What we've lost, concisely stated…

From “The spirit of Woodstock is dead” by Rebecca Armendariz in The Guardian:

Woodstock was all about the bands and the vibe. Today’s corporate festivals simply cannot foster the same camaraderie

….At festivals these days, everything’s about the lineup, the merchandise, the overpriced beer and complaining about having to suffer through many mediocre 40-minute sets to get to the good stuff. At Woodstock, it was all good stuff.

The wealth of music and its many specialised genres today make it harder to hold a festival everyone wants to check out. Then, who wasn’t going to want to see Jefferson Airplane as the sun rose? Nobody, man. Everyone could agree upon a shared love of Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Now, the internet has turned listening to music into a very solitary pastime. No one’s going to record stores anymore and getting face-time with other music fans. The thrill of the physical search for good music is gone, replaced by a glowing screen with a bed nearby. Kids scour blogs and music news sites to find hidden gems that will mould their personal taste into something worthy of bragging rights, creating something so individual and hand-picked it’s almost special (or, at least, people like to think so).

Americans today define themselves individually through their musical tastes instead of forming a collective identity with others. We’ve changed the way we consume music and have access to whatever we want immediately. Being first in line, knowing what’s cool before it’s cool, ups one’s status as a music-connoisseur.

But there was nothing singular about watching the Who play a 24-song set at 5am. Only solidarity.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

4 thoughts on “What we've lost, concisely stated…

  1. Hmm, while I agree things have gotten a little more dire in the concert/festival world since Woodstock (it was FREE for god’s sake!!), I actually don’t think Woodstock was “all good stuff”. Some of the bands I definitely don’t dig…but then again I would have probably been tripping so hard I might not have noticed.

  2. Plus, I think there’s plenty of collectivity and true music appreciation–just look at Arthur and all it does!

    Funniest headline today, USA Today: “WOODSTOCK: Does it still matter?”

    Also, I was just glad to see shirtless hippies on the front page instead of NASCAR.

  3. So much has changed with the entire construct of the music industry, that it’s ridiculous to blame corporate greed and hipster one-upmanship for over-specialized festivals or “singular” habits of consumption. I mean, a big reason there was so much “solidarity” in terms of musical tastes is that there wasn’t the access to the huge variety of music there is today. You get offered vanilla or chocolate, you’ll have some mass support for either flavor. You get offered 32 flavors of self-released home recordings at every turn, there won’t be such a mass movement.

    It’s just hard for me not to see the wide access to all sorts of crazy sounds at my fingertips as an enormous gift, and provides the opportunity for the sort of open-minded exploration and freedom that Arthur celebrates. That said, it’s not a shared experience.

    Maybe music in general is losing it’s power to unite by the sheer quantity that’s available?

  4. if you go to shows for the music, then go to a local music event in a club, hall, bar, theater, or whatnot. do not support stadium-level music acts! screw corporate music, and screw anyone that aspires to that.

    if you go to shows for the social scene, then go to lollapalooza. one simply can’t enjoy music at such places.

    simple as that.

    concerning woodstock now: it does not matter, for the reason listed above. the 60s are over, and while it’s good to know our history, it’s also good not to repeat it! let’s move forward, please.

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