Inspired by writer friend Josh Ostroff’s very good I-was-there piece reliving the horrors of what it was like being at Woodstock ’99 exactly 15 years ago I went and unearthed the review I wrote about it at the time for Chart.
It’s not the best piece of writing ever (why did I swear so much?), and because I wrote it from the comfort of my couch, watching it on TV while flipping between the pay-per-view feed and MuchMusic, it has a decided backseat driver vibe, but whatever. At the time I was really irritated by the whole event and embarrassed for both my generation and humanity in general.
Here it is:
I wasn’t there — and thank fuckin’ god for that.
Sure, the idea sounded pretty good, celebrate the 30th anniversary of Woodstock, relive peace, happiness and such, and enjoy a bunch of great bands. Problem is, most of the bands sucked and the kids ain’t about “the groovy trip” and shit these days, they’re about trying to grope that chick’s tits over yonder and “fuckin’ shit up, know what I mean?”
Well and comfy on my sofa and switching from Much to pay-per-view obsessively, one thing became clear — you get a bunch of young middle-class white kids together and boy do they ever get stupid.
Case in point, the now infamous Limp Bizkit set. I don’t have a problem with the way they incited the crowd to riot — it was all very Jim Morrison-esque and breathed a bit of truly historic air into what had been an otherwise mundane affair. It was truly rock ‘n’ roll, and a spectacle to behold, even from the couch. But the fact it took Limp Bizkit — a band who, when it comes down to it, are a horribly shitty one-and-a-half hit wonder — to cause a riot, reflects badly on this generation.
When the Much and PPV cameras would pan across the violent circle pits, looters ripping apart light tower rigging and moshing up a storm, it was actually kinda cool visually. But think about it. The kids tearing were tearing apart the light tower! I mean, it’s O.K. not to understand the mechanics of rock concert equipment, but it takes real glueheads not to be able to figure out that if you trash a tower, the show won’t continue. And it’s funny that just when I came to this realization, the PPV cameras zoomed in on some guys tipping over the portapotties reserved for the light tower crew, then started jumping on top of them. When one of the toilets collapsed under the weight of one of these jumpers I started howling. This kid’s pissed-off-at-his-Burger King-job-rage left him lying in a literal pool of piss and shit from the toilet he just destroyed. Fucking idiot.
The music of anger seemed contrived too. Korn just sucked, despite the crowd’s gleeful declaration that “Korn rocked, maan!” As far as muddy wonders go, I guess they were alright, but I can’t help but pencil in mid-October as the date for the Korn records to start flooding into the delete bins of used record stores worldwide. Rage Against The Machine sounded good playing their one song over and over again. But their burn-the-American-flag bit was the anti-climax to Fred Durst singing “Faith” from atop a scavenged piece of plywood. Godsmack, Sevendust, Buckcherry, Lit. Why the fuck did you even get invited? You’re at 14:58, baby.
The best barometer for the whole show was likely watching the MuchMusic throws from Ed The Sock and Sook Yin Lee. With each progressive throw, their nervous vitriol became more and more apparent, what with Sook calling the crowd “loogans” and Ed insulting all comers. They did after all have to abandon their camera tower during Limp Bizkit because of the semi-rioters. Sure insulting the audience was something of a music-snob elitist reaction, but it was entirely justified by just flipping channels to the PPV footage that would zoom in on a topless woman riding a guy’s shoulders and seeing numerous anonymous hands grabbing at her tits to cop a cheap feel. Classy.
In fact, the nudity was so rampant that Much’s Bill and Rick took to calling the show “Boobfest” and “Boobstock” in honour of the spring break-style moral deterioration going on around them. A moral deterioration best exemplified by confessionals from concertgoers pointing out to Rick or Bill where they had fucked the night before, or the best, jerked off behind some portapotties while watching some girls wrestling.
As for the music, there were a few actual highlights (none of which included Alanis, Jewel, Bruce Hornsby, Megadeth, Guster or Rusted Roots). The Tragically Hip opening up the proceedings on the main stage on Saturday was absolutely astounding. There was a sea of Canadian flags churning in such vast numbers that not even Canada Day shows can compare.
It was a truly surreal moment and one of those rare festival show instances that I’ve not seen since U2’s performance at Live Aid, where it felt like a band instantaneously arrives. Metallica were surprisingly great. After Rage and Limp Bizkit they had to do something, and what that was was literally a greatest hits marathon that seemed to never stop. It almost, almost redeemed the night.
But for every highlight there were numerous musical lows. Kid Rock playing for an hour was right up there, so was Everlast. And in what will likely be hailed as the most fractured performance ever in front of 250,000 people, Wyclef Jean let his sister Melky Sedeck hack apart “Raw” for 15 minutes before finally hitting the stage himself to hack apart his own songs. Although we will give him credit for shutting up and letting his DJ play House Of Pain and Naughty By Nature for 10 minutes.
So yeah, there you go, historic moment and all that crap, blah, blah. I’m glad I stayed home.