Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

How three days of peace and harmony turned into three days of angst, destruction and anarchy.


Cody Wagner, Entertainment Writer

As we enter into this excited yet questionable summer offering up loads of  concerts and festivals consisting of highly talented artists, we must remember that that the safety and well-being of others is the #1 priority especially with large scale crowds from festivals such as lollapalooza, Rolling Loud, Summer Fest, etc. We also need to remind ourselves that there are those who choose to decline from the vaccination due to personal beliefs. If crowds become too disruptive due to overconsumption of intoxicating substances, dehydration from outrageous water prices, and pure idiocracy then you’re just asking for another Woodstock 99. 

On July 23, HBO Max released a music documentary called “Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage,” which highlights the eccentric and disastrous scene that was Woodstock 99. This 110-minute documentary investigates the infamous Woodstock 99 festival whose original intentions of reviving the celebrated and beloved musical event were quickly erased as fear, terror and tragedy turned three days of peace, love, and harmony into absolute insanity. 

Tales of decadence and disorder are told by memorable artists, many who performed at the festival,  such as Jonathan Davis of Korn, Dexter Holland of The Offspring, Scott Stapp of Creed and rapper Black Thought of The Roots. Festival managers, John Scher and Michael Lang, who arranged both the Woodstock 94 and 99 festivals, gave their input on the situation, followed by journalists and attendees who witnessed the action firsthand. The documentary not only highlights the array of talented and exciting acts, but also allows the audience to get a deeper and more detailed look at the festival and the horrific choices that resulted in its descent to madness. 

Woodstock 99 occurred on the weekend of July 22-25, 1999 at the Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y. It was an attempt to revitalize the greatness and tranquility that was Woodstock 94, which occurred five years earlier. Critically acclaimed artists such as Metallica, Korn, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring, The Cranberries, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Dave Matthews Band, DMX and so many more offered explosive and energized performances that many believed were the cause of the rampage that followed. There were around 220,000 concert-goers who eagerly and angrily pushed themselves through three days of mud, sweat, heat and exhaustion. Contrarily, acts such as Korn, DMX, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock made tremendous breakthroughs in their careers through their invigorating and memorable performances that are still cherished to this day. Some question the lineup to this day, as many of the acts were related to the genres of hard rock and heavy metal, differing from the original Woodstock’s calm and collective intentions. Even with explosive and captivating acts, nobody could foresee the dire outcome that was ahead. Each day of the festival is interpreted and carefully analyzed as the documentary shows short clips of each performance alongside camera footage taped by attendees, workers and MTV.  

Each day was touched upon throughout the documentary, highlighting the artists, their performances and the crowd’s excited and energetic reactions. But despite the emotional and impactful performances that were being presented, Issues began to arise. The first issue was the skyrocketing and dangerous heat. Within six minutes of arrival, people were already complaining about the As a solution, the festival decided to charge $4 for water, which was immediately viewed as outrageous and overpriced by many of the attendees. This resulted in mass dehydration, exhaustion and even hyperthermia according to one attendee. People destroyed pipes and drains just to get free water, creating mud that plagued the whole area, inciting more filth and unsanitary conditions. 

Cases of sexual assault and rape were prevalent within the three days of pure chaos that left many traumatized and saddened. Many women were seen exposing their breasts throughout the massive formations of audience members. Dexter Holland of The Offspring could see some of the problems happening during his band’s performance and addressed the crowd:, “If you’re a guy and you see a girl passing overhead, give her a break. And if you’re a girl and you see a guy passing overhead, I want you to grab his fucking balls.” Holland’s statement did little to settle the issue, but even that small gesture was more than what the staff and other artists did in presenting the issue..

Each day presented more and more hostility. It manifested in pure hatred and violence that fueled assaults and rioting on the final day. Merchandise and refreshment booths were trashed and items were stolen, alongside fires, destruction of property, and beatings. Some concert attendees left early as they feared for their safety and the safety of those around them. Police finally intervened the final night as they tried to dissipate the erratic crowd. 

From the statistics, a total of 1,200 people were injured with 44 arrests as well as eight reported cases of sexual assaults, four being alleged rapes. It is also estimated that the number of sexual assaults and rapes was much higher with cases ranging in the hundreds. It’s shocking to see how much destruction and devastation was left after the festival ended. The colorful and abstract artwork created by youthful artists just days before the festival’s start was soon met with angry crowds as they trampled and annihilated the hard work that was left over by such creative minds. The attitude and overall structure of the event were a complete mess, as each day promised more danger than the last. Footage shows walls being torn down, fences ruined, tents raided and even fires ignited. All the time and energy put in by staff and supporters to promote the event, just went to waste because of people’s inability to understand the consequences of their actions. 

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage presents a detailed and honest account of the danger, turbulence and devastation that was prevalent within the Woodstock 99 festival, as the original intentions of peace, love, and harmony were quickly replaced with rage, disappointment and violence. As a huge fan of live concerts, it was heartbreaking to see so much shit go wrong the way it did.This documentary is one that I believe everyone should watch so similar mistakes can be prevented as we reintegrate ourselves back into the lively and visceral world of concerts and festivals. 

Woodstock 99: Peace. Love, and Rage is currently available to stream on HBO Max.