Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

HBO's Woodstock 99 doc promises concert mayhem without the $4 waters

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, And Rage premieres on HBO Max on July 23

The crowd at Woodstock 1999
The crowd at Woodstock 1999
Photo: Scott Gries (Getty Images)

Woodstock ‘99 was designed to be a glorious third chapter for the most famous music festival of all time. Following the success of Woodstock ‘94, how could the guys behind booking Sha Na Na at Woodstock ‘69 not outdo themselves? They did what any flesh and blood capitalist flower child would do: They booked a music festival without proper toilets, available amenities, or Sha Na Na. What could go wrong?

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Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, And Rage is a new documentary executive produced by Bill Simmons (and, in the interest of full disclosure, former A.V. Club music editor Steven Hyden is a consulting producer on the film and a talking head in the trailer). The movie focuses on the planning, execution, and tragedy of Woodstock ‘99, a music festival that played host to violence, sexual misconduct, and a collective outburst of anger.

Interestingly enough, just about everyone in this documentary saw this coming. “There is a sixth sense that you develop when you spend your life going to venues,” says Moby early in the trailer. “I can tell you from a hundred away what the energy of that venue is going to be like.” But, apparently, Moby’s sixth sense didn’t do him any good at “not your parent’s Woodstock.” As many already know, the combination of overpriced water, searing heat, and Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” begat a full-blown riot, leaving the festival in flames and attendees covered in human waste.

It’s been more than 20 years and one other failed attempt at Woodstock since the event, and many see it as a bellwether for a changing culture. The press release for the film reads:

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, And Rage unfolds over three blazing hot days and nights of nonstop performances and heaving mosh pits in July 1999, and examines how the festival eventually collapsed under the weight of its own misguided ambition. The musical lineup reflected acts that dominated MTV and radio airwaves at the time and leaned heavily towards artists catering to a young, male demographic. Intense heat, lack of adequate sanitation and access to free drinking water agitated a crowd already at a breaking point. Shortcuts and cost-cutting measures had diminished security, allowing the anger and frustration of the mob to explode into unchecked rioting and destruction. As much as Woodstock 69 became known as a celebration of peace and inclusion, Woodstock 99 became a flashpoint for burgeoning white toxic masculinity.

This documentary isn’t Bill Simmons’ first look at the concert. Steven Hyden’s Woodstock ‘99 podcast Break Stuff: The Story of Woodstock ’99 debuted in 2019 on Simmons’ Ringer podcast network. So it’ll be fun for a broader audience to see that Fyre Festival wasn’t an anomaly but part of a grand tradition in festival mismanagement.

The film features “first-hand accounts from musicians, including The Roots’ Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, Moby, Jewel, The Offspring, Creed’s Scott Stapp and festival attendees give an unfiltered perspective of the events, shedding light on how a weekend rooted in music and unity descended into chaos.

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Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, And Rage premieres on HBO Max on July 23. According to HBO, it is the first movie in a music documentary series called Music Box, which includes documentaries on Alanis Morrissette, DMX, Juice WRLD, and more.