Genre(s): Country Western
Woodstock '99 | the music-critic report
If you were there you never will forget it. Hell even if you weren't there you probably won't forget it, what with the media's sensationalism about the event.
If you want to know what really went down at THE CONCERT OF THE DECADE, read on. We were there, not as simple reporters looking on to the crowd, but actual participants. The following account is the true story of Woodstock '99 - the love, the music, and the epochal mayhem. A mayhem that has been festering in the darkness for some 30 years, only to wretch its way out just in time to welcome in the millenium.
This was a celebration of peace, and love... and sex, and drugs, and rock 'n' roll. This was a celebration of our youth culture - just as the original Woodstock was a celebration of theirs... and damned if I ain't proud of it. Sure, there were problems and things that probably shouldn't have happened - and these will all be addressed in time. But for now...
Part 1 - Welcome to the Party
Driving to New York from Madison is a pain in the ass - I will let you know that from the start (regardless as to whether you care or not). However, after 14 hours of driving, 3 hours of gridlocked traffic into the show, and an excruciating number of times hearing Britney Spears and Smashmouth - we were in.
Two of the trademarks of Woodstock were already in full effect by the time Jamiroquai began his set - mudfights and topless women.
The mudfights had already begun, as there was a broken water main that someone managed to turn the water flow on to. Amidst the mudslinging, and Jamiroquai singing "You gotta get down", a wild-eyed teenage boy had one question - "Where's the speed?"
Meanwhile Jamiroquai is rocking Woodstock with his own personal style of funk - freestyling his lyrics during "Traveling Without Moving" to include a repetition of the chant for "more breasts" and including a comment that "American breasts are the best breasts... thank God for American breasts."
It was at this time I realized that Woodstock was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced - something beyond the farthest reaches of my imagination.
Part 2 - It's My Party
The people of Woodstock '99
Let's start this out by saying that the majority of the media's portrayal of Woodstock is bunk.
Most of what we hear on the radio or see on the television is that of people who either weren't there, or were only onlookers, not participants.
We were participants.
From what we see on ABC et al, we are given the idea that Woodstock '99 was nothing but a bunch of good-for-nothing spoiled brats only interested in causing trouble. I may be blind to the faults of our youth, but from what I could tell - people there were some of the most polite I have ever experienced.
At most concerts, there will be assholes everywhere you look - pushing and shoving there way about, not giving a f#$k about anyone but themselves. Woodstock was different. The people there were quick to say "please" and "thank you", as well as apologize if they bumped into you and to say "excuse me" when making their way through the crowd. All of this was in the sweltering heat in a mass of near a quarter million people.
A few Concert-Goers make some art in the fence out of plastic bottles.
A festival of peace and love, maybe not... but this was definitely a peaceful festival (riots will be explained soon).
Every generation wishes to make their mark - and the Woodstock generations are no exception. In 1969 people from throughout the United States came together to celebrate peace and love through music. There was no corporate sponsor, no planning, no massive media hype. It was Woodstock - the original - and nothing will ever come close.
Woodstock '94 was famous for the mud and the rain storms. It was a festival attempting to celebrate the magic that came through in 1964, and with that they should have realized it was an impossible task.
Now we have 1999 - the 30th Anniversary of Woodstock. This time we had 3 more days of peace, love, and music - or so we were told.
Woodstock '99 was more of a three-day Lollapalooza than a celebration of peace and love. This is the way it was promoted, and this was the way it was run. The people today aren't really fighting for anything in particular. Sure, there are our causes of the day that seem to take over a few people here and there for their short attention spans, but nothing even close to as daunting as the Vietnam War.
And what the hell was Woodstock doing on an old Air Force Base?
Peace and Love?
Understanding, compassion, love of music, (and nudity, drugs, and mud - but they are part of the Woodstock magic as well) - these are what we had there.
Most everyone enjoyed him/herself.
The vendors sold stuff at ungodly prices - like any other concert these days.
The bands made their money.
The people still had fun.
We had plenty of port-o-potties, with no toilet paper, emanating the stench - all by our fancy free drinking water (whoever had this brilliant idea should be shot). The "mud" everyone saw and played in was a combination of the drinking / washing water and the tipped over port-o-potties that ran into the dirt field. Diseases were sure to run rampant, and in fact, I was forced to leave the festival early due to illness - I am still sick as I write this - yeah it was all planned out perfectly....
he facilities provided for our bodies' liquid intake and outtake systems - all in one!
On the opposite side of the spectrum were the people drumming on the trash cans - nonstop from 1:30 AM Friday night throught the riots and fires and assumingly to the end of the festival. The people like this are the one who actually made the festival theirs.
Then we had the riots - the "big story" of Woodstock. Whatever. This isn't what Woodstock '99 was. The riots and fires were what a few people did at the very end of the festival; a few hundred people out of nearly a quarter million. And the media tried to make it look like everything went to hell.
The riots were the closest the festival ever came to being true to the original Woodstock. For once there was something that happened unplanned, unorganized, and unsubsidized by corporations. With these fires the corporations were out of the picture once again. The concertgoers, the people who this festival was truly meant for finally had control of it.
Definitely the most Woodstock-like event of the festival.
This is not to say we should go around burning down corporations and fighting out against the higher powers. It does go to show that it is impossible to plan, organize, and sponsor peace. There won't be peace without a desire for it from the beginning - it can't be purchased or planned.
Peace and love are maybe something of the past... but at least we got to party like mad.
This is our generation, and this was our Woodstock.
Part 3 - A Celebration of Peace, Love, and Rock & Roll?
Yes, I would say it was a celebration of peace, love, and rock 'n roll, despite the contrary belief of the media. As announced on April 8, 1999, the three day music festival would celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Woodstock, held at Mas Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm August 1969. Thirty years later, the 30th anniversary music festival was held at Griffiss Park, a 3,600 acre, decommissioned airforce base in Rome, New York. Although much has changed over the thirty years? especially with technology and the lack of a major war? the festival still stood for peace and love.
In August 1969, a festival official warned, "There are a hell of a lot of us here. If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy next to you is your brother." Although there were only near half the people at Woodstock 99 (approx. 250,000 in 1999, 500,000 in 1969), these words still rang true thirty years later.
Never in my life have I ever been at a festival or concert with such a kind and considerate mass of people. Granted, there were the few hundred in the 250,000 attendees that were less than kind, the great majority of music fans at Griffiss Park were all about helping each other keep away from the evil wrath of dehydration and keep healthy, so everyone could have the chance to take in the beautiful sounds around them.
As people made their way through the crowds, you could hear much respect as people were careful not to push, shove, or step on anyone. The quarter-million people converged at Griffiss Park July 23-25 were there for one purpose: to enjoy the music. No one wanted to hurt anyone, as the fine media would like everyone to believe. People were always willing to share their water and watch out for their "brothers and sisters". Don't believe what you see on TV and read in the papers. I was there and I can assure you that it wasn't a weekend of mayhem, hate, and violence. Although, as I read all these "horror stories" from Woodstock, I can't help but wonder if I was just not paying attention to such things, but I still would like to believe that they didn't take place.
When I tell people I went to Woodstock, the first two things people ask me are if I ran around naked and if I partook in the riots. My answer to both of them is no. Not everyone there was naked, but there were still quite a few breasts in view, and a few other body parts, as well. As for the riots, we left before they even broke out. (If you read Billy's review, you would see he was ill, causing us to depart during Jewel's set.)
After I get these answers clear, I am asked what my favorite part was. During The Offspring's set, the crowd began to pick up the plastic water and soda bottles covering the ground, tossing them into the clear blue sky above. Aside from the fact it was pure garbage, seeing the mass of bottles flying through the air overhead was honestly one of the most breathtaking sights of my life. The fact that I was hearing the Offspring play at the same time, truly adds to the experience.
However, the Offspring was not my favorite act. Surpassing the nineteen other acts I saw was The Chemical Brothers. (Note: Had I stayed up late enough to see Moby at 1:30 Saturday morning, his show may very well have been my favorite, as some of the best shows I have ever seen have been his shows.) Playing on the West Stage (the smaller of the two), the "brothers" Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons put on an exceptional show. Taking full advantage of the two video screens on either side of the stage, The Chemical Brothers supplied their audience with a brilliant visual display to accompany their music. The combination of being at the smaller of the stages and the same time as Metallica was headlining the main stage 2.6 miles east. An all-time highlight of the weekend was when it began to rain during the Brothers' set. The song they were playing sounded almost like "rain" being repeated over and over. As the cool water began to fall from the sky, the crowd lifted their arms up, almost as if in praise to the gods in the heavens above.
Another main highlight for me was getting to meet Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace. I've been a fan of the band for awhile now and meeting him was quite exciting for me. He was very kind as I requested a picture with him. If I had to list the 10 best performances in my opinion, they would be as follows:
1. Chemical Brothers
2. Dave Matthews Band
3. Rage Against the Machine
4. The Offspring
6. The Roots
7. Fatboy Slim
8. Elvis Costello
10. Wyclef Jean and the Refugee Allstars