Wood$tock ’94 – The Standard

12th August 1994 · My Writing

Anniversary rock festival puts money before love by TIM COOPER

A ROCK festival without drink and drugs? It sounds as unthinkable as Royal Ascot without the hats. But today, 25 years after the first and most famous celebration of sex and drugs and rock and roll, Woodstock ’94 will go down in history as the first puritan rock festival.

All alcohol is banned – both in the crowd and backstage among the bands and press corps of 2,500. And if the cravings get too much in New York’s summer heat, there’s an Alcoholics Anonymous tent.

At the first Woodstock, there was so much free love that an estimated 50,000 marriages resulted from meetings there, and so many drugs that on-stage announcements famously warned drug-takers off the “bad acid”.

For Woodstock ’94 drugs are banned too, with 1,000 security guards and an on-site prison for anyone naughty enough to roll up a joint, or try anything stronger.

And trippers will first have to get their stash past the electronic scanners and body searches on the doors of the heavily fortified Peace at a price: One of 900 security guards surveys the North stage at the three-day festival to mark the 25th anniversary of Woodstock site, on an 840-acre dairy farm and hunting preserve in Saugerties, 100 miles north of New York City.

It is even forbidden to bring your own food and soft drinks, leaving the corporate shuttle buses making caterers with a monopoly. You can bring a tent, but no stakes — they could be used as weapons.

It would all have been nine hours to get all fans unthinkable in 1969 but Woodstock ’94 is a fully corporate rock festival.

On the eve of the concert, which starts at midday, organisers claimed they had sold nearly200,000 of 250,000 tickets after relaxation of rules restricting sales to groups. This morning a spokesman said: “We’ll start selling them individually today.”

Festival-goers have to leave their vehicles up to 100 miles away and take shuttle buses to the concert itself 50 miles from the original Woodstock site at Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel. A planned, separate reunion concert there, featuring originals like Richie Havens and John Sebastian, was cancelled last week after only 1,657 fans bought tickets. Most fans will choose to watch on television doubtless complete with the full drink-and-drug experience.

Though original organiser Joel Rosenman is a co-promoter, there are very few similarities to 1969.