars had just ended and another had suddenly started, the music scene had suddenly become greater and encompassed so much more. Joan Baez tells of her husband being carried away from one jail to another, she makes a joke about it,. These guys are not afraid of the place and time. They are enamored with it. They are enamored with the entire deal. They are in love with themselves and the feelings that are starting out then and there. There is a brotherhood that seeps out to the genera;l public and we are in love with that feeling.
When Jimi takes the stage and plays the American national anthem it is unclean, the dirtiness a sign of the time that was then. The whole thing a resonation of the space with the people. The anthem a mockery of the America that was then. Hendrix is at the end, the whole deal is dwindling by then, but, you feel the rebellion in them./
As the people walk away from the festival, they carry a lot of memories that would be theres forever. The people of the locality who helped them throughout the three days. Can you believe local people coming together to making the festival a success? For giving food to all of the people who are there? The statement goes out, “Our dream is breakfast for 400,000 people”
400,000 people, can you believe that? Can you believe that at all?
There is magic in that number. There is magic in the performances too. “Summertime Blues” from The Who, The music bleeds out in angst but, there is no sorrow about the angst. There is pain from the people. But, that pain isn’t what shines.
Woodstock becomes a statement, a broken statement. A statement about the people who are there who would personify another generation to come, but, then there was a lot of things that they would end up doing that would influence everyone.


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