What do you get when you mix Insane Clown Posse, Moby, Sheryl Crow, Limp Bizkit, Jewel, DMX, Kid Rock, Alanis Morissette, Metallica, and Willie Nelson? Aside from that first burnt mix CD that's hiding under the passenger seat of your car...Woodstock '99.
Thanks to the newest HBO Max documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, we get a glimpse at what really took place in Rome, NY over those 3 days.
Setting The Stage
After the success of Woodstock '94 (also known as "Mudstock" thanks to the poor weather) co-creator Michael Lang and producer John Scher attempted to cash in 5 years later. Enter MTV. They decided to cover the festival and stream it via Pay Per View for $59.95. Because if anyone knows how to milk a cash cow, it's MTV.
It's safe to say there was no real rhyme or reason to this lineup. You have your "nu metal" bands such as Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, and Korn (basically Ozzfest bands.) Then you have the '90s grunge pop with bands like Everclear, Creed, Live, and Our Lady Peace who now play fireworks night at the ballpark. Mix that with the likes of Willie Nelson, Wyclef Jean, The Counting Crows, and Elvis Costello. Plus DMX and Ice Cube? Like, seriously what?
There were only 3 female artists booked for the entire weekend; Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, and Jewel. Which according to a New York Times article means very little to promoter John Scher, and the main criteria to be booked at the festival was "have the charisma to pull it off." To give you an idea of how dysfunctional this line-up was...here's what Saturday night looked like.
6:30 - 7:45: Alanis Morissette (75 min)
7:45 - 8:05: set change
8:05 - 9:05: Limp Bizkit (60 min)
9:05 - 9:25: set change
9:25 - 10:55: Rage Against the Machine (90 min)
10:55 - 11:15: set change
11:15 - 12:45: Metallica (90 min)
Keep in mind Bill Clinton was every dude's hero at this moment in time and hormones were raging.
So to recap:
-Over 200,000 people
-Angsty white dudes with backwards hats
-Drugs and alcohol
What could go wrong?
What The Hell Happened?
Welp. Thousands of white dudes screaming the N-word back at DMX. So that's something.
A lot of men didn't seem to grasp the fact that just because there were boobs in the vicinity, didn't mean they had access to them. The "show your tits!" chants were just the beginning.
Women were groped, grabbed, and there were even reports of gang rape in the crowd.
To make matters worse, the showering area for men and women was literally separated by a tarp. You can guess how well that worked out. The outhouses overflowed almost immediately. So if you see pictures of people playing in the mud, it's mainly feces.
Over 20 years have passed since this festival, yet producer John Scher still refuses to take responsibility for what happened that weekend. Instead he blames Limp Bizkit for the crowd hysteria which spilled over into the later sets. "Break Stuff" was specifically where things got dicey on Saturday.
By Sunday, everyone was exhausted. Heat, dehydration, hunger, and cleanliness had become major issues. Festival-goers even started using the scarce drinking fountains as personal bathtubs. All the pent-up aggression was ready to be released with the Red Hot Chili Peppers closing out the night. They ended with a Jimi Hendrix cover, you guessed it..."Fire."
From there, it was every person for themselves. Security guards were told to turn their shirts inside out so they weren't targeted (if they hadn't already quit.) The rest is history.
Footage shows fires, trash, and destruction. When people talk about Sunday night, 'Lord of the Flies' is always a strong comparison.
And more fire. Eventually the cops showed up, but it was clearly too little too late.
The most terrifying statistic stemming from this whole ordeal is the 4 rapes which were reported to police. Of course the true number is probably much higher, but many assaults went unreported. According to Rolling Stone The Beastie Boys (who didn't even play the festival) were the only ones who even mentioned, or felt any sort of remorse for the incidents that took place at Woodstock.
It seemed like even from the beginning stages, there was a cloud over Woodstock '99. It didn't need to happen. But it did. And it was a weekend fueled by booze, toxic masculinity, angst and hate.
There were plans for Woodstock 50 in 2019, but that fell apart fairly quickly. Who knows if we'll ever see another iteration of the festival. And maybe that's the way it should be.