Trainwreck : Woodstock 99

A new 3 part documentary on Netflix chronicles the behind-the-scenes events of the Woodstock 99 music festival and its lasting legacy of chaos. We take a look at the documentary, the steaming crater the festival left behind on pop culture and ask : was Woodstock 99 the “trainwreck” it was made out to be?

Short answer : Yes. Very much so

It’s entirely worth noting that trains run on tracks, so the moniker “trainwreck” implies that at some point this festival had a controlled direction. Those tracks may have led straight into a fiery ditch but the train left the station with the best of intentions. The documentary serves to highlight the failings on various administrative levels. Coupled with the perfect storm of explosive elements and actual flames, which is what led the festival to literally burn to the ground.

Woodstock 99 was heralded as a disaster for many differing reasons but the main one being (the same factor that lets any endeavour like this down) : poor planning.

Having seen the Fyre Festival documentary we’re all aware of how badly a music festival can go wrong. Admittedly Fyre was fuelled by lies, bravado and a general lack of organisation, spurred by the organisers believing their own hype. This is where Woodstock had the upper hand – an established legacy and a brand that was synonymous with music and festivals, summer and love.

The limited documentary series kicks off with the aptly named episode 1 and the overarching question : “How the f**k did this happen?”. It gives us a glimpse of the war zone, the smouldering aftermath of the festival grounds, before recounting how it happened.

trainwreck woodstock 99 review line up

The Lineup

This telling of events plays up to the nostalgia of the day. It’s undeniable that the festival lineup is a conveyer belt of who’s-who of the eras heavy hitting acts, but this is also one of the factors that led to the festivals downfall.

The poor planning begins (or arguably ends) with the chosen acts and their scheduling and alignment to one-another. As an example Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette and Dave Matthews Band were slotted right before Limp Bizkit. If anything the documentary serves to show us that Gavin Rossdale (Bush) can lull even the most savage post-Korn audience.

So Who Is To Blame?

Much of the blame for the festival outcome was levelled everywhere but at the organisers. The documentary does a relatively good job of covering this, however it also follows step with the mainstream media narrative of demonising music festival-goers in places, choosing to brand swathes of the attendees with the tar of a few bad elements.

The festival and services were at the mercy of 90s consumer capitalism from the ground up and suffered from overcrowding, fake passes, price gouging, lack of clean water, lack of working amenities, no shade from the sun, inadequate security, inadequate medical care and facilities. And that’s just for starters!

There’s a wonderful commentary in here of the role of the performer, specifically Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit and their responsibility when it comes to expression, performance and crowd control. It’s also a stark reminder that humans cannot be trusted when presented with an environment of no consequences.

trainwreck woodstock 99 review limp bizkit

Conclusion

What isn’t covered by the documentary was the Insane Clown Posse‘s set, which saw the band throwing out $100 bills to the crowd. Arguably the first act to incite the crowd. Given the price gouging at the event that should have been enough for 2 bottles of water.

Woodstock 99 was an attempt to capture the original 60s vibe. A reboot if you will. And it failed miserably. Trainwreck : Woodstock 99 is a wonderful look at how a legacy that espoused peace and love can be hijacked by 90s capitalist ideals.

You can find Trainwreck : Woodstock 99 on Netflix.

trainwreck woodstock 99 review

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