‘Like a horror movie’: revisiting the Fyre-esque catastrophe of Woodstock 99

It could be simple, because the director Garrett Value says within the opening seconds of his documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, to construction a movie in regards to the disastrous music pageant held on a July weekend in 1999 as a comedy. The reboot of Woodstock for an viewers largely born after the unique pageant in 1969 was a proto-Fyre meltdown of grotesque American extra, a panoply of late 90s nonsense – Child Rock strolling on stage in a white fur coat, Limp Bizkit as a predominant draw, largely younger, white, male Gen-Xers paying to see nu steel acts in a poorly managed swamp of filth. However the simple jabs, the sheen of cultural nostalgia over any Woodstock, significantly the primary one, masks what truly, says Value, “performed out way more like a horror movie”.

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage captures an occasion that devolved spectacularly, with a palpable present of misogyny, white male rage, entitlement and cynical commercialism. The services constructed at an outdated air power base in Rome, New York – the irony of a brand new Woodstock held at a navy facility – collapsed beneath the load of 200,000 guests. With water offered at $4, many festival-goers went with out in temperatures over 100F (37.8C). Over 1,200 had been handled for medical circumstances; three folks died. It’s a miracle it wasn’t extra – the pageant led to riots, as attendees whipped up by three days of anarchy-fueled music burned the fairgrounds. Forty-four had been arrested. There have been 10 reported sexual assaults, however a cursory look on the footage – male attendees groping topless girls with glee, as if free love equates to free violation – assures there have been many extra.

However the unique Fyre, because it’s typically been known as, has largely been forgotten as a cultural artifact, particularly by generations too younger to have been conscious of the occasion when it occurred. Woodstock 99 “sort of obtained swept beneath the rug”, Value informed the Guardian, and is usually confused with the extra profitable, much less risky Woodstock 94. The previous pageant “tells us the place we’re culturally greater than within the early 90s”.

“You begin the last decade with Nirvana, with Pearl Jam, with hip-hop like A Tribe Referred to as Quest, there’s kind of this idealism within the music, anti-establishment and non-commercialism,” stated Value, “and also you finish the last decade with commercialism and nihilism. How did we get from right here to there?

“I’m not blaming that point for the place we at the moment are, however I feel there’s quite a lot of attention-grabbing strands you’ll be able to tie from one finish to the opposite.”

On the time of the pageant, Value was a sophomore in faculty in Texas, watching acts equivalent to Korn, Metallica, Alanis Morisette and the Rage Towards the Machine on pay per view along with his roommates. “On the time, sure it was chaotic, it was loopy, nevertheless it by no means felt that loopy,” he stated of the pageant in 1999. “I had extra Fomo, I feel, that I missed out on this factor. And it wasn’t till years later after I began digging in, and I began studying some exposés on it” that he realized some horrible issues occurred.

Woodstock 99 untangles most of the threads that combusted into what appears to be like, by the tip, like a burning apocalypse via a heap of archival footage and interviews with taking part musicians equivalent to Moby, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, and Jewel, attendees and music critics. There’s the doomed impulse to reboot a extremely romanticized second for Boomers (the unique Woodstock was, in actuality, a large number, a number of shades of luck from tragedy) right into a money-maker for younger faculty youngsters – a part of a cultural sample of “Boomers pushing their beliefs on youthful generations”, stated Value. There was the response to the chart-dominating teen pop of Britney Spears, ‘NSync, and the Backstreet Boys with overtly aggro acts like Limp Bizkit (selection track: Break Stuff).

And there was rampant raunch tradition – the sort skewered in two different breakout movies of the 12 months, Promising Younger Lady and Framing Britney Spears – which figured girls’s our bodies as at the start for the enjoyment of males. With the recognition of Ladies Gone Wild and lad mags like Maxim and FHM, “it was a time of objectifying girls,” stated Value, “and blend that with the advertising beliefs of the counterculture of free love, and also you simply create a poisonous setting.” It’s an setting through which solely three girls had been invited to carry out (Jewel, Alanis, Sheryl Crow), through which girls are groped as they crowd-surf, through which hundreds of males chant “present your tits!” to an on-stage Rosie Perez, through which the live performance’s promoter, Michael Scher, might insist the issue was truly MTV overstating the mayhem, as he does once more within the movie.

A nonetheless from Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage. {Photograph}: HBO

With Woodstock 99, the promote of 60s idealism curdled into the license to take, to do issues not permitted off-grounds. There’s chilling footage of the late rapper DMX main the gang in a name and response to his lyrics, and a sea of largely white folks gleefully shout again the N-word. “The black performer is actually licensing the folks within the crowd to say this phrase with him,” Wesley Morris, a cultural critic with the New York Occasions, says within the movie. “To carry out a factor that they don’t consider. Or perhaps they do consider it, however for those who had been to ask them what they consider, for those who obtained every one among these guys after the present, and pulled them apart and stated, ‘is it OK to say the N-word beneath any circumstances?’ They’d, to an individual, say, ‘I imply, the precise reply is not any, proper?’”

The lure of transgression and debauchery, it seems, was potent. Among the outcomes are grossly comical – attendees slide in mud, as within the unique pageant, apparently unaware it’s human waste from overflowed and defaced bogs. Extra usually, it’s sinister, destruction for destruction’s sake. Maybe there’s no higher metaphor than the concluding fires, when candles handed out for a vigil for Columbine victims through the Pink Sizzling Chili Peppers’ Underneath the Bridge had been as an alternative used to torch the grounds, together with a “peace” mural.

From the music to the destruction, there’s a transparent through-line of unfiltered, seemingly sourceless rage, particularly among the many college-age, largely white males. The place did it come from? Who guilty for the catastrophe that was Woodstock 99? Because the movie outlines, there’s not one reply, proving the occasion a cultural second worthy of significant interrogation. “It’s a mix of the tradition, and the way in which the pageant was deliberate, and other people falling sufferer to the mythology of Woodstock, that every thing simply works out into this idyllic factor,” stated Value. “It simply all combined collectively resulted on this cacophony of craziness.”

  • Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage premieres on HBO on 23 July with a UK date to be introduced

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