How Woodstock '94 compared with the original 1969 music festival

Canadians were among the many thousands of fans who turned up for the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock music festival.

Mud at 25th anniversary concert was similar, but the pricey merchandise wasn't

Reporter John Northcott said Woodstock '94 was "billed as drug-free," but this fan appeared to ignore the rule. Earlier, a security guard noted "people walking around smoking joints" was a common sight. (The National/CBC Archives)

A new HBO documentary is revisiting Woodstock '99, a weekend music festival held in July 1999 to mark 30 years since the original Woodstock festival in 1969. 

According to the documentary's description on, Woodstock '99 was a three-day festival that "devolved into riots, looting and sexual assaults" but had been "promoted to echo unity and counterculture idealism of the original 1969 concert."

Echoes of 1969 also seemed to be the intention for Woodstock '94, the festival's 25th anniversary event five years earlier — an event that CBC reporter John Northcott attended in August 1994 along with thousands of Canadian and American music fans.

"There were echoes of 1969 in upstate New York today," said Saturday Report host Kevin Newman, introducing Northcott's report. 

Newman said some things were "pretty much the same" in 1994 compared with 1969. But others were "very different."

'A hell of a lot of people'

'Echoes of 1969' at Woodstock '94

29 years ago
Duration 2:28
Promoters and fans try to reprise the magic of the original Woodstock festival at a 1994 version of events.

One thing that was the same in 1994 was performer Joe Cocker, who had played the first Woodstock 25 years earlier.

But it wasn't the musicians on the bill that got the attention of an audience member wrapped in what appeared to be an American flag. He singled out the road trip he'd taken to get to the site in Saugerties, N.Y. and join what Newman had said were "a quarter of a million" others at the festival 

"How would I describe it?" he asked. "A hell of a lot of people, man." 

Few of the fans at the festival had even been born when the original Woodstock took place, noted Northcott. 

Northcott said Woodstock '94 was designed to operate "like a small city," featuring over 1,000 pay phones, "designer ice cream," and first-aid crews on golf carts.

T-shirts, sweats and posters bearing the Woodstock logo were among the official licensed goods for sale at the 1994 event, according to the New York Times. There was also a licensed Woodstock condom available for purchase. (The National/CBC Archives)

Even the experience of mud on the site was different in 1994 compared with 1969.

"Twenty-five years ago, concert-goers were forced to endure the stuff," said Northcott. "Now, it's an organized attraction."

Late that first day, the fences had come down and people got in without paying — something Northcott said the event shared with the first Woodstock.

Fans faced a 'quagmire'

Why Woodstock '94 turned into 'Mudstock'

29 years ago
Duration 1:42
Reporter John Northcott takes in the scene at the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock.

"I wish I didn't waste 140 bucks on a ticket, because I just walked in and nobody looked at my ticket," said a woman in a bikini top in Northcott's report two days later.

And the similarities between 1969 and 1994 kept on coming.

"Like the first event 25 years ago, heavy rains turned the farmer's field into a quagmire," said Northcott, who added that many concert-goers had gone home early because of the mess.

But he said "many more" viewed the mud as a "defining element."

"Best time of my life," said a man who was covered head-to-toe in sticky brown sludge. "Awesome." 

Reporter John Northcott said "tons" of cups, pizza boxes and plastic sheeting were left behind on the last day of Woodstock '94. (CBC Evening News/CBC Archives)

There were more downsides to the event: Northcott reported there had been over 1,000 injuries during the weekend, for one thing — and that wasn't all.

"Some complained the event had been overly commercialized," said the reporter. "And it was, but nobody seemed to mind."

A woman brandishing a souvenir sweatshirt she had apparently bought announced its price: $45, which is almost $75 in 2021. But, she added, it was "worth it." 

As the day was winding down, the camera showed the monumental scale of the garbage that concert-goers left behind. Northcott said it was expected to take "weeks" to clean it all up.

But the festival organizers were expected to clean up as well, reported the New York Times Service a week after the end of Woodstock '94.

"[A]lready in the works are a book, a movie, a video and a compact disc set, among other possible after-products," the news service said. Those ventures were said to be worth a potential $150 million. 

In this Aug. 15, 1969 file photo, concert goers attend the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival held on a 600-acre pasture in the Catskill Mountains near White Lake in Bethel, N.Y. The famous concert poster with a bird perched on a guitar neck advertised “three days of peace and music,” spanning from Aug. 15-17. But Woodstock lasted more than three days. Thanks to delays, it bled into the morning of Aug. 18. (File/The Associated Press)

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