Netflix posted a documentary “Trainwreck” about the 1999 Woodstock Festival.
Thirty years after Woodstock, one of the original event promoters decided to offer one for his children’s generation. He envisioned a concert dedicated to ending gun violence. It was not even close.
According to the Netflix documentary, the concert erupted into a violent, testosterone-fueled mob, where women were raped and assaulted, and the location was trashed. Female musicians were pelted with objects and subjected to repeated harassment from the audience, screaming (among other things): “Show us Your T***s.” The documentary featured footage of Jewel and Sheryl Crow clearly unnerved by what they had witnessed.
It was clear that the 1999 Woodstock concert goers came from a different era than the 1969 Woodstock concertgoers. The motives of 1999 were not “peace and love and community.” Their expressed motives were party, drugs, rock and roll, and sex.
Given the different objectives, the outcome was probably predictable.
The 1999 Woodstock concert reminded me a little of the January 6th insurrection; and many of the most violent insurrection participants appeared to be from the same generation.
According to the Netflix documentary, Woodstock 1999 was a three-day rock festival featuring 40 of the most popular musicians and bands. But there was another significant difference between 1969 and 1999.
The music had changed.
While most of the 1999 musicians were peace-loving, a majority of the concert goers went to see the rage-filled music of the time. This heavy rock music featured angry, white-privileged men promoting violence. The first night, the premiere act, Korn, amped up the audience to a fever pitch of rage, excitement, and sexual energy. Rather than calm a crowd that was becoming out of control; the lead singer, Jonathan Davis, reveled in his command of the 200,000, extolling them to greater and greater energy. Fortunately, the last band of the night was Bush and the lead singer, Gavin Rossdale, recognized the danger of the crowd and used his music to tamp them down as much as possible.
Like Woodstock 1969, the weather didn’t cooperate, and the facilities were woefully inadequate. In 1969 it rained and rained and rained. In 1999, it was extremely hot, reaching 100 degrees. The heat was exacerbated by the venue of the concert, which was a closed military base, covered in asphalt. At both concerts the facilities, security, medical care, affordable food were tragically inadequate. But while the 1969 Woodstock was about coming together, 1999 was about taking.
Over the next two days, it got worse. On Saturday, another popular rage-filled, entitled, white male band, Limp Bizkit, stoked the testosterone-fueled crowd with a song titled Break Stuff. The mob complied; tearing down structures, sexually molesting women, while the lead singer, Fred Durst was imploring them “not to get mellow.”
In defending himself later, he said “It’s easy to point the finger and blame [us], but they hired us for what we do — and all we did is what we do. I would turn the finger and point it back to the people that hired us.” (Sound familiar?)
By Saturday, concert officials had lost any control of the mob and the fear of mob violence pervaded; with Durst and other heavy metal bands fueling male, white-privilege rage. A van slowly entered a late night tent, inside was an unconscious 15-16 year old girl who had been sexually assaulted.
By Sunday, the conditions were deplorable, drinking water was contaminated, the porta-potties were spilling sewage into mud, vendors were charging exorbitant prices for food and water, people were filling medical tents at the rate of 125 per hour from heat exhaustion, dehydration, drug overdoses, and assaults.
And a rumor had spread, there was going to be a surprise performer to end the concert. The concert ended with another rage, white, male-privileged band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. The energized, out-of-control mob exploded when the rumor of this special band proved to be unfounded.
The mob set fires, destroyed buildings and vehicles, littered, assaulted women and each other. (The private fire department hired by the promoters was too afraid to go into the facility.) Knowing that there would be no consequences for their actions, testosterone, fueled frat-boys mugged for the cameras in exhilaration. Young, exhausted, sexually charged, raged-filled men began looting and attacking the facility, destroying everything that they could.
By the end of the concert there were three deaths and over 1200 injuries.
To justify the violence one woman explained. “We were frustrated, we didn’t have TikTok or Facebook or Instagram or Twitter to express our displeasure, so what else could we do?”
I don’t know, perhaps leave?
Of course, all musicians of that era did not promote this rage or entitlement. Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, and U2 are just a few who were focused on the needs of others. Nor do I believe that this crowd reflects this generation. Instead, it is a mob; plain and simple. A white, entitled, mob who behaved with impunity.
Throughout the documentary, the male participants were described as disrespectful and entitled. If they didn’t get what they wanted, someone had to pay: inebriated girls, concert promoters, concert security members, and, of course, property.
Compare it to Woodstock 1969; where festival goers endured similar challenges. Despite these issues, the leaders, and musicians spread the message of love, peace, and understanding. The Woodstock residents came together to feed the hungry concert goers. To many participants, it was life-changing event.
Since generational music began, the young have been strongly influenced by music and musicians, the poets of our times. In 1999, many festival goers were fueled by a small contingent of musicians who extolled anger.
But I also saw some parallels to this group and the January 6th participants.
In the 2020 election, the rioters didn’t get what they wanted. They wanted Trump to be elected. And, since he didn’t been, they were entitled to take over. So, they stormed the Capitol with the intent of harming anyone who kept them from getting what they wanted.
Thinking about it, do any of the 1999 Woodstock band leaders remind you of some people? The bands, Limp Bizkit, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Korn, reveled in the power and control that they had over the large crowd. They were unwilling to take down the energy or take any responsibility for what happened.
And then there were the people who tried to help, Jewel, Gavin Rossdale, who reminded me of Pence and the police who put the needs of the country over their egos.
It is up to the sociologists to determine if there are any parallels between these two events. To evaluate the extent to which some concertgoers have been inspired by rage music. Or if it is just typical mob mentality.
Most people who participated in storming the Capitol were not held punished. (I recall the couple who was helped down the stairs by a police officer.)
But there is a silver lining.
I look at the generation who came of age in the 21st century. Their focus is on the rights of others: Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and the rights of LBGTQ. While it can be confusing to my Woodstock generation, their direction is clear…other’s needs are important.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.