It’s been over 45 years since the iconic Woodstock Festival first took place. In 1969, nearly half a million music lovers made their way to the Catskills for the event that offered peace, love, and rock’n’roll. Thirty-two bands performed at there, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who. Two LIFE photographers named Bill Eppridge and John Dominis capture not only the music, but of the crowds, muddy fields, and lush woods where young people celebrated their youth.
The epic festival was originally supposed to be a ticketed affair, with booths set up to charge the $24 admission. But, they were never installed thanks to the unexpected surge of music fans, and the surrounding fences were torn down. This act declared that Woodstock was a free event. Over the course of just a few days, these documentary-style photos tell us a lot. They depict the communal living and the aftermath of a five-inch rainfall that turned everything into a giant mud pit. Concert-goers are seen receiving medical care, bathing nude in the streams, and standing as one giant mass with lighters in the air.
John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival recalls a 3:30AM start time (delayed because of rain), and how incredible the experience was:
We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.
And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.’ I played the rest of the show for that guy.