Sunday’s lineup was again packed with rockers: The Band, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix. Attendance estimates kept rising, and the state police figure was 450,000, while others rounded it off to an even half-million.
By Sunday every portable toilet was filled to capacity, and the mud was at least six inches deep. Babette Brackett remembers, “My husband [Josh] said our situation was much like being in the Army. We were the officers, well prepared; most everyone else were enlisted men saved by the National Guard when they dropped care packages of food and water.”
Leo Lyons, bass player for Ten Years After, remembers that Woodstock was the group’s fourth U.S. tour. “We’d played many festivals before Woodstock, and until we arrived, I didn’t expect anything different from the others. That morning we took the red eye flight from St. Louis to New York City and intended to drive the rest of the way. The limo driver told us that things were crazy upstate and that traffic was backed up all the way to the festival. With some delay, we eventually did make it to the Holiday Inn.
“It was surreal. The hotel appeared to be a holding camp for festival musicians,” says Lyons. “In the lobby and coffee shop, I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, members of The Who, and many others I knew personally … the chopper deposited us close to the backstage area, and we walked around the enclosure, trying to take in the whole crazy scene. I could see this huge mass of people disappearing way up the hillside as far as the eye could see.”
Lyons hadn’t eaten since the night before and was thinking about going over to the catering area when Pete Townshend came striding purposely towards him. “‘Leo! Don’t eat any of the food, or drink anything that’s not from a sealed can. Everything is spiked with acid! I got caught last night.’”
County Joe’s Barry “the Fish” Melton remembers, “I was in the chopper with Joe Cocker, and we were riding low to the trees. It was a heck of a sight. Not only could you see the people in the stage area, you could see that there were another several hundred thousand people in the trees beyond the fringe. That’s when I realized how many people were actually there.”
Randy Sheets recalls a long lull after Jefferson Airplane. “We walked up the hill and over to a wooded area referred to as Hippie Lane and Drug Alley. There we found folks set up on blankets giving out various drugs from LSD to marijuana. There were also makeshift stands set up where people were selling crafts — beads and scarves, tie-dyed clothing, leather goods, and such. We walked back to the hilltop just as a band started into a soulful version of the Beatles: “What would you think if I sang out of tune, Would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song And I’ll try not to sing out of key.”
“The singer was clad in a tie-dyed t-shirt and seemed to be spazzing out as he sang. It was Joe Cocker.”
Patrick Howe recalls, “As Joe Cocker’s set progressed, the wind began to pick up, and we became aware of the sky quickly changing. It seemed as if he was summoning up the tempest with his wild performance, and just as his set ended, a huge thunderstorm hit.”
Backstage, Ten Years After’s Leo Lyons remembers, “The roadies and I huddled in the back of the truck as the drizzle turned into yet another hammering downpour, and the stage was shut down. I later learned that the promoters were in a state of panic. The paths created by the crowd, combined with the rainstorm, had exposed the high voltage cables that brought power to the