By shane

What a fucking waste.

As I type this, MTV is concluding their coverage of the good ol' Woodstock '99 festival. And I'm appalled. Simply, truly appalled. This, kids, is the reason I listen to the music I listen to. Because American culture... American rock... is so hopelessly fucked up that my only choice for decent entertainment is to IMPORT it.



As I'm typing, massive fires are breaking out all about the festival grounds.  With any luck, maybe they'll successfully injure some people.  I can't believe I just said that, but this is just plain pathetic.  I know that YOU already know what I'm gonna say here, but I think it needs to be spelled out in black and white.

Festival weekenders, as we all know, are pretty common-place throughout Europe each and every summer.  In the States, however, it's a somewhat different matter.  We've got loads of travelling festivals (though they're becoming smaller in numbers by the year) -- Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, HORDE, Warped, etc.  But the fests that stroll through the US are always primarily one-day events; show up at 10am, you're snug in bed by midnite.  So when US concert promoters get it in their head to try a full-blown weekender, how do they generate needless hype?  Let's call it "Woodstock," that's how.  And it's a ridiculous injustice to the name.

"IT'S NOT YOUR MOM & DAD'S WOODSTOCK," is how they've been hyping this event for weeks prior.  Which translates to:  "There's not a damn thing about this festival remotely related to the Woodstock mythos except for the name.  We don't give a rat's ass about togetherness or even music.  We're just here to assemble a bunch of high-selling metal bands in homage to the unholy dollar.  Enjoy.  But pay us first."



(1) THE BASTARDIZATION - Everyone knows that the first Woodstock was a pretty monumental event in music history.  The kids were alright, indeed.  It was the youth of America having a voice... being concerned... showing off.  But don't get me wrong - it wasn't like the kids were holding a gigantic caucus to discuss world problems.  It was more like a bunch of kids getting together, getting naked, getting stoned, and generally rocking out.  The reason that it went ballistic is because it was an event -- it was THE definining moment when the rest of the world caught a glimpse of the hippie age in full blown hysteria.  Seeing a few hippie kids wandering the streets back then wasn't a big deal.  Seeing 100,000 of them gathered in a field with what seemed to be no control whatsoever was a bit more menacing to the general Republican, hair up the arse society.

This time around, there's nothing shocking whatsoever.  Nothing groundbreaking.  Nothing achieved.  It's all about the mighty dollar, plain and simple.  It's a promoted event, no more, no less.  One of my favorite parts of the original Woodstock movie was the moment when the fences crashed in and people started swarming in absolutely for free.  The filmmakers track down and find the primary organizer of the show at about the exact moment he realizes he's losing his ass financially.  And what does he say?  "At least we're making history," with a smile on his face.  One gets the impression this year that if Woodstock '99 was revealed to be losing money, they'd rather shut the thing down early to try to recover the losses.  Nobody's concerned about it being an "event."  Nobody cares about the "vibe."  They just want the kids to come in loaded with money and leave with none at all.  Bottom line.  Which brings me to

(2) THE BANDS - Who was the idiot who scheduled these bands?  Didn't they REALIZE?  Didn't they THINK?  Did someone actually go, "There won't be any problems at all by putting Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica onstage in a row.  None at all.  And then let's fill the rest of the weekend up with Kid Rock, Korn, and the Insane Clown Posse.  Sounds like a winning combination, that."  Well, we're seeing the results now, aren't we?  It wasn't bad until Limp Bizkit took the stage on the second night and damn near incited a riot.  Crowds of people, egged on by Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, tore down big hunks of plywood from overhead towers and were throwing them around the crowd like boogieboards or something.  Anything anyone could throw was suddenly airborne -- glass bottles inclusive.  They ended their set with Durst actually standing atop a huge piece of plywood that was being supported by the skulls of the first ten or so rows.  MTV's news tower a few rows out was pelted so bad by the crowd that the VJ's had to scurry off of it (admittedly, that was kinda funny.)  At least the one good thing to come out of the whole fiasco was hearing Kurt Loder and the rest of the MTV gang rail on Limp Bizkit all day today - perhaps a sign that the network's love affair with the band might soon be coming to an end.

But, seriously, why on earth did they pick the bands they did?  It seemed as though the promoters filled every primary slot with hard rock, riot-inciting, "rebel" bands, and then put the quality artists (and the word "quality" is being used reeeal lightly here - I'm talking about Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, and the like -- the artists that at least seem to give a shit about the "art" itself, be it good or not) onstage during the off hours to sort of lend some sense of artistic integrity to the joint.

Who played the first Woodstock?  Bands that at least seemed to have a point or two to make.  Country Joe & the Fish... Janis Joplin... Joan Baez... CSN&Y... Thinking person's bands, if nothing else.  What does Woodstock '99 have to offer?  Fucking Limp Bizkit, that's what.  How's the chorus of their new socio-politically conscious, spirit-raising, humanitarian single go?  "I did it all for the nookie/So you can take a cookie/And stick it up your ass," if I'm not mistaken (and I sincerely hope that I am.)  Not to slight crap like Rage Against the Machine -- I'll forever think they're crap, but I suppose they're at least trying to make a statement or two... but it's mostly all just a bunch of rebel bands that are being rebels for the sake of popularity.  Hell, there were rebel acts at the first Woodstock, too.  But it's one thing to see Pete Townshend breaking his guitar on the stage floor or Hendrix redefining the national anthem, and it's another thing altogether to see Bizkit's Durst leading the crowd in a chant of "Break Stuff!  Break Stuff!"  What purpose does it all hold?  NONE.

And more to the point, on a truly personal level, why are Bush, Elvis Costello, the Chemical Brothers, and Fatboy Slim the only British acts appearing at the fest?  Right there, that's a black mark in my book.  Nothing against Costello - I love the man - or with the Chems/Fatboy appearances... but... there's a second, smaller stage -- why not use it to bring in some decent acts?  Show me Gomez... show me Echo & the Bunnymen... show me the Manic Street Preachers... and show me US bands like the Flaming Lips or Olivia Tremor Control... they're all touring right now, what's the skinny?

(3) THE CROWDS - On second thought, keep the good bands the fuck away from this hellspawn creation.  The kids are NOT alright at all.  They're jerks.  They just mentioned on MTV that these massive fires broke out all over the festival because organizers were handing out candles for part of the finale.  Leave it to a bunch of drunk Americans to go, "Fiiire... Fiiiire.. heh heh..."  If the original Woodstock was about freedom, public nudity, and mud, Woodstock '99 is about "Show us yer tits, bitch, let's go get wasted and f**k in the mud."  It's just repulsive, the whole damn ethos of it.  Watching the MTV coverage was like pulling teeth for me... horrified yet strangely drawn into it all.  Kurt Loder sent his folks into the sea of people to get quotes, and all they came back with was stuff like, "Korn kick ass!  Woo-hoo!" and "I saw this couple.. and they were [expletive] in the mud!  Kick ass!  Rock and roooll!  Woodstoooock, dude!"    

I don't know.  I'm just sitting here in front of my computer, shaking my head at American society as a whole.  BUT.. keep in mind that no, I've never been to Reading or to Glastonbury or to T in the Park or what-have-you, but I have to believe in my heart of hearts that it's at least SOMEWHAT better than this.  At least they don't purport Reading to be something it's not -- the organizers of Reading know that it's only rock and roll and we like it.

I'm honestly hoping these fires will rage out of control, Rage Against the Festival.  I hope it all ends up going down like a smoldering Altamont in history -- a gentle nudge to most of America that the times need to be a-changing.  Cause this is a big joke without the punch line.

The organizers of Woodstock '99 have tried their damnedest to make it a historic event.  Well, sure enough, history's been made this weekend, alright.  It was the exact moment when I realized I'm never going to another festival again.