The release of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” was the greatest musical moment of the 20th century, but Woodstock came in at a close second. Honestly, the festival was more in a category of its own. There never had been anything like it.
Like all great things, it came about by accident. The festival’s organizers couldn’t have possibly prepared for the 400,000 who showed up — eight times the size of their initial estimate. Everyone outside the hippie hive mind prepared for chaos unseen since 8000 B.C.
Of course, it was for nothing. Practically no violence and thievery took place. Every death at Woodstock was matched by a birth. For the first time that the “squares” had bothered to pay attention, the hippies had proven themselves a higher class of human than expected. They got their place in history.
Forty years later, I’m left wondering: Where’s my Woodstock? Where’s my Jimi Hendrix? Where’s my weekend of life-changing experiences? When will I get the chance to have sex in a mud pit, cheered on by a few hundred fellow feel-gooders?
Never. Never ever.
It will never happen in any present outlet. Today’s popular music festivals are too consumer-oriented. All wannabe Abbie Hoffmans are extinguished with the security guard’s fist, and the friendly sponsor never floats outside the eye’s peripheral.
I remember watching Rage Against the Machine at Lollapalooza 2008. Moments before Zach de la Rocha kicked into the final chorus of “Wake Up,” he spoke resounding truth about the failures of Bush-era Democrats — all from his front-and-center spot on the AT&T stage. The logo etched onto the canvas above his head was the exact same one plastered onto Democratic National Convention tote bags three weeks later. Corporate sponsorship might be necessary to maintaining low prices, but its presence is cold and ironic.
As far as having a moment of significance at the level of Woodstock, the closest this generation’s progressives (hereby referred to as “us”) will get is the night of Barack Obama’s election, both rare events that inspired young people to keep faith in humanity.
That night transcended politics, but there’s no denying that a fair chunk of Obamaniacs have been disappointed with the lack of progress made so far. Blame it on the man himself or the stilted lot that make up Congress, but our idealism was shrouded in politics. It was bound to dry up faster than the hippies’ ideology did.
They had their causes and their protests, just like we do. They were just smart enough to detach themselves from the real world when they needed to. The escape offered by the Internet just isn’t as effective as life out on the Bay with dirty pals and a trunk full of colorful substances. We’re reminded just how miserable everyone else is (or, reversely, how much happier they are than us) whenever we log onto Facebook.
We’re just as freaked out as those poor souls in the Cold War, only we’re quite aware that our end can come in so many different ways, including but not limited to: terrorists, the environment’s disintegration and Obama’s antichrist revelation (should this take place, he’ll make his true self known during the 2012 reinauguration speech. You heard it here first).
Maybe none of those things will happen. We can, however, depend on oil running out. Things won’t be all that bad when that finally rolls around.
As civilization is slowly rebuilt into little villages, music will be played on shabby guitars and drums. Only in a world without functioning corporations and flashy stage effects could we ever hope to achieve a music-based experience as significant as Woodstock.
I suspect I’ll be murdered by barbarians in the year following societal collapse, but it’s comforting knowing that a shaggy-haired successor will get to experience it eventually. Godspeed, dude; after a lifetime of veganism, you’ll deserve all the mud-sex you can get.
Toss aside the bikes and get the Hummers roaring people! Roar them through the night and through tomorrow, too. We’ve got work to do.
Erik Myers is a senior technical journalism major and co-music director at KCSU. His show “Implosions In The Sky” airs 7 p.m. Saturdays on 90.5 FM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Due to a university holiday, Erik Myers’ column appears in today’s paper. It will normally appear every other Monday in the Collegian.