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Earlier than Fyre Competition, There was Woodstock ’99

On a weekend in the summertime of 1969, a bucolic dairy farm within the Catskill Mountains grew to become the location of a public American awakening. An estimated 400,000 folks attended the Woodstock Music & Artwork Truthful to revel of their idealism and to look at artists akin to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin give voice to their technology. The next 12 months, the filmmaker Michael Wadleigh launched Woodstock, an Oscar-winning documentary that captured all three days of peace and music.
Thirty years later, Woodstock’s cofounder Michael Lang, clearly trying to revenue on the parable he helped create, teamed up with the live performance promoter John Scher to stage Woodstock ’99. (The pageant’s second incarnation, Woodstock ’94, is remembered extra for its mud than its music. It went nicely, however did not make a revenue.) Ticket costs soared and company distributors flocked to what was billed as “three extra days of peace, love, and rock & roll” — in a former Air Pressure base exterior of Rome, New York, about 140 miles from the unique Woodstock web site. The lineup leaned laborious on guttural, aggressive rock. Forward of the pageant, Scher issued a promotional assertion that looking back reads like a warning: “This isn’t your mother or father’s Woodstock.”
On July 23, 1999, a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals — who by all accounts and pictures have been largely male and white — arrived to Woodstock ’99 to be greeted by hovering temperatures, an unprepared and underpaid safety equipment, and never sufficient bogs. Artists together with Sheryl Crow, Wyclef Jean, Dave Matthews Band, and Willie Nelson echoed the mellow vibe of ’69, however promoters sought to capitalize on the rise of rap rock, post-grunge, and nu-metal, genres that captivated swaths of suburban youth hungry for rebel. At Woodstock ’99, they discovered it.
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WAVY GRAVY (hippie icon): In 1969, youngsters got here from all around the nation considering that they have been the one ones in opposition to the warfare. They have been hippies, and within the cities the place they lived, they have been sort of a scourge. However once they arrived in Bethel, New York, they immediately realized that there have been a half-million of them, and that they have been certainly what the activist Abbie Hoffman known as the Woodstock Nation.
PILAR LAW (manufacturing assistant): Michael Lang was actually younger when he signed as much as do the primary one, and he created a legacy, which I’m positive knowledgeable his life. If you’re that younger after which immediately you do one thing that adjustments the world, you’ve gotten an enormous duty. I believe that clearly he and his companions — as soon as the movie got here out and went worldwide, and other people responded by doing yoga and changing into hippies — didn’t wish to simply let that legacy die.
TOM MORELLO (guitarist, Rage Towards the Machine): The unique Woodstock was a watershed second for American tradition. It was a time of protesting immoral wars. It was a time of sexual liberation. It was a time when music was made out of a really genuine and natural place that linked with folks, when commerce wasn’t driving each resolution.
JEWEL (singer-songwriter): All of us love listening to tales about Woodstock, and it felt like nothing was going to measure as much as what we thought it was within the ’60s.
LAW: There was loads of working with the native authorities, the mayor of Rome, New York, and town council. The neighborhood was actually involved about 200,000 folks descending upon them, so we needed to do quite a bit to quell their fears and meet their necessities.
Of the estimated 225,00 attendees at Woodstock ’99, an estimated 90 p.c of them appeared like this.
GAVIN ROSSDALE (lead singer, Bush): I’ve this factor the place I don’t prefer to see the stage or the group earlier than we play a present. So I bear in mind strolling out onto that stage for the primary time and being completely blown away by the scale of the group. It should have been two- or three-hundred thousand folks. Simply an infinite sea of people.
ART ALEXAKIS (lead singer, Everclear): Administration was saying that there would most likely be about 20,000 or 30,000 folks at our present. After we walked out, the group was so far as I might see. The sound of 200,000 folks singing your tune again to you, nicely, I can’t even let you know what it feels like, man.
RAINE MAIDA (lead singer, Our Woman Peace): I’ve by no means seen that many individuals earlier than in my life. It was sort of overwhelming.
A.JAY POPOFF (lead singer, Lit): We carried out smack-dab in the midst of the primary day. It was a good time slot as a result of everybody was fired as much as kick off this huge pageant. There was not one of the negativity that individuals have been feeling by the second evening.
JEFF STARK (journalist, Salon): The minute I walked onto the pageant web site, I spotted that they have been in bother. You’re strolling onto a army base and an airstrip, so it had all of the allure of a jail. And so they have been tremendous involved about folks with the ability to break in, as a result of on the different Woodstocks folks simply confirmed up and broke down the fences. In order that they mainly made a short lived jail camp, and so they crammed it with 200,000 folks.
 
“There was a vibe that didn’t echo the peace, love, and understanding of the unique Woodstock, and that was very a lot within the air.” —TOM MORELLO
 
NOODLES (lead guitarist, The Offspring): We arrived that day on [The Offspring lead singer] Dexter Holland’s prop aircraft, and we really flew over the occasion and bought to look down and test it out from the air. It appeared a little bit cooler from up above. As soon as we bought to the bottom and bought a little bit extra acquainted with the realm, it wasn’t tremendous hospitable. We performed this pageant in Nuremberg, at an previous Nazi park, so I’ve performed a venue that was actually constructed by Hitler that was extra hospitable than that Air Pressure base was.
MAIDA: All of the festivals we performed up till that time had been on grass. There had been tons of room for folks, tons of shade, and so they had the facilities in order that when it bought out of hand, the group might disperse.
STARK: Water was 4 {dollars} a bottle, so folks have been spending their cash on beer as an alternative, which is a selection that numerous dumb youngsters make at all types of festivals.
LAW: There wasn’t sufficient infrastructure. We did loads of clearing and creating area for the tents and ran water strains out to the campgrounds. So there was a full infrastructure on the market, however what I heard was that any person broke a water line and the strain for the water simply dropped dramatically, so folks couldn’t fill their water bottles.
MAIDA: The factor that all the time caught with me — I’m most likely exaggerating over time — but it surely felt like water was ten {dollars} a bottle.
MIKE SCHREIBER (photographer): It appeared to not be very nicely organized, by way of safety and by way of folks having water and stuff like that. After which on prime of that, the kind of bands that have been performing lent themselves to jackasses. Mix the 2, and that’s a recipe for the place to finally get burned down.
LAW: I don’t wish to blame anyone, per se, however having been there and seen what occurred, I believe that it was the right storm for the catastrophe that it was. I sort of bought blocked out of conferences after I demanded that we get extra water and shade.
STARK: They didn’t wish to have cops in uniform as a result of they thought that will set a nasty vibe. I can perceive that at a jam band pageant the place everyone seems to be smoking weed and getting wiggly, however should you’re doing that at a pageant the place you’re anticipating all people is drunk and the purpose is getting wasted and listening to essentially loud, aggressive music, it’s only a unhealthy look.
JEWEL: It was surreal that I used to be common sufficient to be requested to play at it, particularly due to the sort of music that I performed. For those who have a look at that lineup, I’m not like something on it.
POPOFF: Throughout that point, various radio or fashionable rock, or no matter you wish to name it, was so various. You had bands like us, Limp Bizkit, Sugar Ray, Chemical Brothers, and Fatboy Slim. I believe the style was so widespread that the followers have been just about in every single place. All of the bands that have been taking part in Woodstock have been thriving in that market.
ALEXAKIS: It was like they hit up each agent for each band that was getting performed on various radio.
LAW: Michael’s intention was to maintain the spirit of the primary one alive, however I believe it failed due to the kind of music and the kind of vitality that it created by inviting an viewers that was actually raging in opposition to the machine on the time, sort of just like the punks have been within the ’70s. I believe that was a miscalculation of epic proportions.
The abject wreckage of Woodstock ’99.
MAIDA: When it got here to nu-metal, we all the time felt like outcasts. I used to be extra snug taking part in with Cake than I used to be with Limp Bizkit. We associated extra to Radiohead and Travis and Elastica than the nu-metal stuff. It has this aggro underbelly to it.
STARK: This was absolutely the peak of a horrible style of music. It was out of contact with what was occurring commercially on the time, which might’ve been Billboard’s Prime 100 — Future’s Youngster, TLC, Christina Aguilera — all individuals who would’ve been completely good pageant stars. That is music {that a} very small section of individuals was serious about — dumb school boys — and it created a pageant that was for them, sprinkled with a few different bands that have been put there virtually as if for range. You’ve bought Alanis Morissette, who’s protruding like a sore thumb. You’ve bought Ice Dice and DMX. You’ve bought Willie Nelson there to signify…all of nation music?
POPOFF: On Friday evening, we went over to the East Stage to look at Korn, which was one of the vital insane issues I had ever seen, essentially the most vitality I’ve ever seen in a crowd to this present day.
SCHREIBER: I bear in mind the Korn set specifically being completely insane. I took some footage of some youngsters who didn’t appear like they have been going to depart alive.
STARK: The children I talked to have been there for Korn. It was their second. They liked Korn, in a approach that they didn’t love Limp Bizkit or Rage Towards the Machine. Korn was having its second. It was completely not my factor, but it surely was undoubtedly highly effective. 
JEWEL: Seeing the opposite acts is all the time superior. Musicians hardly ever get to hang around as a result of we’re all touring individually. We learn about one another, we would have met one another, however we don’t actually have something extra acquainted than that.
ROSSDALE: I don’t bear in mind the place we stayed that evening. It’s laborious to recollect the place you spent the evening while you smoked your physique weight in weed.
ALEXAKIS: We have been staying at this previous resort, and Rage, Korn, and Ice Dice have been staying there. It was simply rocker folks in every single place. I normally don’t go to events, however I went to Korn’s room.
MORELLO: Numerous the bands have been staying in the identical place, so I bear in mind most of my Woodstock expertise was sort of sitting in a foyer of a resort, listening to these grim tales coming again of what had transpired throughout the day. 
STARK: It wasn’t like there have been some timber that you might go and sit beneath or go lay within the grass. It wasn’t like there was a large air-conditioned dome the place you might go and eat popsicles. There was tarmac, there have been tents, and there was mud. These have been your choices.
NOODLES: If the climate had been 10 levels cooler, it most likely would have made an enormous distinction.
LAW: My largest remorse, and I don’t know if I might have had any affect within the final result, however the Waterkeeper Alliance wished to offer free water to the pageant, and for one cause or one other, they weren’t invited to convey free water to the pageant. I believe that if we had made water free and had areas for shade, that will have made an enormous distinction. If you’re confronted with spending $four on water or $5 on a beer, you’re going to purchase the beer.
MORELLO: We performed one million pageant reveals, however one thing felt completely different and a little bit unsettled within the viewers, and it could have needed to do with the ascendancy of rap-rock, the descendants of Rage Towards the Machine. There was a vibe that didn’t echo the peace, love, and understanding of the unique Woodstock, and that was very a lot within the air.
Insane Clown Posse singer Shaggy 2 Dope scooting into Woodstock ’99.
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By the point Alanis Morissette completed her set late within the second day of the pageant, the group had develop into extra aggressive, and extra male, as folks waited for Limp Bizkit to take the stage. Throughout their now-infamous set, frontman Fred Durst has been accused of inciting the viewers to violence. “Individuals are getting harm,” he mentioned. “Don’t let anyone get harm. However I don’t suppose you need to mellow out. That’s what Alanis Morissette had you motherfuckers do.”
STARK: Fred Durst was brazenly mocking Alanis Morissette from the stage, which is mainly the equal of turning his viewers on different audiences on the pageant. They have been making a scenario by which we weren’t all on this collectively. It grew to become us versus them, and that’s fucking loopy.
LAW: I bought a name from my father, Tom Regulation, who was the chief of safety on the first Woodstock. He known as me from New York when the MTV feed went down and he mentioned, “The place are you?” I mentioned, “I’m within the workplace.” He’s like, “Okay, keep there. Don’t go exterior as a result of we don’t know what’s occurring.” And I’m like, “What are you speaking about?” He mentioned, “MTV simply went down.” The group was rocking the three-story scaffolding that MTV was broadcasting from and so they simply determined it was too harmful, so that they break up.
SCHREIBER: It undoubtedly felt harmful within the pit and on the risers. Individuals have been throwing stuff, and other people have been crowd-surfing on plywood. They made all of the photographers go away as a result of any person was going to get harm. I used to be joyful to depart at that time. I’m not a warfare photographer for a cause.
STARK: They have been really telling folks to tear shit up. It was just like the pageant was setting the tone for the Saturday evening bar struggle, and Limp Bizkit unleashed it.
ROSSDALE: It was an actual disgrace {that a} bunch of assholes within the viewers needed to damage it for everybody who was simply there to take pleasure in a rock live performance.
GRAVY: I used to be actually pissed off at Limp Bizkit, who was actually encouraging the viewers to destroy shit. I’ve solely only in the near past forgiven Fred Durst for that outburst.
MORELLO: I perhaps noticed the very finish of the Limp Bizkit present. We carried out proper after, after which we have been proper out of there, man. I used to be on web site for an hour and 35 minutes on the most.
LAW: The rubbish cleanup wasn’t going as deliberate and other people have been overwhelmed. And identical to the primary Woodstock, these youngsters wished to make it a free present, so that they began tearing down the barricades across the pageant. This was a five-foot-wide metal construction with one-inch, eight-foot-tall plywood on each side, and by the top of the pageant, it was a twisted mess of nothing.
STARK: If you’re at smaller reveals and also you’re a part of a punk scene in your city and a band comes via and a mosh pit begins, it’s an expression of neighborhood. You’re not placing your foot on any person’s neck, since you’re going to see them at a present two weeks later. Right here, you had a pageant the place folks have been coming from throughout and so they’re being stoked to interrupt issues, to set free all of the anger and knock one another out.
MAUREEN CALLAHAN, (journalist): One of many issues that was so telling was that youngsters have been tearing down the plywood wall. Each time they might attempt to restore the wall to some extent to make issues appear to be they have been beneath management, the children would simply rip the wall down once more. That, to me, is likely one of the nice indicators of who was actually operating the present.
MORELLO: When folks began tearing the place down, I believe it had little or no to do with the hooliganism of a technology and every thing to do with the exploitation of younger folks at an occasion. There was this sort of frat boy privilege that was, if not stoked on that individual day, within the ethos of among the music on the time.
JEWEL: After I performed on Sunday, there was a particular feeling of unrest within the viewers. You heard about water being costly. Youngsters have been thirsty. They have been overheating. I hate saying it, but it surely had a bit extra of a company really feel than the way you think about the primary one. And I believe the children weren’t thrilled about it. I believe they might inform the spirit by which the occasion was placed on was not the spirit that they have been offered.
ALEXAKIS:  Total, it was a very constructive expertise onstage. Earlier than and after, not a lot. I bear in mind going to some meet and greets and it simply appeared like loads of jaded rockers, drug sellers, and groupies. It’s not a vibe that we ever had at our reveals as a result of I’m clear and sober.
MAIDA: We went onstage on day three of 90-degree temperatures on that tarmac. I didn’t sense one thing was going to occur, as a result of the group appeared fairly beat down. There wasn’t loads of vitality left in them.
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Earlier than the Pink Scorching Chili Peppers took the stage on Sunday evening, the anti-violence group PAX distributed roughly 100,000 candles meant for an anti-gun vigil throughout the band’s anthem “Underneath the Bridge.” As a substitute, these candles have been utilized by many to gentle bonfires that shortly grew uncontrolled, sparking mass rioting.
ALEXAKIS: You’re giving individuals who have been exterior for 3 days hearth? I do know you’re most likely making an attempt to have a kumbaya second, but it surely’s not gonna occur, dude.
JEWEL: I used to be going to remain for the Chili Peppers. I’m really pals with Flea, he and I knew one another after I was homeless. He was the bass participant on “You Have been Meant for Me,” which no one is aware of. However when the fires began breaking out, my tour supervisor bought us out of there.
“Everytime you get giant teams of individuals collectively,” the singer-songwriter Jewel (above) says, “you’re going to see precisely the place our tradition is at.”
LAW: We had painters are available from throughout to color the partitions. We had one-inch-thick plywood that they have been creating unique items on. The thought was that Michael was going to tour this artwork present all around the nation. Individuals put their hearts and souls into these lovely items of artwork that surrounded the pageant grounds. That wall was what was used to then create the bonfires on the finish. That was very unhappy for me, very unhappy for Michael, and, after all, very unhappy for the entire artists.
POPOFF: On the time, we have been like, “Man, the irony on this entire factor is {that a} band known as Lit had nothing to do with any of the fires.”
LAW: I had heard that the primary spherical of firemen who had are available to attempt to put out the fires have been pelted with water bottles, so they simply retreated and let it burn. There was nothing they might do.
MORELLO: When the entire place was burning to the bottom the following day, folks have been calling us like, “Are you all proper?” I used to be like, “I’ve been in a Manhattan resort for 24 hours. I’m nowhere close to that.”
CALLAHAN: The rioting was front-page information the following day. I bear in mind it on the entrance web page of the New York Put up.
LAW: They burned all of the tractor trailers. It was just like the apocalypse. There was this fog in every single place and there have been these tents that have been melted and burned to the bottom.
 
“I do know you’re most likely making an attempt to have a kumbaya second, but it surely’s not gonna occur, dude.” —ART ALEXAKIS
 
STARK: Anybody who says the musicians are answerable for the riots is letting the pageant off the hook, as a result of a riot is an expression of a wronged folks. They’re not rioting on Sunday evening as a result of Limp Bizkit instructed them to interrupt issues. They’re rioting as a result of they weren’t taken care of, as a result of they have been taken benefit of, as a result of they have been commodified, as a result of they weren’t handled like people, as a result of they didn’t have consuming water.
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As the complete scope of the chaos grew to become clear, disturbing studies of widespread sexual assault, together with groping and rape, which had occurred as early as Korn’s Friday evening set, had begun to emerge.
CALLAHAN: I used to be working at Spin on the time. Our concern was just about closed, and I bear in mind we had this assembly about whether or not we must always scrap an excellent chunk of it and attempt to report out what went improper as finest we might, starting to finish, about how these rapes and riots and lawlessness and fires occurred. It was an actual problem to seek out the ladies who had been harm. Within the last tally, at the least after we completed our reporting, there have been 5 of them. I consider the quantity might be approach greater.
ALEXAKIS: There have been all of those youthful ladies, and roadies have been giving them passes to satisfy the band, however actually they have been simply taking them beneath the stage and having intercourse with them. That pissed me off.
LAW: For me to listen to that girls had been raped was completely horrifying. I used to be horrified that there have been mother and father and their kids on the market feeling utterly violated.
JEWEL: Everytime you get giant teams of individuals collectively, you’re going to see precisely the place our tradition is at. My guess is within the ’60s there was loads of groping occurring, too. I don’t suppose that’s a brand new phenomenon. It wasn’t invented within the ’90s, but it surely began to be much less accepted.
MAIDA: It’s straightforward responsible all that mad-at-your-dad rap steel stuff. It was highly effective. The bands have been promoting loads of information and doing massive excursions. To me, it’s extra seemingly as a result of they missed the mark on a few of these situations. Like racking folks into this tarmac, not offering them with easy shit like hoses, not having sufficient bogs. It’s the little shit that catches up after three days.
CALLAHAN: I don’t blame any of the musicians for what occurred. They parachute in and so they parachute out. There have been 200,000 youngsters on web site. There have been phases and encampments and tents in farflung components of this huge Air Pressure base. So to place anybody factor on an act, I don’t suppose that’s honest. I believe our story makes clear that the promoters have been trying to lower corners in every single place they might.
The savage hearth that roared via Woodstock ’99 erupted from candles meant for an anti-gun vigil.
MORELLO: It wasn’t Altamont, but it surely didn’t really feel just like the heir to the Woodstock throne. I believe they have been sort of swinging for the moon by calling this the 30th anniversary of Woodstock, and on account of a few surprising vectors, they bought sexual assaults and other people tried to burn the place down.
GRAVY: If Michael Lang produced it or was concerned, it’s Woodstock. That’s how I see it.
NOODLES: It wasn’t actually about peace and love. It was a money-making enterprise, let’s face it.
POPOFF: It could most likely really feel a bit higher if it had gone smoother, however on the similar time, there was 1 / 4 of one million folks there watching loads of their favourite bands play. Lots worse has occurred on the planet since then.
STARK: We snigger at Fyre Competition now, however after I watch these documentaries, I have a look at it and I’m like, “At the least that they had an thought.” If Woodstock ’99 had been successful, it nonetheless would have been unhealthy.
CALLAHAN: Wanting again 20 years later, it’s extremely unhappy as a result of Technology X had begun the last decade with Nirvana. You had Kurt Cobain in a gown, difficult all types of gender norms and sexual orientations; you had Riot grrrl and this ostensible parity between girls and boys. There was one thing in regards to the time that felt extra fashionable and equitable. Our technology was actually the primary the place loads of males had been raised by single mothers. Numerous them have been espousing feminist beliefs. By the center of the last decade, you had a band just like the Beastie Boys making public apologies for his or her former acts of misogyny and sexism. Enlightened rock-n-roll. After which Woodstock ’99 occurred, and it felt just like the masks bought ripped off.

https://www.interviewmagazine.com/tradition/an-oral-history-of-woodstock-99