As the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock occurs today, Saturday, 15 August, we will all be inundated with tributes and remembrances. A good one appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times. “Moment of Muddy Grace - The Enduring Appeal of Woodstock,” by JohnParales , is one man’s thoughts on attending the concert back in 1969 and what Woodstock has meant in the decades since. The Times also has slide shows andpodcasts. Check’em out if you’ve got a mind to.
One particular passage in Parales’ story is this quote:
When the hippie subculture surfaced en masse at Woodstock, two years after the Summer of Love, it was still largely self-invented and isolated. There were pockets of freaks in cities and handfuls of them in smaller towns, nearly all feeling like outsiders. For many people at the festival, just seeing and joining that gigantic crowd was more of a revelation than anything that happened onstage. It proved that they were not some negligible minority but members of a larger culture — or, to use that sweetly dated term, a counterculture.As I write this post, I'm watching the "Woodstock" movie (1970) for the first time. It's a little surreal to see scenes I've heard about for years. In the segment juxtaposing the skinny dipping youth and the angry older generation, a young girl swimming echoes the same sentiments. "You realize you're not the only one in your city doing the same things," she says.
I’m old enough to remember the days when Entertainment Tonight and Rolling Stone were the only outlets for news about music and events. On the book publicity front, a few additional outlets existed--newspaper book reviews primarily--but not many. Word-of-mouth was the primary communication means: one guy loans another his new album featuring a new band; a gal loans her friend a book by a new, favorite author; new movies were foretold by trailers in movie theaters. One by one, groups formed and, even amid these various groups, longed a question: are we alone?
Parales’ comment about Woodstock is so simple it’s meaning is easy to miss. Woodstock was like a giant Facebook fan page. For the kids who thought they were alone in their musical and cultural tastes could point to Woodstock and say, “Yeah, I’m part of that.” The movie acted as further evidence. The youth and the older generation could watch what went on in New York forty years ago this weekend and learn from it. The youth could get some affirmation that they were not alone. The older generation could look upon it and, possibly, realize it ain't all bad. The presence of Woodstock must have been like a ton of bricks coming off common shoulders.
The Internet has fundamentally altered the landscape. Crime fiction fans or devoted followers of a particular band's music merely have to log on and discover a place on the Internet to find folks who like the same things. We have Facebook where anyone can make a fan site for any sub-sub-sub genre they like: quilters who love jazz; cat fanatics who love math; or any political sub-group you can think of. Loners and other kids (and adults, too) on the fringes of society have a place to commune with others. We know we can find solace online with other like-minded individuals. It’s reassuring if not still isolating. And we can still be naked, at home, if we want to be.
Woodstock as Facebook. I don’t think it’s that far of a stretch. Do you?