Woodstock 1999, also called Woodstock 99, performed July 22–25, 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 performed in upstate New York, this time in Rome, New York, around 200 miles from the site of the original event. Approximately 200,000 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. However, unlike the previous two incarnations of Woodstock, Woodstock '99 was marred by violence, rape, and fires, bringing the festival to an abrupt end. The last day of Woodstock '99 has even been referred to as The day the music died.
Prior to the concert, the promoters of the event were determined to avoid the gate-crashing that had occurred at previous festivals, and had characterized the site as "defensible", describing the 12-foot plywood and steel fence intended to keep out those without tickets. About 500 New York State Police Troopers were hired for security.
In addition to two main stages, secondary venues were available including several alternate stages, a night-time rave music 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.
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, Creed, Sheryl Crow, The Tragically Hip and Rage Against the Machine. 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, having been a former air strip, had been cleared of many of its shade trees, with the result that there were very few areas attendees could find shade.
Participants who had not brought sufficient food or water to the show had to either buy from onsite vendors, whose merchandise was expensive: a single-serving pizza sold for $12, and 20 US fl oz (590 ml) bottles of water and soda for $4; or travel via looping buses to Rome's modest shopping areas, where stores had long lines and low stock.
The number of toilets installed proved insufficient for the number of attendees. Within a short time, some facilities were unusable and overflowing. People stood in line to access the water fountains, until frustration led a few to break the pipes apart to provide water to those in the middle of the line; this in turn caused the creation of large mud pits.
Violent action sprang up during and after the Saturday night performance by Limp Bizkit, including fans tearing plywood from the walls during a performance of the song "Break Stuff". Several sexual assaults were 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. We already let the negative energy out. Now we wanna let out the positive energy". 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. A group of peace promoters led by an independent group called Pax had distributed candles to those stopping at their booth during the day, intending them for a candlelight vigil to be held during the Red Hot Chili Peppers' performance of the song "Under the Bridge". During the band's set, the crowd began to light the candles, some also using them to start bonfires. The hundreds of empty plastic water bottles that littered the lawn area were used as fuel for the fire.
After the Red Hot Chili Peppers were finished with their main set, the audience was informed about "a bit of a problem." An audio tower 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 Jimi 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 bonfires were burning high 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 body-surfing woman being pulled down into the crowd and gang-raped in the moshpit during Limp Bizkit's set. Seven arrests were made on the final night of the concert and, afterward, police reviewed video footage, hoping to identify and hold accountable rapists and looters who, amid the chaos, had not been arrested. Approximately 12 trailers, a small bus and a number of booths and portable toilets were burned in the fray. Despite six people being injured there were no recorded deaths.
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"
Costs to vendors to sell at Woodstock was $700 to sell for the 3-day music festival. With attendance estimated at 200,000 there were many non-vendors who attempted to sell on smaller scales 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, although John Entwistle of The Who performed a solo set, and Mickey Hart, drummer of the Grateful Dead, played with his band Planet Drum. Other performers included:
- Frostbit Blue
- K.J. James
- Little Big Jam
- Gridley Page
- Red Herring
- In Bloom
- 3rd Bass
- Vertical Horizon
- G. Love and Special Sauce
- The String Cheese Incident
Emerging Artists Stage
- Immoral Fibres
- Chris Glenn
- Gary Durdin & The Clay Pinps
- Johnny Rushmore
- The Umbilical Brothers
- The Roots
- Insane Clown Posse
- George Clinton & the P.Funk All-Stars
- James Brown
- G. Love and Special Sauce
- Sheryl Crow
- The Offspring
Emerging Artists Stage
- Ben Lee
- Beth Hart Band
- Bijou Phillips
- Chris McDermott
- Chris Pérez Band
- F.o. N.
- Liars Inc.
- Linda Rutherford & Celtic Fire
- Mike Errico
- Sherri Jackson
- Sticky Pistil
- Sugar Daddy
- Bruce Hornsby
- Ice Cube
- Los Lobos
- Mickey Hart/Planet Drum
- The Chemical Brothers
- Fatboy Slim
- The Tragically Hip
- Kid Rock
- Wyclef Jean with the Refugee Allstars
- Counting Crows
- Dave Matthews Band
- Alanis Morissette
- Limp Bizkit
- Rage Against the Machine
Emerging Artists Stage
- 2 Skinnee J's
- American Pearl
- Full Devil Jacket
- Gargantua Soul
- Gigolo Aunts
- Serial Joe
- Mike Ness
- Our Lady Peace
- Rusted Root
- Collective Soul
- Willie Nelson
- The Brian Setzer Orchestra
- Elvis Costello
- Creed featuring Robby Krieger
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Emerging Artists Stage
- Big Sugar
- John Entwistle
- John Oszajca
- Moe Loughran
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.
- Woodstock Festival (1969)
- Woodstock '79 (1979)
- Woodstock '89 (1989)
- Woodstock '94 (1994)
- Przystanek Woodstock (1995- )
- Woodstock '09 (2009)
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- NPL Sites in New York | National Priorities List|US EPA
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