IIt would be easy, as director Garrett Price puts it in the opening seconds of his documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, to structure a film about the disastrous music festival held on a weekend in July 1999 as a comedy. Woodstock’s reboot for an audience born primarily after the original festival in 1969 was a proto-Fyre fusion of grotesque American excess, a panoply of late-90s nonsense: Kid Rock strolling the stage in a white fur coat, Limp Bizkit as the main attraction. Mostly young, white, Gen X men who pay to watch nu metal acts in a poorly managed swamp of filth. But the easy hits, the sheen of cultural nostalgia over any Woodstock, particularly the first one, masks what in reality, Price says, “was developed much more like a horror movie.”
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage captures an event that unfolded spectacularly, with a palpable stream of misogyny, white male rage, rights, and cynical commercialism. Facilities built at a former air force base in Rome, New York – the irony of a new Woodstock being held in a military facility – collapsed under the weight of 200,000 visitors. With the water sold for $ 4, many festival goers ran out of water in temperatures above 100F (37.8C). More than 1,200 received treatment for medical conditions; three people died. It is a miracle that it was not more: the festival ended in riots, as the attendees, spurred on by three days of music fueled by anarchy, burned the fairgrounds. Forty-four were arrested. 10 sexual assaults were reported, but a cursory look at the images: male assistants groping topless women with glee, as if free love equates to gratuitous rape, he says. there were many more.
But the original Fyre, as it is sometimes it has been called, has been largely forgotten as a cultural artifact, especially by generations too young to have been aware of the event when it happened. Woodstock 99 “was swept under the rug,” Price told The Guardian, and is often mistaken for the more successful and less volatile Woodstock 94. The previous festival “tells us where we are culturally more than in the early 90’s.”
“You start the decade with Nirvana, with Pearl Jam, with hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest, there’s a kind of idealism in the music, anti-establishment and non-commercial,” Price said, “and you end the decade with commercialism and nihilism. How do we get from here to there?
“I don’t blame that moment for where we are now, but I think there are a lot of interesting strands that you can tie from one end to the other.”
At the time of the festival, Price was a college sophomore in Texas, watching acts like Korn, Metallica, Alanis Morisette and Rage Against the Machine on PPV with his roommates. “At the time, yeah, it was chaotic, it was crazy, but it never felt what crazy, “he said about the festival in 1999.” I had more Fomo, I think, I missed this thing. And it wasn’t until years later when I started researching and started reading some revelations about it ”that he realized that terrible things happened.
Woodstock 99 unravels many of the threads that burned into what seems, in the end, like a fiery apocalypse through loads of archival footage and interviews with participating musicians such as Moby, Jonathan Davis of Korn and Jewel, attendees and music critics. . There is the doomed urge to reboot a very romantic moment for the Boomers (the original Woodstock was actually a disaster, some lucky nuances of tragedy) into a source of income for college kids, part of a cultural pattern of ” Boomers pushing their beliefs into younger generations, ”Price said. There was a reaction to teen pop dominating the charts of Britney Spears, ‘NSync and the Backstreet Boys with overtly aggressive acts like Limp Bizkit (song chosen: Break Stuff) .
And there was an unbridled culture, the kind featured in two other notable films of the year, Promising Young Woman and Framing Britney Spears, that viewed women’s bodies as primarily for the enjoyment of men. With the popularity of Girls Gone Wild and boy’s magazines like Maxim and FHM, “it was a time to objectify women,” Price said, “and mix that with the marketing ideals of the free love counterculture, and just create a toxic environment. “It is an environment in which only three women (Jewel, Alanis, Sheryl Crow) were invited to perform, in which women are groped while surfing in public, in which thousands of men chant” show your tits!” to a Rosie Perez on stage, in which the concert promoter, Michael Scher, could insist that the problem was Really MTV exaggerates the chaos, as it does again in the movie.
With Woodstock 99, the sale of the idealism of the 60s became the license to take, do things that are not allowed off the grounds. There are chilling images of the late rapper DMX leading the crowd in a call and response to his lyrics, and a sea of mostly white people gleefully yelling the N-word. “The black artist is essentially licensing people in the crowd to say this word with him, “says Wesley Morris, a culture critic for the New York Times, in the film. “To do something they don’t believe in. Or maybe they believe it, but if you asked them what they think, if you catch each of these guys after the show, you push them away and say, ‘Is it okay to say the N-word under any circumstances? ? ‘They would say to a person,’ I mean, the correct answer is no, right? ‘ “
The lure of transgression and debauchery, it seemed, was potent. Some of the results are wildly comical: Attendees slide into the mud, as in the original festival, seemingly unaware that they are human waste from overflowing and disfigured toilets. More often, it is sinister, destruction for destruction. Perhaps there is no better metaphor than the final fires, when candles delivered for a vigil for Columbine victims during Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge were used instead to set the grounds on fire, including a “peace” mural.
From music to destruction, there is a clear line of unfiltered and seemingly sourceless rage, especially among college students, mostly white males. Where he came from? Who to blame for the disaster that was Woodstock 99? As described in the movie, there is no answer, proving that the event is a cultural moment worthy of serious questioning. “It’s a mix of the culture, and the way the festival was planned, and people fall victim to the Woodstock mythology, that everything becomes idyllic,” Price said. “Just all mixed up resulted in this cacophony of madness.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism