Movie/review

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 movie review (2022)

Among its talking heads, we hear from the Jewel, Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Jonathan Davis of Korn, and Fatboy Slim about the importance of energy, how a crowd of 200,000 hungry, thirsty, exploited fans could turn at any moment. The original Woodstock was presented as being about peace, love, and music, whereas Woodstock ’99 was about survival in one way or another. Similarly, this documentary is dedicated to humanizing those who were treated as animals and then perceived as such when they started to rebel, destroying the grounds by its closing Sunday night. 

Accountability is what this documentary strives for so late in the game, with the NDAs everyone signed that fateful Monday morning apparently expired. It doesn’t get that, but it does have plenty of moments in which the controlling Woodstock powers like promoter John Scher and Woodstock owner Michael Lang show their ignorance about what happened, or even who they brought in. They hired a bunch of popular acts who are paid to be angry (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock) and then they gave thousands of concertgoers numerous reasons to be angry at them. Then they gave them candles. 

The series is especially compelling with behind-the-scenes footage, starting with VHS footage of planning meetings that went from nostalgic optimism to complete negligence. You can see how maybe Woodstock ’99 was conceived with the right intentions; you can see those intentions disappear just as quickly when they cut the costs on food, water, supplies, and decided to place the event on a scorching hot tarmac. 

The metaphors are right there. Rome (New York), where Woodstock ’99 took place, burned; Wyclef Jean played an antagonistic cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and then smashed his guitar, a hard cut here capturing the fest’s billowing anger; then there’s all of the images of the haves and the have-nots (with their feces-contaminated water). The documentary doesn’t get too deep into its larger significances, but the poetry can largely speak for itself. 

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