Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Party like it’s Woodstock ’99

Posted in Music by Jacob Zinn on July 24, 2009

Welcome to Woodstock

In the summer of 1999, more than 200,000 concert-goers traveled to an abandoned Air Force Base in Rome, New York for Woodstock ’99, one of the largest music festivals in history.

For Generation X degenerates, it was the party of the millennium.

Woodstock ’99 ran from July 23-25 and was broadcast live by HBO. Stations such as MTV and MuchMusic also covered the event with their own crews.

Even though many attendees complained of expensive ticket prices ($150 plus service charges for three days), the line-up was top-notch.

(Some of) The Line-Up:
Elvis Costello
James Brown
Kid Rock
Limp Bizkit
The Offspring
Our Lady Peace
Rage Against The Machine
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sheryl Crow
Snoop Dogg
Willie Nelson

The Offspring was touring for Americana, Korn’s Follow the Leader was still selling well and thrash metal bands Metallica and Megadeth were on the bill for some headbanging performances.

People moshed, crowd-surfed and jumped with the music, and when they weren’t at the stage, the crowd made its own fun by rolling in mud, making music with garbage cans and throwing hundreds of frisbees at once.

Protesting Peace

But after “3 More Days of Peace and Music,” the final night turned into an evening of chaos and looting. Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit were blamed for inciting riots.

During the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ set, an audio tower caught fire and a concert organizer went on stage, announcing that the fire department was on its way.

“If you look behind you, we have a bit of a problem,” said the organizer in an understatement.

It didn’t help that RHCP returned to the stage to cover “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix, an homage to Woodstock ’69.

A big mistake on the promoters behalf was to only allow its 1,200 security guards within the Woodstock grounds rather than hire police officers to overlook the event. After two days, nearly half of Woodstock’s security was gone–some were fired, others just left.

By the end of the show, more bonfires had been lit with candles that were intended for a candlelight vigil. Trash was all over the place, concession stands were burnt to the ground and still, the NYPD was on the outside looking in.

State Troopers were finally called in to help regain control, but a lot of damage had already been done. Four rapes were reported, seven arrests were made and police reviewed video to identify looters of overpriced vendor merchandise.

Dave Mustaine said it best when Megadeth finished their set: “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?”

Today ’09

Looking back, people seem to only remember the bad parts of Woodstock ’99.

They remember how disgusting the porta-pottys were, how expensive the food was, how hot it was outside.

It was not your mothers Woodstock.

One Beavis and one Butt-head is enough, but when you get some 200,000 of them together, surely even former MTV VJ Kurt Loder (who was at the event) should realize that the elements are combustible.

In reality, it’s a sad thought that ’90s teens could be so depraved, but it’s unlikely that even a small percentage of the turn-out partook in tearing down Woodstock ’99. With only seven arrests and six injuries out of 200,000 people, that might be a record.

The main thing to remember is the music; there were dozens of great bands on one bill and being there would’ve made you one of a lucky 200,000 to see them all live.

The rest of us could watch it on HBO, without the riots, $4 water bottles and drunk frat boys yelling, “Show us your tits!”



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