Nobody knew what to expect at Woodstock the first time around.
When the promoters were putting the original festival together 25 years ago, they figured there would be good music, pleasant weather and a crowd of just more than 60,000 people. Instead, they wound up with a half million people (few of whom actually paid admission), torrential rains, and ancillary problems ranging from road-choking traffic to a chronic shortage of food, medicine and sanitary facilities.
This time, they're prepared.
Woodstock '94 may not turn out to be as epochal an event as the 1969 festival, but it will almost certainly be a more orderly and eco-friendly one. Working closely with New York State agencies and local communities, the promoters behind Woodstock '94 have done everything imaginable to ensure that things will go smoothly when the gates open tomorrow in Saugerties. With luck, there should be no traffic snarls, no trouble finding toilets, and no shortage of things to eat.
About the only thing they haven't worked out is how to keep it from raining. "But I don't think it will be a problem," says Michael Lang, who runs Woodstock Ventures along with John Roberts and Joel Rosenman. "It's usually not that bad up here. I mean, I've lived here for 25 years, and '69 was the worst period of weather that we've had. We may get some rain, but I don't think it will be severe."
Naturally, there will be plenty of music. Unlike the first festival, Woodstock '94 will have two stages, with live music on each. Don't worry: The two, facing opposite directions, are about a third of a mile apart, says Lang, so there'll be little chance the sound from one will interfere with the other.
Most of the big names, such as Aerosmith, Metallica, Peter Gabriel and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will play the North Stage. Performances on the South Stage will tend more toward special events -- like the Band's "Big Pink to Jericho" show, which will feature cameos by Bob Weir, Roger McGuinn, Bruce Hornsby and Hot Tuna, or Paul Rodgers' "Rock and Blues Revue," which will feature Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and Queen fretmaster Brian Mays.
Things start at 4 p.m. Friday with an eight-hour show on the North Stage featuring Blues Traveller, Sheryl Crow and Collective Soul, among others. The music resumes at noon Saturday, and will run until roughly 2 a.m. Sunday's shows start at 10 a.m. with an all-star female soul choir called Sisters of Glory, and should finish by 1 a.m.
There will also be raves Saturday and Sunday nights, for those who literally want to dance until dawn.
Add in an assortment of poets and performance artists, plus such sideline attractions as the environmentally conscious booths of the Eco-Village and hi-tech gadgetry on display at the Surreal Field, and Woodstock '94 ought to be a big hit with insomniacs.
But won't all that non-stop entertainment be a bit much for folks old enough to have attended the first Woodstock? Maybe so, but Lang and company aren't worried, because that's not the audience they're expecting.
"We're not doing this as an oldies show for 50-year-old people to sit in a field -- even though some of us will be," he says. "It was always planned as a contemporary show for kids." He adds that the average age of attendees is expected to be 23.
A list of do's and don'ts
Managing a crowd so large -- at press time, Woodstock Ventures had sold 168,029 of the 250,000 available tickets -- and so young takes more than planning, though. It helps if there are certain ground rules in place and, as such, the promoters are issuing a list of do's and don'ts to all ticket holders.
Among the things that cannot be taken on-site:
* Firearms, knives, axes and hatchets.
* Tape recorders or video cameras.
* Stoves, grills, cooking utensils or lanterns.
* Glass or metal cans or bottles.
State health officials won't let food be taken in, except for those with special dietary needs. But that, says Lang, is mainly to keep people from getting sick off spoiled food. "If people want to bring crackers and stuff like that, nobody's going to give anybody a hard time," he says. "But the health department is really down on perishable foodstuffs."
There will be plenty of food for sale, of course, from hot dogs and hamburgers to vegetarian fare and kosher food. Lang suggests $20 to $25 a day for food, depending on how much you normally eat.
Drink is another matter. Not only aren't concert-goers permitted to take alcoholic beverages in with them, but there will be no alcohol available on-site, either. "One of the mandates that the state put onto us was no alcohol," explains Woodstock publicist Aileen Budow.
Drugs are an even bigger no-no. Unlike the first Woodstock, which found listeners sitting beneath a haze of marijuana smoke as people onstage warned against "bad acid," folks at Woodstock '94 are expected to Just Say No. Budow says that rumors about drug-sniffing dogs being on hand are "not true," but adds that the possession or use of illegal drugs or controlled substances is very much frowned upon.
The times, they are a-changin'.
Besides restricting what can be taken into Woodstock '94, the concert organizers will assign parking for those driving to Saugerties, and have limits on how often audience members can leave the festival site.
In order to keep traffic from Woodstock '94 from shutting down the local roads the way its predecessor did, the promoters have made it impossible for anyone to get into the concert without following the rules.
There will be no direct parking at the festival site; in fact, the nearest exit from the New York Thruway will be closed to keep car traffic from approaching the concert grounds. Instead, everyone will arrive by bus -- from their hometowns, the airports or one of the local parking areas.
If you're driving, check traffic conditions in advance. The New York Thruway Authority operates a toll-free information line at (800) 847-8929, offering the latest in traffic and weather conditions.
Don't drive unless you have a parking pass, though. Not only is a pass necessary to get into the official parking lots, but it will direct you to the right place to obtain the rest of your admissions package. (If you go to the wrong lot by mistake, don't worry; the lots are relatively close by one another, and you'll be redirected by the staff.)
Once in, you'll be allowed to leave the grounds once if you're camping, or once a day if you've booked a room in the area. "The purpose behind that is to cut down on the traffic going back and forth," explains Lang. "To get 100,000 or 200,000 people in and out would be impossible. And there's really no place to go if you don't have a room."
Lang is expecting the crowd to decamp as gradually as it will arrive. "Because most of the major acts will have played by Sunday evening, people who have to be back Monday morning will probably leave late Sunday afternoon and early evening," he says. "People who don't, can leave at their leisure through the night. There will be things going on all night . . . so there should be no big rush to get out. It's not like the show goes off and the lights go on and everybody has to empty out.
"I think a lot of people are planning to stay until Monday morning."
WHAT TO TAKE
If you're planning to attend Woodstock '94, it's suggested that you take the following:
Sunscreen and non-aerosol insect repellent. "You should have a tetanus shot if you haven't had it in the last 10 years," says Woodstock '94 publicist Aileen Budow. "And as with any place where there's grass and a woody area, there are ticks."
A sweater. "The evenings can be sometimes cool," warns promoter Michael Lang.
A canteen or plastic bottle for water. "It's always a good idea to keep water with you, especially if you're in the middle of the crowd," says Mr. Lang.
If you're planning on camping, the following are also recommended:
A sleeping bag or bedroll.
A small pop-up tent. But not one requiring stakes.
"It's good to bring stuff that you can put in a roll and carry around with you, rather than take things that you would have to leave," adds Mr. Lang.
Woodstock music schedule
Here's a look at who's playing, and when (band order is approximate):
Friday 4 p.m. to midnight: Blues Traveler; Jackyl; Del Amitri; Live; James; King's X; Sheryl Crow; Collective Soul; Candlebox; Violent Femmes
Saturday Noon to 2 a.m.:
North Stage: Joe Cocker; Blind Melon; Cypress Hill; Rollins Band; Melissa Etheridge; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Nine Inch Nails; Metallica; Aerosmith
South Stage: The Cranberries; Zucchero; Youssou N'Dour; the Band's "Big Pink to Jericho"; Primus; Salt-N-Pepa.
Overnight 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Rave with Deee-Lite and Orbital
Sunday 10 a.m. to midnight: North Stage: Sisters of Glory; Arrested Development; Allman Brothers Band; Traffic; Spin Doctors; Porno for Pyros; Bob Dylan; Red Hot Chili Peppers; Peter Gabriel
South Stage: W.O.M.A.D. featuring Xalem, the Justin Trio, Geoffrey Oryema and Hassan Hakmoun; Green Day; Neville Brothers; Paul Rodgers' "Rock & Blues Revue"; Santana; Jimmy Cliff's Reggae Jam, featuring Rita Marley, Diana King, Worl-A-Girl, Toots Hibbert, Eek-a-Mouse
Overnight 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.: Rave with the Orb