Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 | Channel

A scene from Trainwreck: Woodstock 99. (Photo: Netflix)

A scene from Trainwreck: Woodstock 99. (Photo: Netflix)


Trainwreck: Woodstock 99




4/5 Stars


Woodstock ’99 was supposed to be a millennium-defining celebration of peace, love and great music. Instead, the festival degenerated into an epic trainwreck of fires, riots and destruction.


Woodstock 69 was a cultural phenomenon. An event so big and impactful that it’s remembered in history in the same breath as the moon landing.

In 1994 the creator of the original festival, Michael Lang, attempted to recapture some of the magic of 69, but it ended in a muddy mess when the weather didn’t play along, and fans broke down the parameter fences of the festival and slipped in for free.

Then, 30 years after the original, Michael wanted to give it another shot in 1999. This time they were determined to make it work. Choosing an abandoned air force base in Rome, New York, the team behind Woodstock set upon the mammoth task of reviving the world’s most well-known music festival. This time with impenetrable fences and industrial-sized abandoned hangars.

Although the big shots behind the festival will deny it, Woodstock 99 will go down in history as the worst music festival ever – destroying its legacy of “love, peace, and music”.

Watching the three-part documentary on Netflix, it’s clear to see that things were drastically different from the start. Love was traded for money, peace for violence, and the music was the catalyst that would ultimately see the event go up in actual flames. The first episode is aptly titled, How the F**k Did This Happen?

Well, it happened like this. The rolling hills and beautiful natural setting of the original Woodstock were nowhere to be found at the 99 event. Instead, empty buildings and miles of concrete tarmac would be the backdrop of what ended in an apocalyptic scene straight out of a disaster movie.

Interviews and behind-the-scenes video footage clearly highlight that profit was put before anything else from the start. Cost cutting in pivotal areas like sanitation, waste management, medical and security personnel, and catering was the making of a perfect storm. When core structural infrastructures aren’t in place, it sets the foundation for impending doom.

The gasoline poured over the rising tension at the three-day event were the big-name rock bands of the time whose music was born out of rage and whose fanbase were mostly made up of young testosterone-driven frat boys who only wanted to get wasted and have sex. Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst performed the song Break Stuff on stage, which contains the lyrics: “It’s just one of those days when you don’t wanna wake up /Everything is fucked, everybody sucks / You don’t really know why, but you wanna justify / Rippin’ someone’s head off” . This riled the crowd into a roaring frenzy.

The match that would ultimately light the final fires was literally handed to the angry mob by the organizers themselves, who thought, despite all that they’d witnessed, that it was a good idea to hand out candles for a vigil. This would be just one of a long list of terrible mistakes that lead to total anarchy. Indeed the fat cats were so busy counting their money they never noticed that Rome was burning.

The most shocking part is how the organizers refused to acknowledge the disaster. Even when accounts of rape and sexual abuse surfaced, they disgustingly put it down to a “few bad apples”.

Woodstock 99 has many lessons from which we can learn as a society. It warns that greed will not go unnoticed. It highlights that if those in the money seats refuse to face reality, they’ll pay the ultimate price, and it exposes the ugly truth that humans are capable of the most inhumane and animalistic behavior when engulfed in an angry mob.

The documentary is a brave, thoughtful, and well-made film that should be watched by all – not just music fans. It serves as a warning that we’re often just one candle flame away from a total disaster if we choose to be ignorant to the truth in front of us.


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