Greg and Zanna endure a whole lot of douchebaggery.
Rolling around in s***: 5
Setting fire to s***: 5
Number of organisers talking ***: 2
At the time of Woodstock 99 I was an apathetic seventh former, bored with my painfully problem-free existence - i.e. exactly the demographic of the embarrassing morons who attended. The scenes in the mosh pit could've been any one of the Big Day Outs I attended and looking back on that time now with 40-year-old eyes is ... troubling.
Garret Price's documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage retells the chaos of the three-day festival through archival footage and interviews with performers, attendees and the unapologetic festival co-ordinators, Michael Lang and John Scher. According to them, the music of Woodstock 99 reflected the feeling of the time: baseless rage. Headline acts included Limp Bizkit, Metallica, Korn, Rage Against the Machine and most other angry white man bands of the era. There was one female act scheduled each day: Sheryl Crow, Jewel and Alanis Morissette.
The entitled douchebags in attendance treated the site like it was a literal dump, recklessly discarding rubbish, defacing property and turning the drinking fountains into private baths. There was also gross mismanagement, including overpriced bottled water and insufficient free water during some of the hottest days of the year. The result: thousands of dehydrated young people and a portaloo disaster that saw people rolling around in what they wrongly thought was mud. On the last day, attendees began torching the place. Eventually state troopers were called in.
The most disturbing part of the documentary though is the treatment of women. Some went topless, which apparently gave men licence to grope and sexually assault all the women. Dexter Holland of The Offspring told the audience to stop groping crowd-surfing women but a group chanting "show us your tits" to the women on stage wasn't very receptive. Organiser Scher even said naked women needed to take some responsibility for the sexual assaults.
While the documentary does a good job of bringing to light the misogyny of the festival, it doesn't really dig in. Of the attendees interviewed, only one was female. Price is primarily an editor and it's evident he doesn't have the journalistic skill required to uncover the personal stories from women that could have made this documentary revelatory.
I left this film despairing about the behaviour of men. Not all men of course, but undoubtedly some "good guys" succumbed to the angry mob mentality at that festival. And now their idiotic rage has been transferred to me and all women who've ever been groped in a mosh pit or worse.
To be the most loathsome person in a documentary featuring Kid Rock, Fred Durst and 220,000 drunk white kids setting fire to everything is quite something, but in the end, no one comes close to co-promoter John Scher.
Even with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight and a motherlode of footage of things going very wrong, Scher fails to recognise his culpability for staging, amid stiff competition, one of the most disastrous music festivals in history.
It would almost be possible to feel some pity for him until he says of the women who suffered sexual assaults at the festival: "They shouldn't have been touched and I condemn it. But you know, I think that women that were running around naked, you know, are at least partially to blame for that." That's not just a bad take: it's borderline criminal.
His ability to blame the wrong people is on display elsewhere too. He claims, for instance, that MTV's live coverage of the event's multitudinous disasters was not reportage but some sort of self-fulfilling narrative, even though, from fairly early on, festival attendees were literally swimming in their own s***.
To be fair to Scher, some of the music of the time was so bad, nobody could be expected to have listened to it without going insane. The headliners included Durst's Limp Bizkit, Korn and Kid Rock, and the documentary pays heavy attention to the way their sets affected the crowd and the general vibe. Durst did act like a bit of a dick but that was what he was paid for.
Crowd dynamics are complex. No one person or thing can take the blame when a festival turns into a riot, complete with looting, arson, sexual assault and death but if you're the organiser, it takes some special logical mayhem to spare yourself any investigation of your responsibility for all of that.
A year after Woodstock 99, a friend and I went to one of the world's biggest multi-day music events: the Reading Festival. The headliners were Oasis, Stereophonics and Pulp. Limp Bizkit played, but further down the bill. My friend broke the spine of our tent as we were erecting it, blaming it on me, then it started raining. The broken tent became so weighed down by water that, when I woke the next morning, it was resting on my chest. We didn't have toilet paper, so we used the cardboard our six-packs came in. By the festival's final night, I was lying semi-conscious in a cold sweat in our wet tent.
I was bedridden for a week. I lost 5kg. I have always thought of it as one of the worst weekends of my life. Now, I'm just grateful it wasn't worse.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage premieres on SoHo on Monday at 9.30pm and will be streaming on Neon from Friday.