Director: Garret Price
I knew prior to this documentary that Woodstock 99 was a bit of a shitfest, but I had no idea just how big a shitfest it was. To paraphrase Marilyn Manson (who amazingly was not on the bill) I wasn’t born with enough capital letters to emphasise just how much of a SHITFEST Woodstock 99 turned out to be. We’ll go easy on the details, because much of the pleasure of the film lies in staring at your TV open-mouthed with incredulity for an hour and 50 mins. Let’s just say that in terms of WTF moments it really is the gift that keeps on giving. Think the Fyre documentary turned up to 11. Think Lord of the Flies with boobs and backwards baseball caps. Apocalypse Now where Willard is dispatched to kill Colonel Fred Durst.
But there’s a Hepworthian ‘here’s the thing’ here, because this is a festival that from your place on the sofa looks like an actual vision of hell on earth. Women are being mauled. People are dropping like flies. The place is clearly a cesspit, literally and metaphorically. And yet where is all the footage of traumatised and shell-shocked festival-goers? Anguished kids supporting each other in a bid to escape the inferno? Where’s all the testimony from people still suffering PTSD all these years later? It’s just not there. With the exception of one poor chap whose friend died, all of the attendees interviewed seem to have had a wonderful time, and much later in the film, when a commentator asks, ‘Why weren’t people leaving in their droves?’ the answer, clearly, is that the majority of them were having the weekend of their lives, albeit in a most unedifying fashion.
Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the performance of Limp Bizkit, which took place on the evening of the middle day. Most of the talking heads tut-tut at what is framed as an irresponsible stoking-up of an already febrile atmosphere. They may have a point. I thank my lucky stars that I was several thousand miles away at the time. But what is also true is that if you measure the value of a rock performance on power and spectacle and the utter OMFG of it, then on the evidence presented here (which is significantly different to the still-quite-gobsmacking official YouTube upload) the Bizkit’s showing of Break Stuff is actually one of the great rock moments of all time. ‘They had the crowd going insane,’ says Jonathan Davis of Korn, whose contributions generally are thoughtful and, as in this particular case, understated. ‘What do you expect if you book Limp Bizkit?’ asks someone else. True. To an extent. But I’m sure that there must have been plenty of rock festivals around that time with similar line-ups that didn’t end up with riot police on site.
Playing the blame game ends up being another fun strand to the film, and they all come up at one time or another. The heat! The price of water! Whiteness! Toxic masculinity! The venality of the organisers! Providing a rave tent! The nu-metal programming! Of them all ‘Fred Durst!’ has to be the most laughable. If you really think that Limp Bizkit were responsible for the shitfest that was Woodstock 99 then you haven’t been watching closely enough. And if you were there? On the aforementioned Break Stuff YouTube upload are plenty of comments from people who were. But maybe the most simple and telling goes, “The weekend soon became a matter of survival — but it was great!”
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Ripping someone’s head off!