Woodstock 99, the cursed festival

From July 22 to 25, 1999, Rome, New York was the scene of a terrible fiasco between. For Netflix, Jamie Crawford returns in three episodes of about an hour each to this chaos of anthology.

Fires, looting, deluge of drugs, sexual assault: Anthology Chaos: Woodstock 99shocking documentary about netflix, looks back on this American festival that has become a nightmare, a disaster that is still too little known and never depicted so far in all its dysfunctions. The day after the event, at the end of July 1999, which was to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Woodstock original, the TV news, from Paris to Tokyo, succinctly relayed only the thick plume of black smoke rising from a devastated site, symbol of the fiasco.

The inventory of this tormented episode of the music industry only began to unfold in 2021 with a first documentary, Woodstock 99, peace, love and rage on HBO. Anthology Chaos: Woodstock 99directed by Jamie Crawford and offered on Netflix, goes more in depth.

A mountain of testimonies is collected and cross-referenced over three episodes of about an hour each (organizers, festival-goers, journalists, rescue workers, security officers, public health officials, etc.). Enough to offer a panoramic vision when only fragmentary memories of a time without social networks remained.

Make profit

“It was the fall of Hanoi”, describes Tim Healy, TV producer at the time on the spot, talking about the last evening. “It feels like Apocalypse Now»exclaims in archive footage Anthony Kiedis, leader of the Red Hot Chili Peppers when the band returns to the stage for the encore. Fires then multiply on the site.

Thousands of festival-goers (advertising spots at the time boasted a total of 250,000 people), to whom 100,000 candles had been distributed, lit fires and threw anything that could burn into them. Just drunk or drunk with anger after being massaged in appalling conditions at a former military airbase in New York State. The tanks of organization trucks parked further away will explode in flames while looters will attack, among other things, the merchandising area and cash dispensers.

How did we get here? Lee Rosenblatt, 22 at the time, assistant site manager points "greed" officials: “We took advantage of these kids.”

The organizers are Michael Langfounding father of the 1969 Woodstock (who died recently) and his "powerful associate" for the thirtieth anniversary, John Scher, promoter. Both testify in Anthology Chaos: Woodstock 99. The first appears overwhelmed by the monster-event created while the second admits his motivations: "It was absolutely necessary to make a profit."

A bottle of water at 65 cents in town is sold for 4 dollars in the festival, while festival-goers are forced to empty their water bottles on arrival on the asphalt tarmac of the site heated white by temperatures of more than 35 °.

“Not enough security guards”

At the same time, organizational costs were trimmed. Samples taken by the health services will reveal that the few drinking water fountains have been soiled by excrement.

"Woodstock 99 didn't have enough decent security guards...they wanted to be stingy", still denounces Colin Spear, in the production of the time. He does not hide that, celebrating his 29th birthday during the festival, he will take ecstasy offered by a festival-goer. Drugs circulate too freely, security personnel have been recruited hastily and not sufficiently trained. The National Guard will be called to the rescue at the end of the festival.

But Woodstock 99 is already rocking halfway through the rave under a shed. DJ-star Fatboy Slim's set has been stopped: a van has been hijacked by a festival-goer and is driving slowly through the audience.

AJ Srybnik, supervisor of the rave at the time, tells Netflix that the driver-reveler behind the wheel is in a daze. This manager discovers "disgusted" in the back of the van "a 15 or 16 year old girl (...) pants on the ankles, fainted" while a young man gets dressed next door. The American media will end up talking about "rape allegations"in a pre-#MeToo era where festival sexual assault is swept under the rug.

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