If it isn’t conveniently close or online, most people can’t be bothered — but music remains one of the only experiences people will endure overpriced water, sweltering heat, and elbow-jabbing crowds for. We’ve pondered the rise of national music festivals and appreciated the communal experiences they offer, but today we go back to the template for all fests: Woodstock (celebrating its 45th anniversary this year).
The 1969 “Aquarian Exposition” held at a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills over three days saw dozens of acts and more than half a million people in attendance. Rolling Stone magazine’s first photographer Baron Wolman captured it all. His unseen images from the iconic festival, published for the first time this August by Reel Art Press, offer a rarely seen view from the ground. “I ended up spending most of my time out in the wild with the crowd because what was happening ‘out there’ was just too interesting not to explore,” he explains. The energy is palpable in Wolman’s images, which capture breathless moments before performers took the stage, long-haired friends draped across the landscape getting high, and a sea of people covered in sweat and mud.
Wolman’s Woodstock, featuring a foreword by guitar legend Carlos Santana, includes an extensive Q&A with festival creator Michael Lang, the artist’s contact sheets and outtakes, and more. See a preview of Wolman’s definitive photographic essay in our gallery, with comments from the artist. Visit Reel Art Press for more information.
“This was the view from the stage, 300,000 strong, with the lens not wide enough to take in the entire crowd.”
“Rain and mud were constant companions to the music and the joy of the Woodstock experience.”
“Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane surveys the crowd, prior to picking up the microphone.”
“The beatific beautiful people at Woodstock, they just happened to be hippies.”
“Chemical joy was widespread (but not harmful) at the festival.”
“Cooling off, escaping the heat and humidity of Bethel, in central New York.”
“I call this one, ‘Eat and toke — feeding the body and the mind.'”
“The natives welcomed the hoards of young counterculture celebrants.”
“Thirsty hippies tried for an hour to fill their cup with milk — the cow was not corporative.”
“This photograph is the cover photo for the Woodstock issue of Rolling Stone magazine.”
“Back in the woods, all the vibes were always groovy.”