|Genre||Rock, hip hop, nu metal, rap metal, big beat, techno, punk rock, pop punk|
|Dates||July 22-25, 1999|
|Location(s)||Rome, New York|
|Archive of the Woodstock 99 Experience|
Woodstock '99 (also called Woodstock 1999), held between July 22 and 25, 1999, was the second large-scale music festival (after Woodstock '94) that attempted to emulate the original Woodstock festival of 1969. Like the previous Woodstock festivals, it was held in upstate New York, this time in Rome (roughly 200 miles (320 km) from the site of the original event). Approximately 400,000 people attended the festival.
Cable network MTV covered the concert extensively and live coverage of the entire weekend was available on pay-per-view. Excerpts from the performances were later released on compact disc and DVD. Unlike the previous two incarnations of Woodstock, Woodstock '99 was portrayed by the media as being marred by violence, rape, and fires.
Prior to the concert, the promoters of the event were determined to avoid the gate-crashing that had occurred at previous festivals. They characterized the site as "defensible," describing the 12-foot plywood and steel fence intended to keep out those without tickets. Along with the fence, about 500 New York State Police Troopers were hired for additional security. In addition to two main stages, secondary venues were available. These included several alternate stages, a night-time rave tent, and a film festival (sponsored by the Independent Film Channel) held in a former airplane hangar.
Woodstock '99 was conceived and executed as a commercial venture with dozens of corporate sponsors, and included the presence of vendor "malls" and modern accoutrements such as ATMs and e-mail stations. Tickets for the event were priced at $150 plus service charges, at the time considered costly for a festival of this type. There were about 400,000 attendees.
The city of Rome itself, especially the downtown area and the commercial areas adjacent to the festival site, became a major draw for attendees, who patronized its bars, restaurants, and stores and stayed in its hotels and motels for the duration of the concert.
The festival featured a diverse assortment of acts, and early reviews for many of the acts were positive. Critics particularly praised performances by: George Clinton, Jamiroquai, James Brown, Limp Bizkit, DMX, Sheryl Crow, The Tragically Hip, and Rage Against the Machine. This would also be the first time in 6 years that Metallica and Megadeth would be in the same festival lineup. However, critical and public attention quickly turned to the deteriorating environment and crowd behavior.
Oppressive heat--which reached above 100 °F (38 °C)--and difficult environmental conditions marred the festival from early on. Added to this was the fact that the site, a former air strip, had been cleared of many of its shade trees. The East and West stages were 1.5 miles (2 km) from each other, forcing festival goers to walk across hot tarmac surfaces.
Participants were prohibited from bringing food and water into the venue, and were met with high prices inside the venue. They had to buy from onsite vendors whose merchandise was expensive (a single slice of 10" pizza sold for $12, and 20 US fl oz (590 ml) bottles of water and soda for $4 each). If festival-goers wanted to visit regular stores, they faced a long trek, or cramped travel via looping buses, to Rome's modest shopping areas, where stores had long lines and low stock. Also, people stood in long lines to access the free water fountains until frustration led a few to break the pipes to provide water to those in the middle of the line, in turn creating many large mud pits. During Kid Rock's set, he demanded the crowds pelt water bottles at the stage, most likely because of frustration at the high prices.
The number of toilets installed proved insufficient for the number of attendees. Within a short time, some facilities, notably the portable toilets and showers on the site, were unusable and overflowing.
Violent actions occurred during and after the Saturday night performance by Limp Bizkit, which included fans tearing plywood from the walls during a performance of the song "Break Stuff." Several sexual assaults were also reported in the aftermath of the concert. The band's vocalist, Fred Durst, stated during the concert, "People are getting hurt. Don't let anybody get hurt. But I don't think you should mellow out. That's what Alanis Morissette had you motherfuckers do. If someone falls, pick 'em up." Durst said during a performance of the band's hit song, "Nookie", "We already let all the negative energy out. It's time to reach down and bring that positive energy to this motherfucker. It's time to let yourself go right now, 'cause there are no motherfucking rules out there." In contrast, partway through "Break Stuff", Durst encouraged the crowd to be angry.
Durst later stated in an interview, "I didn't see anybody getting hurt. You don't see that. When you're looking out on a sea of people and the stage is twenty feet in the air and you're performing, and you're feeling your music, how do they expect us to see something bad going on?"Primus member Les Claypool told the San Francisco Examiner, "Woodstock was just Durst being Durst. His attitude is 'no press is bad press', so he brings it on himself. He wallows in it. Still, he's a great guy."
Violence escalated the next night during the final hours of the concert as Red Hot Chili Peppers performed on the east stage, and Megadeth on the west stage. A group of peace promoters, led by the anti-gun violence organization Pax (later renamed the Center to Prevent Youth Violence), had distributed candles to those stopping at their booth during the day, intending them for a candlelight vigil to be held during the Chili Peppers' performance of the song "Under the Bridge". During the band's set, the crowd began to light the candles, some also using candles and lighters to start bonfires. Hundreds of empty plastic water bottles that littered the lawn area were used as fuel for the fire which had spread to both stages by the end of the performances.
After the Chili Peppers were finished with their main set, the audience was informed about "a bit of a problem." An audio tower had caught fire, and the fire department was called in to extinguish it.
Back onstage for an encore, the Chili Peppers' lead singer Anthony Kiedis remarked how amazing the fires looked from the stage, comparing them to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The band proceeded to play "Sir Psycho Sexy", followed by their rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire". Kiedis later stated in his autobiography, Scar Tissue, that Hendrix's sister had asked the Chili Peppers to play "Fire" in honor of Jimi and his performance at the original Woodstock festival, and that they were not playing it to encourage the crowd.
Many large, high bonfires were burning before the band left the stage for the last time. Participants danced in circles around the fires. Looking for more fuel, some tore off panels of plywood from the supposedly inviolable security perimeter fence. ATMs were tipped over and broken into, trailers full of merchandise and equipment were forced open and burgled, and abandoned vendor booths were turned over and set afire.
It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place, (...) It was clear we had to get out of there.... It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you're not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger.
After some time, a large force of New York State Troopers, local police, and various other law enforcement arrived. Most had crowd control gear and proceeded to form a riot-line that flushed the crowd to the northwest, away from the stage located at the eastern end of the airfield. Few of the crowd offered strong resistance and they dispersed quickly back toward the campground and out the main entrance.
Police investigated four alleged instances of rape that occurred during the concert. Eyewitnesses reported a crowd-surfing woman being pulled down into the crowd and gang-raped in the mosh pit during Limp Bizkit's set. A volunteer also reported seeing a gang-rape during the Korn performance. Approximately 12 trailers, a small bus, and a number of booths and portable toilets were burned in the fray. Six people were injured; there were no recorded deaths at the concert site.
One individual, David DeRosia, collapsed in the mosh pit during the Metallica performance. Concert medical staff initially tried to treat his symptoms, which were seizures, and what doctors suspected to be a drug overdose. DeRosia was transported to the Air Force base medical center and was then airlifted to University Hospital in Syracuse, New York. A little more than an hour after he had collapsed, DeRosia's body temperature was 107 °F (42 °C). The following afternoon, he was in a coma and a doctor had diagnosed him with "hyperthermia, probably secondary to heat stroke." After being in a coma for another day, DeRosia died at 12:09 pm on July 26, 1999. The autopsy report ruled the death as accidental and listed the cause of death to be hyperthermia along with an enlarged heart and obesity. In 2001, DeRosia's mother filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against the promoters of Woodstock 1999 and six doctors who worked at the event; the lawsuit stated that DeRosia died because concert promoters were negligent by not providing enough fresh water and inadequate medical care for 400,000 attendees.
Members of the National Organization for Women later protested outside the New York offices of one of the concert promoters. Several lawsuits by concert-goers against the promoters for dehydration and distress were announced.
The New York Times solicited festival performers Rage Against the Machine for their opinion of the festival's controversy. Tom Morello, the band's guitarist, wrote on August 5, 1999, in Neil Strauss's Times column:
Hey man, leave the kids alone. I've had enough of the frenzied demonization of young people surrounding Woodstock '99.
Yes, Woodstock was filled with predators: the degenerate idiots who assaulted those women, the greedy promoters who wrung every cent out of thirsty concertgoers, and last but not least, the predator media that turned a blind eye to real violence and scapegoated the quarter of a million music fans at Woodstock '99, the vast majority of whom had the time of their lives.
Vendors paid $500 to sell at Woodstock during the 4-day festival. With attendance estimated at 400,000 there were many non-vendors who attempted to sell on a smaller scale on the paths to and from the concerts and camping areas.
No groups that performed at the original Woodstock festival took the stage at Woodstock 1999. However, there were individuals who did. John Entwistle of The Who performed a solo set, and Mickey Hart, drummer of the Grateful Dead, played with his band Planet Drum. Jeff Beck was scheduled to perform, but had to cancel due to a "scheduling conflict." He was scheduled to perform at the original Woodstock festival, but his Jeff Beck Group broke up the week before.Sugar Ray was also slated to appear at Woodstock 1999, but had to cancel due to lead singer Mark McGrath's illness.Aerosmith cancelled their appearance due to scheduling conflicts, and Foo Fighters cancelled to finish mixing their album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. According to an interview with LAUNCH magazine, The Smashing Pumpkins were approached to appear at the festival, but front man Billy Corgan declined because of concerns regarding the concert organizers' motives.
During the four days of the festival various bands and artists performed on one of the three different stages: "West Stage", "East Stage", and "Emerging Artists Stage".
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A DVD of concert highlights entitled Woodstock 99 was released in March 2000. It features one song each from 29 of the participating acts, along with interviews from the musicians and concert-goers.
Most of the Bush performance is available on the DVD of The Best Of: 1994-1999.