About 10 years ago, my wife and I were on a cruise ship amidst hundreds of sixty-something Americans doing their best to fulfil every stereotype about their demographic and then some. There was the man who let the lift doors to close in the face of the woman approaching as fast as she could on a walking frame and asking him to keep it open. There was the disoriented woman standing in the middle of an open space calling "Will someone please help me?" into the void. And there were the people at the buffet competing to see how many courses they could pile onto their over-sized plates at once.
It took a couple of days of this for me to realise something. "You know who this is, don't you?" I said to my wife. "This is the bloody Woodstock generation."
The original festival bore the spaced-out tagline: "An Aquarian Exposition: Three days of peace and music".
People forget it was awful. Some of the biggest acts in the world turned in their worst performances ever but managed to provide merchandising opportunities which have continued to generate revenue down the decades.
So naturally a 50th anniversary Woodstock was planned for this year to give those opportunities a massive reboot.
Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, half The Band, half The Who and many others aren't alive to repeat their performances. But early on, Santana, John Fogerty, David Crosby, John Sebastian, Country Joe McDonald, Canned Heat and Melanie were all coming back for a 2019 encore. By the time it collapsed in the first week of August, the anniversary event was in such chaos it would have been lucky to get the Wizard of Christchurch as headliner.
Woodstock's marketing asked attendees to "Support our partners in their efforts to help heal the planet and the people living on it". Because nothing is as planet-healing as cramming a couple of hundred thousand people into a small space after they've driven or flown hundreds or thousands of miles to your remote location.
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This year's shindig wasn't even scheduled for the original site, which was probably just as well. If you've seen the movie you'll know it was a multi-hectare pigsty.
But 1969 was truly beautiful, the acme of hippiedom, especially when a few hundred thousand people turned up to a 100,000-capacity event and the organisers gave up and let everyone in for free. This was touted as a spontaneous anti-capitalist act but had the money-saving corollary of keeping the number of stampede deaths and consequent legal actions to a minimum.
So what happened between then and now – between a time when people were blissing out and loving the person next to them and a time when they were elbowing each other in the ribs to get to the shrimp? Nothing. You don't even need the benefit of hindsight to see that the anniversary was always going to be a mishmash of contradictions and mismanagement. Just like the original, which brings home the depressing point that in half a century nothing had been learnt.
The question for many people always was – would an anniversary event measure up to the 1969 model? Would Miley Cyrus have the same impact today as Janis Joplin did then? Would it be as woolly-headed and self-deluded as 1969? Yes, because the values of the Summer of Love were never taken seriously by those in control, then or now.
All those hippies grew up to be the barbarians at the buffet. They got through the gate, showed their true colours and have been running things ever since.