During 1969, in the state of New York, around 500,000 people converged on farmlands to attend a huge rock concert. The event came to sum up the feeling of peace and love for the younger generation of the time, expecially considering the Vietnam War was raging, but it wasn't a total success - the whole place was declared a disaster area before the three days were over...
As this mammoth documentary starts, it makes sure to convey the feelings of community, spirituality and getting back to nature with hippies descending on the rolling fields in the idyllic sunshine. Yet as it draws on, it becomes clear that all is not right with the world; early on we see locals treating the invasion with good humour, but later those same locals are complaining about the sex and drugs, if not the rock and roll. In fact, so many people turn up that the festival has to be declared free.
A warning goes out concerning bad acid, Joan Baez tells the crowd about her imprisoned husband, the weather gets worse and some are blaming it on government helicopters seeding the clouds, and the mud rises. Festival goers begin to starve because there's not enough food to go around, there are drug overdoses and not enough doctors are there to help, and all the while the threat of the war colours the mood.
However, it's as if audience are determined to enjoy themselves despite the hardships, because there is, after all, the music to listen to. Everyone seems painfully sincere, none more so than the opening act, Richie Havens. The Who perform a song from Tommy which manages to be better than the whole of the movie Tommy, but nobody smashes any instruments (although Pete Townshend chucks his guitar into the crowd - where is it now?). Joe Cocker bellows through "With a Little Help from My Friends", making his backing band sound positively undernourished.
There are a few acts that may get you hitting the fast forward button. Ten Years After's session seems to last ten years; John Sebastian turns up, rambles on for a while, then sings a song he forgets the words to halfway through. And who invited Sha Na Na? A director's cut was released in 1994, which adds Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane and Joplin, as if the film wasn't long enough as it is. But for encapsulating an era, and a sense of hope that was over a short time after, Woodstock is a valuable document. Also with: the mudslides and nude bathing that always gets shown when you see clips of this; and heavyweight yoga.