Mar 222011
Authors: Matt Miller

In 1969 at a dairy farm in Sullivan County near Bethel, N.Y. 150,000 people were expected to attend three days of peace and music.

Over those three days 500,000 people traveled to the small town causing immense traffic jams, a state of emergency by Sullivan County, three deaths, two births and the transcendent idea of the music festival.

Hendrix, heroin and hippies combined to make Woodstock one of the most iconic moments in music history.

It sits on top of a pedestal as a movement of music, a portrait of a time and an idea.

By today’s standards, Woodstock’s popularity spread through Stone Age ways: radio, newspaper ads, landline telephones, broadcast news. How today can we not create a music festival with this much scope and this much meaning?

But mythology aside, what did Woodstock actually mean? Sure, there were unforgettable performances, but the culture that surrounded it was just a mass of stoned, naked migrants wallowing in mud, trash and bodily waste.

Yet the legacy lives on. And the beloved legend of Woodstock has not been recreated.

In some cases we have come close. Live Aid, a 1985 benefit concert held simultaneously in the U.K. and the U.S. had a combined attendance of 171,000 and about 2 billion viewers in 60 countries.

Although Live Aid raised an estimated $283.6 million to go to famine in Africa, it isn’t held in the same esteem as Woodstoc;, in many cases its name remains unknown to a younger generation.

Bob Geldof, the organizer of the Live Aid concert gave a keynote speech at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW). In his speech he claimed that music has lost its passion and impact. He may have been referring to the concert he organized or even to the all holy Woodstock.

He must not have looked around him.

SXSW is a three-part festival that includes music, film and interactive media that concluded on March 20. Since it began in 1987, SXSW was almost immediately recognized on a national level drawing in artists and attendees from around the world.

What makes SXSW special however isn’t the scope of the festival but the open market it provides to young artists and creators.

In 2007 a little known social media website called Twitter placed large screens around the festival for attendees’ Tweets to be displayed. The positive press and exposure at SXSW propelled Twitter into the spotlight. And today Twitter is a social media giant claimed to even have helped the rebellion in Egypt.

Did Woodstock ever do that?

At the 2009 SXSW movie festival a little movie called “Hurt Locker” made its U.S. debut and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

This year approximately 2,000 acts played at the SXSW music festival and others were their unofficially looking for their chance to appeal to a national audience.
Even bands from CSU and Fort Collins made their way to Austin, Texas to play for a national and even international audience at SXSW.

Unlike most festivals, acts like Kanye West, which may take center stage, are not the most important at SXSW. What is important is finding the next big thing ­­–– finding that hidden band that has incredible music but has only played in front of a few hundred people.

But SXSW isn’t the only festival today that has meaning. Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and Lollapalooza all provide artists with a market for spreading art and ideas. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado draws attendees and acts from around the nation.

Music festivals today might not have the romanticism of Woodstock or the humanitarianism of Live Aid, but they provide a venue for fresh ideas, films and bands to make way into a national scene.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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