So it looks like Woodstock might well be back for a 40th anniversary event in New York state this summer. Great. And here’s me two chapters into a novel set at the various Woodstocks since 1969, the entire structure and foundation of which depends on there only ever being three. Typical. Another project scuppered, just like my series of children’s books about a bespectacled young boy attending a magical school for child prostitutes.
So what should we expect from Woodstock 2009? Organiser Michael Lang argues that the spirit of the legendary '69 fest will still define the event, not the mud-slinging marauders of '94 or the fires and rapes of '99. I disagree – I think Woodstock is defined by the concept of rebellion itself. And every generation has had the Woodstock it deserved.
1969: Woodstock bags Jimi Hendrix, Sly & The Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane. Forward-thinking liberals are being assassinated, anti-Vietnam protesters are being beaten by police in the streets, teenagers are being conscripted and sent to be massacred by the Red Threat in the jungle. Society is oppressive, music is telling you to chuck in your degree course and smoke dope. So how do you rebel? You grow your hair, tear down the fences, lose your mind, clothes and virginity on dodgy acid and shag like animals in the name of a new permissive Utopia.
The 1990s: Aerosmith, Green Day and Bob Dylan all play. Western governments are bombing the bejesus out of any country they fancy for electoral or financial gain without fear (just yet) of major terrorist reprisals or objections from a populace numbed into submission by 25 years of having their protests ignored, their media controlled and their drugs secretly government-subsidised.
Capitalism is encouraging the shafting of your fellow man; witness road rage, drive-bys and Jerry Springer. The powers that be have twisted the '60s ideals to their own ends, society is permissive, post-punk US rock music is telling you to “load up on guns, kill your friends” or simply “break stuff”.
So how do you rebel? If it’s wet, as in '94, you lob mud at the stage like those cool hand-grenades you’ve seen on CNN; if it’s scorching hot – and you’re stuck on a concrete air force base where a mouthful of water is five dollars and there’s nothing to watch except Limp Bizkit, as in '99 – you smack 70 shades of shit out of each other and torch the place.
Woodstock is where each generation goes to be what their parents don’t want them to be. So 10 years on from The Snarling Weekend that was Woodstock '99, how will this generation rebel? Perhaps, after eight years of war-mongering, stupidity and fear under Bush, they’ll take cues from the straight-edge scene and rebel against the idea of rebellion itself?
100,000 stone-cold sober emo kids in a field watching Red Hot Chili Peppers before heading to their tents for a night of full-on, no-holds-barred abstinence and politeness, campfires at 3am rocking to yells of “I RESPECT YOUR OPINION!” and “NOT BEFORE MARRIAGE!”
Or maybe, as I suspect, society’s restrictions have become so petty that the revolutionaries of Woodstock ’09 need only openly smoke inside a tent or kiss a girl and like it to appear as outrageous as their mud-fucking grandparents of ’69.
Unfortunately, we’ll never find out. Organisers have learnt the dangers of unleashing a generation’s wild streak, so Woodstock ’09 will be little more than a recreation of the original, featuring Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker and The Who in the frame. By playing it so safe they’re rebelling against the very point of Woodstock itself. Seems the revolution ate itself, puked itself up into a serviette and is now hiding its effluence under its Stetson.
What I’ve Been Listening To…
The Maccabees – Wall Of Arms
Lily Allen – Not Fair
Maximo Park – Questing, Not Coasting