“Woodstock 99: Peace, Delight in, and Rage,” the first installment in a series of music documentaries for HBO created by Invoice Simmons, begins with a disclaimer from the film’s director, Garret Sign. “It would personal been truly easy to building this as a comedy,” he says. “Nonetheless it performed out grand extra like a misfortune film.” A director admitting to a pair diploma of mocking contempt for his arena is a animated beginning level, although someone accustomed to Woodstock ’99—which took enlighten at a decommissioned Air Power unhealthy in Rome, Fresh York, on three scorching, airless days in slack July—seemingly understands how Sign can personal toggled between laughing and trembling. “Woodstock 99,” grand like “Fyre Fraud” and “FYRE: The Perfect Social gathering That By no manner Came about,” two duelling documentaries about the catastrophic Fyre Competition, in which affluent attendees personal been wooed to the Bahamas by a marketing firm and pressured to eat limp cheese sandwiches, rapidly invitations viewers to feel superior to the kinds of of us who support costly, ill-deliberate music fairs. Creep ahead and laugh at the sea of shirtless hooligans bouncing into every other, hurling looted frozen pretzels staunch into a bonfire, and rolling in unique sewage. Then prepare to recoil in precise dread at their rising fury.
“Woodstock 99” is method darker than the Fyre films; it evokes no longer schadenfreude but fear. The grimmest scenes reminded me of watching footage of the Capitol riot: out-of-retain watch over white of us foregoing decency and rectitude in represent to explicit a form of deep, nameless, long-festering anger. Twenty-two years later, Woodstock ’99 is often remembered as a unsightly bacchanal, marred by frequent sexual assault, riots, looting, arson, and dying by hyperthermia. It drew around four hundred thousand of us to Griffiss Air Power Immoral, in upstate Fresh York (attendees paid a hundred and fifty greenbacks every, plus carrier charges), but organizers did no longer anecdote for the disagreeable weather (airfields aren’t known for offering grand respite from blinding noon solar), the need for functional restrooms and showers, and the unparalleled placement of the two main stages extra than a mile apart, requiring a long, punishing slide along an originate asphalt runway. By the pause of the weekend, the portable toilets had overflowed, the A.T.M. machines had been torn apart, security had began fleeing the grounds, and assorted constructions personal been being field ablaze.
The documentary’s chief villain is the promoter John Scher, who himself remains desirous to blame each person else for the event’s concerns. MTV “field the tone,” he insists, with hours of sensational coverage. The girls folk “who personal been running around bare” are part of the reason there personal been so many sexual assaults. He believes that the indisputable fact that there personal been most productive three female artists (Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, and Jewel) booked to create manner runt or no: “You either wanted to be a rock band or had to personal the charisma to drag it off.” Nonetheless for Scher, it’s Fred Durst—the sneering, crouching, seething singer of the rap-rock neighborhood Limp Bizkit—who could furthermore restful shoulder most of the blame. Durst, dressed in a pair of baggy khakis and a backwards Yankees hat, deliberately agitated the crowd by hollering a series of whiny, adolescent provocations—life is difficult; of us are indicate—from the stage. Of direction, giving speak to our collective corrupt temper became as soon as continually Limp Bizkit’s mission. “It’s appropriate one of these days / Where you don’t deserve to gather up / All the pieces is fucked / All and sundry sucks,” Durst sings on the single “Fracture Stuff.”
In the pause, Durst did as Durst does, and to come up with the money for his look that grand energy and accountability feels absurd. Scher understands that Durst is a convenient punching rating, partly in consequence of Limp Bizkit has no longer quite historical into dignity; in 2021, it’s hard to earn a professional critic intelligent to argue for the significance or grace of the band’s output. (It feels grand that Rage In opposition to the Machine, the next and extra ideologically lofty outfit, personal been no longer less than as mad onstage; the chorus of “Killing in the Establish”—“Fuck you, I won’t secure what you repeat me”—has been a rallying weep for mad youth since 1992.) Scher cites a moment in which Durst became as soon as rapidly carted around the crowd on a piece of plywood as proof of the band’s malevolent intentions, but the true riots didn’t happen except twenty-four hours after Limp Bizkit performed. As an different, Rome burned as the Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers performed a quilt of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fireplace,” and Megadeth launched into “Peace Sells.” (“Peace sells, but who’s looking out to earn?” the frontman, Dave Mustaine, growled knowingly.)
For a music documentary, “Woodstock 99” isn’t truly all that in music. There’s no longer ample efficiency footage, and the film time and again suggests that the feistier bands acted carelessly, purposefully accelerating a grotesque display of what has since change into in most cases known as toxic masculinity (the aggressiveness of the lineup is furthermore overstated; the then forty-four-yr-musty pianist Bruce Hornsby, as an instance, performed an hour-long field). The filmmakers utilize a routine amount of time presenting grunge—and notably Kurt Cobain, who, in the early nineteen-nineties, expressed originate disgust for male aggression—for event of how rock music will most seemingly be sonically explosive but spiritually gentle, as aligned with femininity because it’s with masculinity. That Jonathan Davis, the lead singer of Korn, performed at Woodstock ’99 whereas carrying a leather skirt, is circuitously addressed.
The film does acknowledge that one of the competition’s extra enduring legacies is of sexual assault: girls folk personal been often pressured, groped, and asked to whisper their knockers. While the film is plainly excessive of this—how could it no longer be?—it furthermore doesn’t bother to blur the faces of the ladies who are proven topless or being grabbed by men. That resolution (and the sheer relentlessness of this footage, which takes up a most important chunk of the film) feels merciless. It’s hard to convincingly protect girls folk whereas simultaneously shaming and re-exposing them.
“Woodstock 99” does provide flashes of context—the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Invoice Clinton’s subsequent impeachment, “Ladies Gone Wild,” Y2K paranoia, low unemployment, economic prosperity, the bloodbath at Columbine—but the non secular impetus at the again of the violence remains hard to parse. What cultural or social systems led thousands of youngsters to feel so entitled and furious in a moment of unquestionable national prosperity? How did these bands unencumber or enlarge these feelings? Had been competition goers making an are trying to rebellion, in an extremely clumsy manner, in opposition to the relentless commodification of art and custom? In opposition to the existence of a plywood and steel fence in most cases known as the “Peace Wall”? In opposition to the intrusion of company interests into the total lot sacred and appropriate? In opposition to being offered a four-dollar bottle of water on a sweltering summer season weekend? (“In the event you’re going to a competition, you elevate money with you,” Scher offers as an clarification for the pricing.) In all probability it became as soon as an overreaction to the resurgence of polished teen pop on MTV and on the radio; at one level, the punk band the Offspring introduced out inflatable dummies dressed as the Backstreet Boys and destroyed them with a plastic bat whereas the crowd cheered. (That the pop stars of this generation—’N Sync, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, et al.—personal proved to be some distance extra influential and lasting than nu steel is basically the handiest and coldest revenge.)
“The organism becomes stronger than any one person,” the rock critic Steven Hyden says at one level. (The documentary’s three excessive talking heads—Hyden; Wesley Morris, of the Cases; and Maureen Callahan, who lined the competition for Wander and at the moment writes for the Fresh York Publish—provide horny commentary.) Hyden is talking about the mosh pit that gathered for Metallica’s field, but his description nonetheless looks to be as if the film’s handiest argument for why the competition devolved into total chaos. Most often, corrupt conduct is a contagion. Enmity and resentment can replicate so rapidly. At the least the tumult and division the U.S. has skilled the previous five years, it’s presumably more uncomplicated to phrase these truths now, even though it’s restful hard to understand them.