Woodstock v Big Chill
Four decades and an ocean separate Woodstock, which celebrates its
40th anniversary this month, and the Big Chill festival, held in
Herefordshire this weekend. But how much do they have in common?
By Katy Guest
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Woodstock Campers at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm in Sullivan
County, New York, mostly slept in tents or under the stars. You don't
need canvas when there's free love.
Big Chill Camping options in the grounds of Eastnor Castle this
weekend include 15 "Yurtel" rooms in the woods. £1,300 buys you hot
showers and toilets, cakes by Leon, tea parties and a goodie bag.
Woodstock "Eight months before the event, I had a dream," explains
co-organiser Michael Lang in a new book, Woodstock Experience, from
Genesis Publications. "I was on a stage looking out at a sea of
people, and I knew that was coming. I didn't have the specifics of
it, but I had the end results. I just followed that."
Big Chill A team of six works year round on extra-musical attractions
such as the Words in Motion tent, Rankin Live exhibition, art car
boot fair, Victorian fun fair, Bollywood dance classes...
Woodstock "I was peaking on mescaline and all I could do was pray to
God to keep me in time and in tune," recalls Carlos Santana in
Woodstock Experience. "My guitar felt like it was made out of a rubber band."
Big Chill Today's acts are more reserved. Last year's headliner,
Leonard Cohen, has found Buddhism. This year's hot latest signing is
so buttoned-up that he insists on being known as Mr Hudson.
Woodstock Nearly half a million unexpected guests and bad weather
caused traffic chaos and a complete breakdown in sanitation.
Big Chill With 800 toilets, 20 units for disabled patrons and 60
urinals, none of the 40,000 Big Chillers is going to have to wee in the lake.
Woodstock Tickets in advance were $6 a day (or free on the gate, as
no one got round to erecting ticket booths).
Big Chill Tickets for the weekend are £145 for adults, plus booking fees.
Woodstock National media at the time reported traffic chaos for miles
around the site, imploring last-minute arrivals to turn back.
Big Chill There is a handy lift-share forum, in an effort to reduce
the festival's carbon footprint.
Woodstock It was the first music festival to define the genre; it
became a protest against the Vietnam war.
Big Chill More than 500 festivals are scheduled in Britain this summer.
Woodstock Nearly half a million people were there; almost everyone
has since claimed to have been there. Even Radio 4's James Naughtie
announced last week that he was at the following year's reunion festival.
Big Chill We think you'll find that none of the people calling in
sick with swine flu on Monday was actually at the Big Chill.
Woodstock Campers were most likely to say: "Love your animal friends.
Don't eat them." (As was written on a placard in one famous photo.)
Big Chill Campers are most likely to say: "Meet you at the
Herefordshire rare breed organic posh snack stall. Order me the
cheeseburger and easy on the Dijon mustard."
Woodstock Afterwards, many festival-goers reported feeling like
zombies. It could have had something to do with the brown acid which,
said a stage announcement, was "bad".
Big Chill This year, the Big Chill is aiming to break the world
record for the biggest gathering of zombies for a shoot of the Film4
and Warp Films mockumentary, I Spit On Your Rave.
Woodstock They wore: face paint, plaits, flowers in their hair...
Big Chill They wear: fancy dress, designer wellies, or baby-doll
dresses and Mickey Mouse gloves in the case of psychedelic drag act Jonny Woo.
Woodstock Organisers lost money on the gate; the people who raked it
in were Warner Brothers, whose Woodstock movie has made about $100m
since then, according to Michael Lang.
Big Chill The people who make the money are the ones who make the
designer camping gear. According to a recent survey the average
camper spends £220 before a festival.
Plus Ca change...
"There were five to six hundred thousand people there, and there were
no fights, there were no hassles, everybody came together as a
community and a family" said Michael Lang about Woodstock, last week.
Well, war may not be over (don't tell Country Joe McDonald), but some
of the other sentiments that characterised Woodstock haven't changed
either. So raise a plastic cup of scrumpy to 40 years of festival
tradition this weekend. And stay away from the brown acid.