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 on 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. Likewise, this documentary is dedicated to humanizing those who were treated like animals and then perceived as such when they began to riot, destroying the grounds by the end of Sunday night.

Accountability is what this documentary strives for so late in the game, with the NDAs everyone signed seemingly expiring on that fateful Monday morning. It doesn’t get that, but it has plenty of moments where the controlling Woodstock powers like promoter John Scher and Woodstock owner Michael Lang show their ignorance of what was going on or even who they brought in. They hired a bunch of popular actors who get paid to be angry (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock), and then they gave thousands of concertgoers several reasons to be angry with them. Then they gave them candles.

The series is especially compelling with behind-the-scenes footage, starting with VHS tapes of planning meetings that went from nostalgic optimism to utter negligence. You can see how Woodstock ’99 might have been conceived with the right intentions; you can see those intentions disappear just as quickly when they cut costs on food, water, supplies and decided to put the event on a blazing 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,” then smashed his guitar, a hard cut here that captured the party’s surging anger; then there are all the pictures of haves and have-nots (with their faeces-contaminated water). The documentary does not delve too deeply into its larger meanings, but the poetry can largely speak for itself.

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