Woodstock 99 (or; How I Ended Up On VH1 In My Underpants) [Part 2 of 2]

Disclaimer: There will be brief mentions of sexual assault, some of the videos may have nudity, and I’m going to take some pot shots at the recently deceased Michael Lang.

Part 1 here.

Saturday, July 24, 1999

Saturday morning, we woke up and it felt like a thousand degrees. It was humid and sticky and gross, right from the get-go. By now, we’ve figured out that we’re only eating once a day. We were getting footlong subs for $5, which was the best value, and water had exploded to $7 or $8 a bottle. So, we would buy a coke for $5, and refill the bottle with water. Some of the footage you can see now had people bathing in it, literally sitting in the buckets where the water was feeding into to. We had found a source of water where it was just coming out of a spigot, basically. We didn’t get Legionnaire’s Disease, so that was a plus.

By this point, things aren’t quite going sideways, but it’s getting close. It’s been near complete lawlessness for two days now. Security “volunteers” were just coming and throwing their shirts away and joining the crowds. For the people who were coming back that had hotels, no one was checking their tickets… because no one was manning the gates! Anyone could walk right in. An announcement was made that we were the biggest festival in the United States that day, which was supposed to be a big deal because Lollapalooza, Warped, Lilith Fair, and Ozzfest were all ongoing tours that summer. They reported that there were 250,000 people there, but estimates go as high as 400,000, because no one was counting effectively, anyway.

There were piles of garbage everywhere, and people just passed out in them. In addition to poor planning, there piles of garbage everywhere because there was an impromptu drum circle and many of the “drums” were overturned trashcans. I’m not sure when the drum circle started, but I’m certain it is still going on right now.

I can’t remember what we were doing in the morning, but in the early afternoon, we settled in at the East Stage for Wyclef Jean. We missed out on The Tragically Hip and Kid Rock. Apparently, there are reports of unruly Americans shouting down The Tragically Hip for being Canadian, and I wouldn’t doubt that because this crowd sucked. Also, Kid Rock called Bill Clinton a pimp. No shortage of bad takes, this guy. Frankly, I’m kind of surprised no one in our group wanted to see Kid Rock, but I was not into it. Anyway, I specifically wanted to see Wyclef as I liked The Carnival and The Score. Wyclef’s set was nothing short of a disaster. Songs started, but never finished before moving on to something else. The band had no idea what was going on because Wyclef kept telling them, “NO! WAIT!” and moving on, plus there is the failed Jimi Hendrix tribute where they try to burn a guitar… and fail, and then Wyclef just puts on House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and stage dives… and he doesn’t even do that well. It was a colossal missed opportunity for him, and I recommend looking it up and watching the entire thing for the spectacular trainwreck that it is, it’s only a little over half an hour. Slim Ready said, “It might’ve been ok if he played is own music.”

Counting Crows were up next, and I have zero recollection of it. We stayed at the West Stage all day, there wasn’t any one at the East Stage any of us were into at the time. It was getting really hot, the heat index that day was 112, and we were just sitting in an open field, baking our internal organs. We had remarked after we had gotten home that, none of us had any bowel movements, and we each had only urinated once per day and that we were operating at nearly 0% waste! Which was incredibly unhealthy and dangerous. More on that later. This was the time that people were starting to try and recreate the Woodstock ’94 mud, and playing in the mud that was made from god damned sewage overflow. Three nude mud zombies when running by, boobies and pee-pees flapping in the breeze. This is another instance where it was great not to be packed in tightly and I was happy that we were 100 miles away from the stage.

Dave Matthews Band was up next. We were sitting on the burnt dry grass, which was stabbing us. In all the recent retrospectives, much has been made about Dave being a pervert for commenting on all the bare breasts. It’s not a big deal, it’s a festival, there will be boobs. He was also very clearly drunk as I seem to remember he rambled on a bunch of nonsense in between songs. As much as I remember, because I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Alanis Morissette was on stage. I don’t remember much about it, except to say that her voice was in great form and incredibly powerful.

What is Limp Bizkit? Are they dumb? Are they a party band? Are they meatheads? More or less, the answer is yes. They are smart enough to know what they are doing. Are they responsible for all of the bad stuff that happened? Well, more on that later. I had seen Limp Bizkit in early 1998, they had only the first album out, which was more rock than hip hop. By now, Significant Other was out, and they were blown up, obviously. The band worked the crowd, and the crowd was getting rowdy. The band’s sound had been cut for a minute or so in an attempt to calm down the crowd. Miles away where we were standing, it was immediately obvious the power cut was on purpose. As far as we knew, the show went on without incident.

Everyone in our group was excited for Rage Against the Machine, except for me. I like them well enough, but they’ve never been my favorite. They put on a solid show. At the end of the set, they burned the American flag that was on stage with them. One of our group expressed dismay about that, I wasn’t particularly bothered (or surprised). Some of the younger readers may not know there was a huge debate about this through the 90’s, but the Supreme Court upheld that it’s not actually illegal to do so… which was decided in 1989, yet the better part of the decade continued the debate.

Metallica was closing on Saturday. Myself, Dungeon Master, and Demon Knight were all excited to see them. I hadn’t seen them before, and even though this was the Load / Reload era, they were sure to play some old stuff. In the aftermath there were some rumors that they didn’t get to play as loud as they would’ve normally played in an effort to keep the crowd from turning into a full-on riot. There wasn’t any noticeable difference, it’s not like they turned if down like they were driving in a strange part of town looking for building numbers. After Metallica, we were exhausted and went back to camp.

Sunday, July 25, 1999

Sunday morning was still hot, and we were all feeling pretty gross and sticky. None of us had showered since Thursday morning. Maybe it was time to hit up the shower facilities they had on site. Some places had open shower stalls like they have at the beach, you see a lot of that in the media. They had another place, that was a covered shower area, more like you would find in a gym where it was all open, but split for men and women. The drain was backed up, so the water was knee deep. I stepped in, and saw two completely nude and extremely hairy southern European men, and realized I was standing in their run off, and the run off of thousands of other people, and I NOPE’d right out of there.

Remember that clean drinking water? Well, I went to one of those and splashed water on my face. I can’t remember what anyone else did. It was still really early, and we were pretty much over the entire weekend, honestly. There were still a few bands we wanted to see.

We were walking across the field, and Elvis Costello was playing “Alison”, but everyone just seemed kind of lethargic. I do regret not seeing Willie Nelson. But anyway, we were approaching the wall, and people were just kicking it down. I remember people were walking on the other side of it, and large planks of wall were coming down in the people. The people were understandably pissed off. We actually took one of these large planks and managed to strap it to the top of one of the cars. Later, when we were coming back, there was a family of four riding bikes around the perimeter when another plank came down and nearly landed on them. We split up into smaller groups, Myself, Dungeon Master, and Demon Knight went over to the West Stage.

The three of us missed Mike Ness, Our Lady Peace, and Rusted Root (Thank Christ). We missed the beginning of Sevendust, but saw most of their set. I had already seen them once… opening for Limp Bizkit! I didn’t know Sevendust when I saw them the first time, but I knew them more this time. They were on fire. Their singer, Lajon Witherspoon, was high as fuck and wouldn’t shut up about it. It’s not relevant, but I’ve seen them four times and met Lajon (but not at Woodstock). He’s a very nice dude.

Up next was Collective Soul. I always thought they were ok at best, but we had no where else to be. They turned out to be surprisingly solid, even “Shine”, a song I hate. Then they pulled out this cover by saying it was featured in a truck commercial. I assumed it was going to be Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock”.

We saw Godsmack next. I wasn’t huge on them, but my friends were. I will say, they had great crowd participation. They were young and hungry and front man Sully Erna had yet to have an ego larger than Earth itself. Yeah, the music is basic and they’re meatheads, but it was fun. For the record, I saw them the next year at Ozzfest 2000, and they were terrible.

We were going to meet up with the rest of our group, but Megadeth was next and we had two things we wanted to hear. 1.) “Holy Wars” and 2.) “My Darkest Hour”, and we heard them both in the first three songs. There was a guy next to us that had a liter bottle of water, and it was nearly full, and he decided to throw it at singer / guitarist Dave Mustaine. He drew back and flung it, and it was just too hard, it went over Mustaine, over the drummer, and hit the curtain behind him. But the line up was perfect, a little less muscle on it and he would’ve hit him square in the face. I thought, “that’s a terribly expensive projectile”. I watched the video, and it didn’t catch the water bottle, but I realized we were a hell of a lot closer than I realized.

We met back up with the rest of our group, and honestly, I don’t know how we did. I don’t remember what sort of plan we had in place, but we met up with them where Red Hot Chili Peppers were already underway… in fact the were almost finished.  There were huge fires everywhere, and the crowd hadn’t turned just yet, but you could feel it. The air was different. Then, the Chili Peppers had some discussion on the mics about whether or not to launch into Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, which of course, they did.

I was feeling increasingly uneasy. I said, “Guys, I think maybe we should get out early.” Thankfully, everyone agreed. There were a lot of rumors of a “Jimi Hendrix Tribute” that was going to include all of these superstar guitarists, including Prince, but that was never planned. So, I’m glad we didn’t bother waiting for something that didn’t exist. At any rate, we started making our way to the cars, and we see a group of guys overturn a BMW, and then they got on the undercarriage and started jumping up and down on it. We didn’t run, but we were walking briskly.

We got our cars in the exit line, which by this time was super long… apparently our idea was so good that everyone else had it at the same time. There were two young women in the car in front of us. They were almost out of gas. Dungeon Master, Demon Knight, and myself had them put in neutral and we pushed them a long way. Once the line started to break up, they took our address and said they would send us a check to pay us back. That check never came. Ladies, if you’re reading this, I want my fucking money.

After a long, traffic filled drive, we arrived at Denny’s back home around 4 am. We got a stomach full of food, lots of fluids, and a working bathroom. As we sat, exhausted, we felt a mix of excitement and relief, but talked more about the music and the naked bodies we saw around. Dungeon Master and I agreed when we got back to our apartment that we didn’t ever want to do a festival like that again.


In the days after, the news stories were full of pieces about the fires, the looting, the violence. Soon, they were saying “Women raped in mosh pit”. As a young adult, I read that and thought, “how is that possible”? Now, I realize it’s just a semantic argument… the difference between “crowd” and “mosh pit”. There was also the story of the young man who died after collapsing during the Metallica set. He died from heat stroke and hypothermia (when the body temp is too high, and then a person drinks too much water that is too cold). State Troopers in riot gear (whom we narrowly missed, unbeknownst to us) came in to push the people out.

In October 1999, Epic Records released a 2-CD set of performances, and a VHS/DVD (released March 2000) to commemorate the concert. Even as someone who was there, they all just seem like lukewarm cash grabs. If anything, the video just serves to anger the blood. There’s a segment of people who knew the volunteered “security” who let them bring in anything they want, and by comparison it’s a paradise. They have camp stoves, coolers with well stocked food and water (and beer). They’re just so fucking smug, and while I didn’t have a bad time, many people really did. Meanwhile these asshats are just living it up. One thing that is ironically funny, is that on the video Dave Mustaine makes a crack about the concert goers at the East Stage falling asleep because it’s so boring, completely unaware that all of that shit is on fire.

Also in October 1999, I was hospitalized for kidney stones, which I had to have a very gross and painful surgery to have them removed. I had a kidney stone one time before that passed without incident, and no doubt that the heat and lack of water contributed to my problem.

In August (or so) 2000, I was still working at the big box store. I was working until midnight because of high volume for the back-to-school season. Getting home, just looking to switch off a little bit so I can sleep. Turn on the TV, and there on VH1, is some hack job documentary about the festival. In a bunch of quick cut clips, is me in my boxers. Turned out those footsteps outside my tent were cameramen. I’ve scoured the internet, I can’t find their video, so you’ll just have to believe me (I scoured the HBO doc, and as near as I can tell, I’m not in it).

Over the years, the think pieces have piled up, calling the festival “The Day the Music Died” and calling it the beginning of toxic masculinity (guess what it, was always here). If you’ve watched the HBO documentary, you’ve seen the organizers blame the victims of sexual assault for going around topless, you’ve seen the organizers blame the music for the violence, you’ve seen Magic Pixie Concert Promoter shrug with indifference when he’s asked if the problems stem from poor planning. What you do not see, however, John Scheer admit that he was partial owner of the company selling the bottled water, and that buy contract the only water permitted to be sold at the event was from his company.

So, was the music to blame? As a child who lived through the Satanic Panic and never murdered anyone, never committed suicide, and never sacrificed any living thing to any other thing (living, imaginary, or otherwise), the answer is no.  Limp Bizkit carries a disproportionate amount of blame on this front, yet no one says one single word against Rage Against the Machine? Not to mention, the riots happened over a full 24 hours after Limp Bizkit’s set. Before this, I had been to a lollapalooza and two K-Rockathons, and afterwards I had gone to two Ozzfests and Tattoo the Earth. Not only did none of this shit happen at those, there are tons of weekend long festivals in the U.S. now (we’re finally catching up with Europe’s festival culture), and none of them have ever turned into a shit show of this magnitude. It was poor planning and price gouging, with a perfect storm of bored affluence from pre-9/11 times.

Michael Lang continually tried to resurrect a Woodstock 50 for 2019. It was originally slated to be in Watkins Glen, NY, which was practically in my backyard growing up (music historians already know about Summer Jam at Watkins Glen which had a confirmed 600,000 attendees in 1973). For a split second, Dungeon Master and I considered it, but frankly, that lineup was pretty lukewarm. But I get that my generation will have to be ignored forever because some frat boys burned it all down. Not that it mattered at all, the festival kept getting delays and logistical problems, but he insisted it would still go on. It never even was officially “canceled” when Covid happened. Lang died January 8, 2022, at the age of 77. Did Woodstock die with him? That remains to be seen, but with all the other festivals, do we really need Woodstock? Again, the answer is no.

Thank you, truly, for your interest in my experience and reading this piece. We will resume with regularly scheduled Old Music Monthly next week.