August 15, 1969. Richie Havens, the first act of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, takes the stage and welcomes a crowd of several hundred thousand to the green fields of Max Yasgur's farm—which is quickly becoming the second-largest city in New York State. People are dancing, imbibing, meeting, and helping the ever-increasing stream of new neighbors set up camp. Beyond the fields, the roads are jammed with cars and people, some of whom have been traveling for days to reach the festival site. Havens enthusiastically delivers folk-blues standards and Beatles songs, then begins to improvise, riffing on the refrain "Freedom." Freedom is at the heart of the harmony of this landmark cultural event—along with brotherhood, love, and peace. The next three days are the realization of months and years of dreaming and planning, the result of miracles and crises and coincidences.
The story of the festival begins with Michael Lang, a kid out of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, who liked to smoke a joint and listen to jazz and who eventually found his way to Florida, where he opened a head shop and produced his first festival—Miami Pop, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and others. In the late sixties, after settling in Woodstock, he began to envision a music and arts festival where folks could come and stay for a few days amid the rural beauty of upstate New York. The idea crystallized when Lang talked it over with Artie Kornfeld, a songwriter and A & R man, and with two other young men they formed Woodstock Ventures. They booked talent, from Janis Joplin and the Who to the virtually unknown Santana and Crosby, Stills and Nash; won over agents and promoters; brought in the Hog Farm commune to set up campgrounds; hired a peacekeeping force; took on fleets of volunteers; appeased the Yippies; and were run out of one town and found another site weeks before the festival.
On the ground with the talent, the townspeople, and his handpicked crew, Lang had a unique and panoramic perspective of the festival. Enhanced by interviews with others who were central to the making of the festival, The Road to Woodstock tells the story from inspiration to celebration, capturing all the magic, mayhem, and mud in between.