it would be easy, as director Garrett Price says in the opening seconds of his documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, to structure a film about the tragic music festival held on a weekend in July 1999 as a comedy . Woodstock’s reboot for an audience most born after the original festival in 1969 was a proto-Fyre meltdown of grotesque American supremacy, a panoply of late ’90s nonsense – Kid Rock walked on stage in a white fur coat, Limp Bizkit as main character, mostly young, white, male Gen-Xers who pay to see now metal actions in a poorly managed swamp of dirt. But the easy jabs, the gleam of cultural nostalgia about every Woodstock, especially the first one, mask something actually, Price says, “much more played than a horror movie.”
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage captures an event that unfolds spectacularly, with a tangible stream of misogyny, white male anger, justice, and cynical commercialism. The facilities built at an old air force base in Rome, New York – the irony of a new Woodstock held at a military facility – collapsed under the weight of 200,000 visitors. With water selling at $ 4, many festival goers went without in temperatures above 100F (37.8C). More than 1,200 were treated for medical conditions; three people died. It’s a miracle it was no more – the festival ended in riots as participants through three days of anarchy-driven music burned the fairgrounds. Forty-four were arrested. There were 10 reported sexual assaults, but a quick glance at the films – male attendees touching topless women with gusto, as if free love seemed like free transgression – assured that there were many more.
But the original Fyre, as it is sometimes called, is mostly forgotten as a cultural artifact, especially by generations too young to be aware of the event when it happened. Woodstock 99 “kind of under the rug,” Price told the Guardian, and is often confused with the more successful, less volatile Woodstock 94. The former festival “tells us where we are culturally more than in the early ’90s. “.
“You start the decade with Nirvana, with Pearl Jam, with hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest, there’s kind of this idealism in music, anti-establishment and non-commercialism,” Price said, “and you end the decade with commercialism and nihilism.How did we get out of here?
“I do not blame that time for where we are now, but I think there are a lot of interesting strings that you can connect from one end to the other.”
At the time of the festival, Price was a sophomore at the University of Texas, and he saw acts such as Korn, Metallica, Alanis Morisette and the Rage Against the Machine on pay per view with his roommates. ‘At that moment, yes, it was gothic, it was crazy, but it never felt right dat crazy, “he said of the 1999 festival.” I had more Fomo, I think, I missed this thing. And only years later did I start digging in, and I started reading some exhibits on it “that he realized that terrible things had happened.
Woodstock 99 denies many of the threads that burned into what, in the end, looks like a burning apocalypse through a heap of archival footage and interviews with participating musicians such as Moby, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, and Jewel, attendees and music critics. There’s the damning impulse to start a very romantic moment for Boomers again (the original Woodstock was, in reality, a mess, a few shades of tragedy happiness) in a money maker for young college kids – part of a cultural pattern of “Boomers driving their faith on younger generations,” Price said. (choice song: Break Stuff).
And there was a rampant culture – the kind that shook in two other breakout films of the year, Promising Young Woman and Framing Britney Spears – that considered women’s bodies first and foremost for the enjoyment of men. With the popularity of Girls Gone Wild and lad mags like Maxim and FHM, “it was a time of objectifying women,” Price said, “and mixing that with the marketing ideals of the counterculture of free love, and you just make a toxic environment. ”It’s an environment in which only three women were invited to perform (Jewel, Alanis, Sheryl Crow), in which women are remembered as they surf the public, in which thousands of men sing” See your teeth! ” to one on stage Rosie Perez, in which the promoter of the concert, Michael Scher, could claim that the problem was in fact MTV covers the chaos, as he does again in the film.
With Woodstock 99, the sale of 60 idealism fell into disrepair in the license to take, to do things that are not allowed off-road. There are crazy images of the late rapper DMX leading the audience in a call and response to his lyrics, and a sea of mostly white people cheerfully recalling the N-word. “The black artist essentially allows the people in the crowd to say this word with him,” Wesley Morris, a culture critic at the New York Times, says in the film. “Doing something they do not believe. Or maybe they believe it, but if you ask them what they believe, when you got each of these guys to the show, and pulled them aside and said, ‘it’s OK to get the N-word under any circumstances to say? ‘They would say to a person,’ I mean, the correct answer is no, right? ‘ “
The lure of transgression and fornication, it seems, was powerful. Some of the results are very comical – participants slipping in mud, as in the original festival, apparently unaware that it is human waste from flooded and polluted toilets. More often it is sinister, destruction for the sake of destruction. Perhaps there is no better metaphor than the closing fires, when candles were handed out to a guard for Columbine victims during the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge were instead used to torch the grounds, including a “peace” mural.
From the music to the destruction, there is a clear passage of unfiltered, seemingly sour anger, especially among college-age, mostly white men. Where did it come from? Who can blame for the disaster that was Woodstock 99? As the film sketches, there is not a single answer that the event proves to be a cultural moment that is seriously worth questioning. “It’s a mixture of the culture, and the way the festival was planned, and people who fell victim to the mythology of Woodstock, that all just unfolded in this idyllic thing,” Price said. “It just all mixed together resulted in this cacophony of madness.”