Trainwreck: WoodStock ’99

Kerosene, match, BOOM.

Sound travels at the modest speed 343 m/sec. So when a band like Rage Against The Machine performs to a crowd of 200k-400k people, it takes several seconds for the sound from stage to reach all the way to the back… When you watch this incredible footage – the shots from the bands’ POV up on stage, you can see the beats ripple back through the crowd like massive ocean tsunamis. Row after row of white, half-naked (many fully naked) young people jumping wildly toward the heavens like apes before the 2001 monolith.

The title is not an exaggeration in the slightest. The attempt to revive the greatest, most culturally triumphant music fest in human history, Woodstock 1969, 30 years later was a complete and utter trainwreck. Thousands were injured in violent mosh pits, or suffered heat strokes. Poisoned when sewage contaminated the water supply. Zero trash was emptied or collected. Accumulated on the ground like a solid layer of snow. Women were raped. Rampant price Gauging (I’m talking $20 for a bottled water in today’s dollars. They were seizing water at the gates so you had to buy it inside). In the end, the entire venue literally burned to the ground. And by this point this really seemed to be the only humane solution to the whole debacle. The sight Monday morning was a smoldering, post-apocalyptic wasteland. Really the only bad thing that didn’t happen was a mass-shooting. By some miracle.

When you examine all the reasons why Version 1999 went so horribly wrong the list goes on to eternity. Who is to blame? The 3-part Netflix documentary examines all the suspects in an objective manner. From the hard rock, rebel rousing headliners, to their toxic-masculine fanbase. But it all circles back to corporate greed. To grade the organizers’ performance? Worse than an F. It would have to be a World War Z. Nothing was adequate. This festival was doomed to fail. Rigged to fail, you could even say. Organizers handed out 100,000 candles to the audience on night 3 for godsake – after witnessing the carnage of the first two days.

The real spine-tingling aspect is the musicians – seeing how they react differently to the crowd. They are all sensitive. But some care more about winning the crowd, and some care more about quelling them. You see the white swans like Jewel, Gavin Rossdale, Sheryl Crowe and Willy Nelson doing everything they can to spread peace and harmony, O.G. flower power. Sensing keenly the violent potential of the situation. Fearing it. You can see it in their eyes. Then you have Kid Rock and Fred Durst, burning men’s men, who just don’t give a flying fuck what happens, saying everything they can to incite the crowd and unleash as much fury as humanly possible. The contrast is extraordinary.

We can’t call Woodstock 1999 a reflection of a lost generation, or bad human nature. Because of corporate greed we have to put at least 100 asterisk marks before the name “Woodstock”, as Woodstock should be synonymous with love and human flourishing. 400,000 hopeful music enthusiasts each paid hundreds of dollars (1999 dollars) to enter a death trap where they were treated like animals by the rich and powerful. So they behaved like animals. This is what society at large might look like if they didn’t at least give us Netflix and high speed internet while they rob us blind. Power to the people✊🏼

It’s on Netflix

E.F.

12 thoughts on “Trainwreck: WoodStock ’99

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  1. I’m glad you wrote about this because I don’t recall it as I was planning my move to Finland. I was considering watching the series and you convinced me I have to.

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    1. The journalism is an important part of the story, which I know you especially can appreciate. This was before smartphones of course, so almost all of the footage comes from daring journalists and videographers who endangered themselves to get inside the crowds to film the chaos. And it is chaos… I heard Woodstock 99 went bad. But I never knew it got THIS bad.

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  2. Yeah well the Rolling Stones tried a free concert in Altamont California in 1969, hiring the Hells Angels as security by some accounts if you can believe it and it turned out more like Woodstock 1999. I will never forget the footage of Mick Jagger pleading with the crowd to settle down, “Children, children”, he cried.

    They were not children.

    Then there was the Kiss Concert in Seattle in the 1970’s where one of my classmates at Everett High, I think, was killed by a thrown bottle of booze of some kind. Empty of course. Gene Simmons will make you do that.

    Woodstock was a one off.

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    1. The Stones at Altamont ’69 seems to be the moment when rock music changed. And Flower Power died. Mick Jagger was blinded by his ego… I’ve never liked KISS. I think they are imposters. The empty beer bottle speaks louder than the music.

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  3. Oh, man! I heard a long time ago that it might be a second Woodstock but had entirely forgotten to see what came out of it. It is unfortunate and terrible to know how it has been going. It shows how humans progress going backwards and not forwards. You take a good example with the 2001 monolith; the difference is only the technic! I didn’t know that Netflix is a documentary; I might have a look at it if my nerves let me. Thank you for this “knowledgeable Reportage.”

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    1. The bands at Woodstock ’99 were mostly from the hard-rock, music genre. The lyrics are cynical and inspire fury and hatred. So the opposite of the peace, love, and understanding of Woodstock ’69. They should not have called this Woodstock!

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  4. Hi EF, wow I hadn’t seen or heard of the carnage to be honest. I may have heard there was a fire at the end of the festival but news outlets in the UK just reported it as a passing news item in a one or two sentence piece. As an ex semi-pro performer I have played a few venues and I have to say I was pretty lucky, 99% of them were fantastic.
    One famous gig I did was at the social club of a professional Rugby Football Club and the front row of the audience was the rugby team themselves…I thought I was about to enter a scrum (or scrimmage in NFL talk). To top it all the band I was in bought tickets for the Club’s charity lottery prize draw and ended up winning a case of alcohol….we tried to decline accepting the prize cos we thought people would think the draw was rigged but the rugby players insisted we keep the beers cos they’d loved our show!

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  5. Well there was a man named GG Allin. I think what WS 99 illustrates is how the “culture” of music has changed from the sixties through the nineties. To this day in 22, the “pit” is still a large feature and attraction for testosterone driven men. (However, I was at show where there was only 1 woman in the pit. she kept crashing into people, especially other women, who lined the pit. One small guy couldn’t take it when his girlfriend got smashed into, he jumped on the woman and they started brawling, rolling around, fighting in the pit area. After the show, the band waited for the guy and gang beat him. Nice, huh?) But back to western culture. (and this could be tied into your review of “Don’t Look Up”). Have we as a society stopped hoping and just started to believe that nothing can be fixed, nothing can be solved?? Is Woodstock just a brand that bought the nice house where Michael Lang was being interviewed for the documentary?

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  6. How sad to have your lyrics inspiring fury and hatred. What a waste of creativity. Should music ever be used that way, I wonder? BTW, I’ve never heard anyone talk about Mick Jagger’s ego! That was interesting. I’ve only ever heard that he’s pretty much a sweetheart. But who knows, right? Ehh, lol

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