Our Crack Tongue & Groove
The Instagram Woodstock
This August marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, an event that stands in marked contrast to one of the most infamous festivals of recent times.
Make no mistake, Woodstock was originally planned as a profit-making venture. It was financed by Joel Rosenman and John P. Roberts, two New York entrepreneurs, who thought they could piggyback the hippy flowering and make a quick buck along the way. Things didn’t go quite as planned, however. For a start there was a lot of legal wrangling over the festival site. (It wasn’t actually held in Woodstock. After several mooted venues they eventually secured a spot in Bethel in New York State.) They also had difficulties in getting bigger acts to play the festival, and it wasn’t until they had Creedence Clearwater Revival signed up that others felt compelled to get on board. Today, the festival is often thought of as a free event, but thousands of tickets were sold in advance at $18 a pop, which is the equivalent of about $120 today. It only became “free” when hundreds of thousands of people turned up and the security couldn’t cope. But, notwithstanding the capitalistic ethos of its organisers, it was viewed in a different light by the attendees. Joni Mitchell commented: “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.” Despite the three-day event being marred by bad weather, lack of sanitation and inadequate catering facilities, it became one of the defining events of a generation.
Fast forward to the recent past and another gathering: the Fyre Festival. This event would also go on to define a generation but for completely different reasons. Organised by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule it resembled Woodstock in many ways. They alsohad difficulties in securing a location (it was originally billed as taking place on drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private island in the Bahamas. They ended up with a bit of land next to a Sandals resort). There was also a problem sorting out the line-up (it didn’t help that the person charged with the task had never booked a band in his life). On the catering front attendees were promised gourmet meals but instead got pre-packed sandwiches. Where Fyre differed from Woodstock is that it didn’t actually go ahead. There wereno bands, or celebrity chefs, and Billy McFarland was eventually sent to jail for fraud. The other difference between the two festivals was the respective expectations of their audiences. The Woodstock generation wanted social harmony. Fyre, meanwhile, was promoted by supermodels and ‘social media influencers’. Attendees wanted bikinis, villas and cocktails: glossy individualism. And while the hippies genuinely did wanted to change the world, the selfie generation just wanted nice pictures for their Instagram page.