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Mon, 16 Dec 2019 01:39 GMT

No Woodstock for Modern America

Media & Culture

7Dnews London

Tue, 13 Aug 2019 15:21 GMT

When you think of Woodstock, a picture of thousands of people celebrating music and love, in the open air with some recreational drugs, comes to mind. They are carefree people, without fear, apparently without a single worry. Now add the threat of a mass shooting, everything crumbles.

Any big gathering in the US and most countries nowadays, will have metal detectors, sniffer dogs and bag inspections. These alone can kill the spirit needed to revive Woodstock stone dead, but with the justified, ever-present suspicion that a mad person with a gun may have thought to grace the event, another Woodstock just cannot be.

Police officers agree that a spontaneous event like the 60s festival is simply not likely. "It's a very, very different environment from 50 years ago," said Stuart Cameron, Police Commissioner in New York's Suffolk County on Long Island.

We would not allow an event like Woodstock to take place, Cameron told AFP. "We're concerned about the public safety risks."

Two people are confirmed to have died in the 1969 Woodstock festival, one in a tractor accident and another from a drug overdose. Security at the farm north of New York, where the event took place, was radically different from what would have to be done today.

A local pig farm was approached by the organisers to take part in the festival and they served food and took care of attendees whose drug trips went wrong. The so-called “Please Force” urged celebrants courteously, to maintain the peace.

Michael Lang, one of the original organisers of Woodstock ‘69, wanted to replicate the era-defining event on its 50th anniversary but it was impossible.

No farmer was willing to host the mass gathering and permits were declined because of concerns over medical care plans, adequate water supply, food safety, and security personnel.

"Everyone is very safety conscious in this day and age and far more health-conscious," said Cameron. "People assume if they buy food at an event, it's safe to eat, that if they get injured, there will be an ambulance. "Back then, I don't know if that was necessarily assumed."

Other than that, do attendees for such a loosely-organised event even exist in today’s overzealously gluten-free, meat-free, everything-meticulously-planned America? Not with the monster of mass shootings so vivid in people’s memories.

Paris’s Bataclan massacre in 2015, the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, and Manchester’s Ariana Grande suicide bombing are perhaps the most vivid in people’s minds.

"I don't know that people would aspire to go to an event that doesn't have adequate security nowadays." Cameron said.

Music festivals like Coachella, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza are not the answer, they are fantastically regulated and guarded, not at all the spirit of Woodstock.

But maybe it is a spirit that is from a bygone era, with no place in the modern world.


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