August 17, 1969: The last day of Woodstock
Imagine throwing a party and having the whole world show up. Well, that’s what happened when the first-ever Woodstock took place in 1969. For three days, a plethora of music acts rocked Bethel, New York. The final day of the event, however, was filled with problems.
Before the last day of Woodstock, the rain put a huge damper on things. Many sets that weekend were delayed or moved because of thunderstorms. The final day of Woodstock would take a huge hit due to the weather. Following Joe Cocker and The Grease Band’s set, a thunderstorm delayed the event by three hours. While Ravi Shankar played through the rain on day one, they weren’t allowing that to happen again.
Aside from the weather, there was a major concern about the ever-growing crowd. The site itself was too small for such a grand event, which peaked at 400,000 attendees. On the last day, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller wanted 10,000 National Guard troops to keep things in check. If that wasn’t enough, a state of emergency was declared by Sullivan County. Festival organizer John Roberts shot down the troops’ idea and let things rock for the rest of the day.
Hear my train a-comin’
The main event for the final day was The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He was scheduled to perform that evening, but rain delays pushed his set to 9:00 a.m. on Monday. The crowd of 400,000 diminished to 200,000 during his performance. Having that many people for an early morning performance is something rare today. The highlight of the set was his emotional performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Bassist Billy Cox had no clue what Hendrix was planning before hitting the rendition. “When he started off if you listen to the CD or the wax, whatever you might have, I started the first six notes but some little voice told me, “You better lay out because you don’t know what’s going to happen here,” he told Al.com.
When it was all said and done, the first Woodstock was a success despite the troubles. While future Woodstocks happened, the 1969 installment will always reign supreme in the hearts of rock fans.