In the summer of 1969, the muddy fields of Bethel, NY were festively trampled on by 500,000 music lovers at Woodstock— the largest and most historic music festival to date. It was promoted as “Three Days Of Peace And Music”.
Twenty-five years later, in August of 1994 at Winston Farm in Saugerties, NY, Woodstock would be commemorated with a second festival in its honor. This time it was promoted as “2 More Days Of Peace And Music”.
“It was music that brought everyone together: the common denominator of an era seeking to encourage love.”
Again, in 1999, Woodstock was resurrected for a third time. Yet,— instead of promoting the concept of peace and music that left the first festival to be forever marked as an iconic music event, and the second as a satisfactory but successful attempt at celebrating the original Woodstock’s 25th anniversary— it was promoted simply as Woodstock ’99.
One is left to wonder, with stellar reviews of Woodstock ’69 and mediocre reviews (compared to this first one) of Woodstock ’94 had the idea of peace and music, which were so enthusiastically embraced before been lost or completely forgotten by the end of the nineties?
What can be gathered in the wake of each festival is an apparent change of union among the people.
1969 was a time of hope. With the US at war, and corruption abound within its government, the people were searching to grasp onto something; and it was music that sat strong as the anchor for such hope. It was music that brought everyone together: the common denominator of an era seeking to encourage love.
Woodstock ’69 was a festival of peace, and it reflected a unified population of the United States.
“The agenda of a country and its music had morphed into a hotbed of tension and misconstrued intentions of peace.”
And some of the greatest bands of all time were responsible for it. Legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, Richie Havens, and The Who were all a part of the revolution, crushing an audience of half a million people with incendiary performances. Woodstock ’69 held the opportunity to put differences aside.
In August of 1994, Woodstock was back. Although some considered it an improvement to the original festival 25 years prior, Woodstock ’94 merely did its best to recreate what happened in 1969, falling short in representation of its intended message of peace and music.
Times had changed. A festival which originated with an innocent and profound concept seemed to turn into a money-making endeavor. Frontman Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails even openly admitted to boycotting the festival due to its corporate appeal, claiming that it was too commercialized. However, he later agreed to play if the price were right— considering the large amount of debt the band would be in otherwise after their tour at the time would come to and end.
Instead of a generation of musicians who filled their stage sets with songs protesting war and encouraging love, the 1994 Woodstock resurrection capitalized on their promotion of rock bands like Violent Femmes, Cypress Hill, Candlebox, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Metallica, who were notorious for writing songs about substance abuse, anger, and promiscuity.
The agenda of a country and its music had morphed into a hotbed of tension and misconstrued intentions of peace.
The 350,00 people in attendance were not there to unite with one another, but rather were present in attempt at burning the candle at both ends, with outlandish behavior, like violent mud fights and mosh pits; influenced by an abundance of drugs and alcohol. Needless to say, it did not capture the charm of the original festival of 1969.
“From peace and music, to money, to violence and destruction in a matter of 30 years.”
In 1999, only five years later, Woodstock made its third and final appearance in Rome, NY at former Griffiss Airforce Base.
This time, the notorious message of peace and music was not promoted by the media, giving the famous festival’s third comeback a sort of individuality, although a soon-to-be negative reputation.
Nicknamed “the day the 90s died”: the four-day chaotic party scene that was Woodstock ’99 will be forever remembered as a representation of the decline of a revolution, which aimed to bring people together and shape American culture.
Thrash metal, electronica, and hip-hop were of the decade’s most popular genres and headlining Woodstock now was a collection of musicians whose images alone deflected peace with their dark and threatening appearances, such as Insane Clown Posse, DMX, The Offspring, Korn, Ice Cube, Kid Rock, and Rage Against The Machine, who burned the American Flag during their performance of “Killing In The Name Of” on the third night.
While only 220,000 people made up the crowd this time, the majority of them eventually turned on the 10,000 Woodstock employees, as well as one another among a muddy sea of riots. The SWAT team was called in at the end of the third day.
No. There was no peace.
No plans of a fourth Woodstock were ever mentioned; considering the aftermath of Woodstock ’99 it’s no wonder.
From peace and music, to money, to violence and destruction in a matter of 30 years, it’s safe to say that while history may repeat itself, it cannot, and should not, be re-created.
Story: Kate Catalina.