In August 1969, nearly half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York to hear music. What happened over the next three days, however, was far more than a concert. It would become a legendary event, one that would define a generation and mark the end of one of the most turbulent decades in modern history. Occurring just weeks after an American set foot on the moon, the Woodstock music festival took place against a backdrop of a nation in conflict over sexual politics, civil rights, and the Vietnam War. A sense of an America in transition—a handoff of the country between generations with far different values and ideals—was tangibly present at what promoters billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music."
Woodstock turns the lens back at the audience, at the swarming, impromptu city that grew up overnight on a few acres of farmland. What took place in that teeming mass of humanity — the rain-soaked, starving, tripping, half-a-million strong throng of young people — was nothing less than a miracle of teamwork, a manifestation of the "peace and love" the festival had touted and a validation of the counterculture's promise to the world. Who were these kids? What experiences and stories did they carry with them to Bethel, New York that weekend, and how were they changed by three days in the muck and mire of Yasgur's farm?