The dream was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the most iconic music festival of all time. The reality was much, much darker: four days of torrid heat, horrendous sanitation, overpriced food and aggro bands that whipped the tired, tanked audience into a mad frenzy.
Held on a former military installation in upstate New York, Woodstock ’99 was as epic a disaster as the original 1969 event was a generation-defining triumph. Instead of the peaceful love-in featuring the most inspired/inspiring acts of a generation, W99 was a mish-mash of then-popular hard rockers (Limp Bizkit, Korn, Creed) mixed with some boomer-friendly throwbacks (Mickey Hart, Willie Nelson, The Who’s John Entwistle), hip-hop (DMX, The Roots, ICP), jam bands (Moe., String Cheese Incident) and pop stars (Sheryl Crow, Moby) playing to an increasingly agitated audience.
The whole sorted mess is laid out in the two-minute trailer for the upcoming (July 23) HBO documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage that dropped on Wednesday. Directed by Garret Price (Love, Antosha), the movie looks back at the event that was promoted as a return to the counterculture garden that instead descended into violent riots, arson, allegations of sexual assault and looting when organizers lost control of the site, the crowd and the original plot.
“There is a sixth sense that you develop when you spend your life going to venues… I can tell you 100 feet away what the energy in that venue is going to be like,” says Moby in voice-over to open the preview. The footage shows smiling patrons walking onto the heat-radiating, shade-free expanse of concrete where 400,000 fans broiled for the weekend, offering a preview of the mayhem to come. “We got off the bus and I was like, ‘Something is not right,'” Moby intones.
The movie coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the “day the nineties died,” hitting some of the “highlights” of the event, from the $4 bottles of water, to the “mud” outside the overflowing portable toilets that patrons wallowed in and the “dark energy” coming from the geeked-up, hammered young white males who found release for their hostility when bands such as Bizkit encouraged them to “Break Stuff.”
With interviews from the event’s organizers, Michael Lang and John Scher, as well as Korn’s Jonathan Davis, The Offspring, Scott Stapp of Creed, The Roots’ Black Thought and cultural critics Wesley Morris and Maureen Callahan among others, the film revisits the fires and fury fueled by toxic masculinity and the sinking feeling that the decision to transform a previous generation’s peace signs into dollar signs was bound to end in tragedy.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, And Rage will premiere on HBO at 9 p.m. ET on July 23.
Watch the trailer for the film below.