"Woodstock" has very strong, vivid connotations. It is burned into cultural consciousness, if you're of a certain age (that is: old enough to be able to identify Ronald Reagan in a picture of a state funeral, but young enough to have not voted him in). It's less as an event and more as an ideology or a collection of images: Jimi Hendrix; grainy monochrome photographs of people lurching around in that odd, lopsided way involving a lot of finger wiggling that was considered dancing in the 1960s; various disgraceful incarnations of trouser. That sort of thing. The original Woodstock, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" and held on a dairy farm in the Catskills, was basically the birth and death of post-war counterculture. I'm sure loads of horrible shit happened, lowkey, but as a Thing™ its primary associations are acid tabs and non-violence. It perfectly encompasses the circumstantial illusion of peace that was allowed to exist between John F Kennedy's assassination and Altamont, and before half the artists on the bill died of drug overdoses.
One thing that does not spring to mind when you think about "Woodstock" is the image of Kid Rock flouncing on stage dressed like a pimp in a Blaxploitation film and launching into a particularly indulgent rendition of "Bawitaba." And yet, that is exactly what happened at Woodstock '99, or, as it is otherwise known: the most insane edition of Woodstock—nay, maybe a festival in general—ever to take place.
Woodstock '99 was another attempt (after Woodstocks '79, '89, and '94, respectively) to emulate the original Woodstock of 1969. The line-up, true to form, boasted pretty much every single definitive artist of its time, which in 1999 meant Creed, Insane Clown Posse, and Cyclefly. Instead of a dairy farm in the mountains, it was held on an air force base cleared of trees and made entirely of tarmac and concrete. Verne Troyer served as an emcee on the Saturday. A candlelit vigil intended to take place during Red Hot Chili Peppers' set turned into several full on massive fires, which Anthony Kiedis compared to scenes from Apocalypse Now. Pizza cost $12. It was supposed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "peace, love and happiness," but instead ended up being referred to as "the day the 90s died."
Which is a bit unfair, I think. If Woodstock '69 is regarded as the nexus for postwar counterculture, then Woodstock '99 is surely the nexus for Generation X. Peace, love, happiness; riot police, everything on fire, streamed live on pay-per-view. Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane; Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Korn. Do you see? They are the same. I think, over time, we will come to understand the 90s as definitively the worst decade, but for now we can at least appreciate the fact that Woodstock '99 failed as a celebration of the spirit of original Woodstock but was essentially a reboot of it, in that it perfectly mirrored the spirit of the decade at large. It's just the decade was fucking terrible.
Anyway, let's take a look at some of the performances, because my god.
As previously mentioned, Kid Rock was "in the house" during this, the apex of his "rap rock" era. This is just after "Devil Without a Cause" and just before "Cowboy." He recently went double platinum, which is certainly something to bear in mind as he—upon removing the big fur coat, top hat and cane that he donned purely for the walk to centre stage—readies himself like so:
And then announces his name with this unusual chicken-like manoeuvre and some steam:
Before going directly into a song that prompts multiple thousands of white people to "get in the pit and try to love someone," to which their reaction is to get naked and beat the shit out of each other. This performance really should have been canon for political commentators as soon as it happened, because after seeing this it really is impossible to legitimately write an op-ed in the wake of Trump's election claiming you "didn't see it coming."
What is it about rap metal that: a) makes artists feel like any of their tunes deserve more than one second of preamble; and b) makes people want to get their tits out? Is Limp Bizkit sexy? Do people fuck to Limp Bizkit? Moving on.
Is this not THE MOST LIMP BIZKIT SHOW LIMP BIZKIT HAVE EVER PLAYED. People are crowdsurfing on plywood they pulled off the stage and will later burn. Fred Durst has a tantrum about the mic. His delivery on the verses literally sounds like my mam making fun of rap circa me discovering The Chronic as an early teen. Catching wind of how dangerous the pit had become and not wanting to take responsibility for it but also not wanting to cop it in the ass, Fred then encourages the crowd to emit some "positive vibes" for the viewers at home while he skips half-mockingly around the stage waving his hand in the air. By all accounts the situation was already long gone and things rapidly descended into a tidal wave of violent machismo resulting in multiple sexual assaults, the tower MoreMusic were broadcasting from being trashed, and 10,000 people requiring medical treatment over the course of the festival. The 90s were super cool, right guys!!! Caring about stuff totally sucks.
We've been through this with Lit before, but it seems 1999 was a banner summer for America's most earnest pop-punk band. This time, A. Jay Popoff has set aside his trademark white vest in favor of performing topless. He opens this particular number by busting out some Pete Townsend-style windmill moves on an air guitar and decides to go with the parental-advisory-poster-on-dorm-room vibe of the festival (someone has their tits out again) and changes the lyrics so they go: "kick the living FUCK outta me!" Behave.
I am so glad I wasn't a teenager in 1999 because I certainly would have fancied this greasy Californian Ville Valo with the word "CHAOS" tattooed across his stomach who definitely looks like he would have had one of those big inflatable aliens in his bedroom. It makes sense that Buckcherry once toured with Papa Roach and Avenged Sevenfold because, well, look at them. They have a very unusual From First To Last via AFI via Velvet Revolver vibe going on that I'm really not sure what to do with. I don't think anybody at Woodstock does either, to be honest, which is at the very least interesting. Maybe Buckcherry are…. good?
What you are witnessing here is five very adult dudes in sleeveless school shirts, black ties and a variety of unfortunate facial hair styles performing some Ripping American Rock (that sounds quite a bit like "Yakkity Yak"). "Man this is just like being in paradise!" Vocalist Art Alexakis says, without irony, in the intonation of a cruise ship entertainer, "Look at this! Girls in bikinis!" Yes. Great. Wild. He then makes several desperate, croaking pleas for the crowd to "come home with me", like a recently divorced dad stood screaming outside a pub to no one, anyone, after too many shandys.
I wish I was dead.
At least SOMEBODY at this godforsaken event has attempted to preserve the sanctity of decades passed. Leave it to The Grammy Award Winning Voice of Creed, Scott Stapp, to show up to the most #alt festival ever held with a billowing white shirt, big jeans and a wholesome Charles Manson haircut. In case you didn't catch on from the intense manner with which he points and taps his desert boot on the amplifiers to some heckin good born-again Christian rock, his is a cult built on earnestness—and the fully clothed crowd are loving it. They're throwing toilet paper! Scott Stapp is whipping his hair like a horse that wants to take its jacket off! He is bending over, with one arm behind his back, like your boss who has a band on the side and is really giving it some on the karaoke machine at the work event! I feel a bit bad for Creed, really. They look and sound like they should've been folded into grunge, but they arrived a few years too late and something about them is a bit off, too soft and clean, like that kid at school who was into Mudhoney but wore fleeces from Fat Face and spent the weekends voluntarily going on camping trips with their parents. So Creed were lumped in with the soul-patch havers instead, and spent their heyday sharing a line-up with Bush and Godsmack.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
This is right around the time everything went on fire, which is quite surprising because this is a pretty relaxing jam. Like, not the sort of jam you would think lends itself to spurring on dramatic acts of arson. Even more surprising is the fact that someone decided to get their tits out for a song about isolation resulting from substance abuse. Not at all surprising is the man who can be seen staring at the woman with her tits out with his hand over his heart, like he's pledging allegiance to being an enormous, virgin creep.
The image of nude Flea and shortsleeve-over-longsleeve John Frusciante stood fretboard to fretboard, ringing out the final notes of "Under the Bridge," fading into a massive bonfire started by the audience and fuelled by a bunch of plywood they ripped off the stage, is really quite prophetic. The rest of the year might as well have not happened. Just look at it. Anthony Kiedis has bleached his hair. Chad Smith is smoking a bloody fag on stage. Applause as an uncontrolled fire spreads before the stage. A fair few people had their lives ruined forever due to acts of violence at this festival but all we see here is a crowd deliriously cheering on imminent danger, fists held aloft, for the sake of pure nihilism, in a manner that closely resembles joy. This will forever be the most symbolic image of the 90s, no matter how many sentences Bret Easton Ellis writes.
Everyone in this crowd has kids now.
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