There Is Another Documentary On Woodstock '99 Out Now, On Netflix, Called "Trainwreck", And It's Even Better Than The HBO One
By now, everybody's relived, seen, or talked about the pandemonium that occurred in Rome, NY for Woodstock 1999.
HBO put out an awesome documentary on the subject last summer which Eddie, Chief, and I dove into and discussed on Dog Walk.
As we discussed, the HBO doc, produced by Bill Simmons, started out really strong before taking a really sharp left turn about halfway through where it began to be more of a social and political commentary than a documentary.
Which is why when Netflix announced they were also producing a three-part documentary on the festival, you couldn't help but roll your eyes.
But it turns out this Netflix version was really, really good. (In a really dirty, grimey way).
For starters, this one is much more well done and in-depth.
They not only convinced the festival organizers to take part and recount their memories from their perspectives, but they also got some great participants who played integral roles in the debacle: Ananda Lewis, Fat Boy Slim, Jonathan Davis, Jewel, Gavin Rossdale, Joe Griffo (Mayor of Rome), to name some.
It provided a TON of home video footage never seen before. Including some really graphic shit that has left a lot of viewers really pissed off.
Many viewers were disappointed in the way the docuseries handled the numerous sexual assaults that took place at Woodstock '99, as the doc only spends a brief moment on it in a singular episode – and shows unblurred footage of an assault.
"How horrifying to have been assaulted at a music festival and then have it caught on film that’s then used in a Netflix doc," one Twitter user expressed.
"Probably the worst thing about the Netflix Woodstock 99 documentary is that it tacks on the rapes as an afterthought instead of portraying it as part of the festival. The idea that it's some small thing that happened mostly in secret at the end of the fest is absurd," said a viewer.
The one thing about this doc that was identical to the HBO one were the comments and attitude of organizer, and one of the biggest baffoons ever, John Scher.
If you want to see a guy who likes to hear himself talk, this guy is the king.
He was partners with John Lang, the founder of the brand, and nominated himself the spokesperson for the company.
And when I say he was and still is awful at that job, I mean fucking awful.
Speaking on the four reported sexual assaults, Scher said: "Woodstock was like a small city, you know?
"All things considered, I’d say that there would probably be as many or more rapes in any sized city of that… but it wasn’t anything that gained enough momentum so that it caused any on-site issues, other than, of course, the women it happened to."
Not only did this guy conduct some of the worst press conferences in the history of press conferences, but he also refused to accept blame, responsibility, or offer the slightest resemblance of an apology for even the smallest things. Never mind rape and sexual assault. Just an absolute clown show.
And man was there a lot of responsibility for fuck ups to go around.
One thing the doc did a great job of was including festival goers' first-hand accounts of things.
"It was so hot that you literally needed to drink a gallon of water an hour yourself to stay hydrated," said Sara, who attended Woodstock '99 as a teenager. "There were definitely fountains there. But there was at least a 25-minute wait . . . So, we went to get just a simple bottle of water. Nobody could afford that water."
The average price for a bottle of water in the late '90s was around 65 cents. At Woodstock '99, however, a single bottle cost an astounding $4.00, which then went up to $12.00 when vendors ran low on stock. Per old footage featured in the documentary, one concertgoer complained that a small drink and a measly side salad cost $9.00 in total.
Several members of the festival's production team, including Colin Speir, Lee Rosenblatt and Pilar Law, noted that the price hikes were prompted by the Woodstock founders and organizers. The higher-ups were hellbent on making a considerable profit, especially after their previous revival, Woodstock '94, tanked financially due to overcrowding and security issues.
One thing this doc showed that the HBO one did not was just how outrageous the trash problem really was.
After the chaos of day one, the entire Woodstock venue was covered in a layer of trash, from empty food packages to liquor bottles and beer cans. The place was so unkempt that festivalgoers had to shuffle through piles of trash just to get to the main stage.
The outhouse facilities were also a mess, with human waste pooling over the toilet seats and covering the surrounding floors. Many attendees recalled the horrid, overbearing smell and said they had to step in urine and feces while using the bathrooms.
"Like all departments, the Sanitation Department had budget cuts," Rosenblatt explained. "Trash services and the sewage services were all farmed out. So we're relying on all these subcontractors . . . And unfortunately, they did not do their jobs."
Lisa Law, a photographer, filmmaker and Woodstock '69 attendee, believed the widespread grime was going to cause the downfall of Woodstock '99. Law, who was determined to clean up the space, took it upon herself to distribute trash bags to festivalgoers, urging them to pick up their own filth.
"One person said to me, 'I paid $150 to be here. You should clean it up,'" she recounted. "And I said, 'Well, this is a different kind of Woodstock.'"
It was almost as if the trash issue was never even considered whatsoever. Production crews said it was "outsourced" to save money but that sounded like a weak excuse. There were barely any garbage bins setup anywhere, and they were overflowing within hours of gates opening and then never emptied. They turned into mounds of trash over the next two days (which ended up being convenient fuel sources for the bonfires on Sunday. More on this later).
Of course there was the expected finger pointing at Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst, rightfully so.
I really think if this happened today Durst and the band would have been arrested and charged with inciting a riot. But back then he was able to tell MTV after walking off stage "we did what we were paid to come here and do" with complete conviction and go on his merry way.
One thing the HBO doc mentioned, but not as in depth as "Trainwreck" did was just how disgusting the water issue at the festival was.
Most of the fountains setup were broke, forcing people to flood to the few that did work. Which just so happened to be near plumbing that pissed off, overheated festival goers had broken in search of cooling down. The broken water pipes flooded the nearby port-a-john area and created a disgusting cocktail of shit water. Which turned into a mud pit and also, even more disgustingly, seeped back into the water supply completely contaminating it
By day three, festivalgoers were exhausted, frustrated and agitated. To make matters worse, the festival's showering stations were sparse, thus prompting a few individuals to recklessly smash the water pipes.
Because the shower facilities were also near the bathrooms, the clean supply of water mixed in with runoff from the nearby porta-potties to create a nasty slush that looked like a mud slide. So unbeknownst to few boisterous festivalgoers, the "mud" they were fooling around in was actually feces.
Alongside the showers, the onsite drinking faucets were either broken or running murky, brown water. Joe Paterson, a public health investigator, examined samples of the drinking water available at Woodstock '99 and found that they were all severely contaminated with feces.
"The thought that people are out there, drinking this, exposing themselves, bathing in this stuff . . . It was like the worst nightmare," Paterson said.
The doc also had extensive interview footage from one of the heads of production who was 22 years old at the time (lol) and who was very vocal ahead of time about what booking a lineup stacked with Nu-Metal bands like they were doing was going to attract and do to a crowd that large…
The medic they interviewed who said the crews had never worked harder or been tested more was really shocking. They were pulling people out of the pits and treating them for broken bones, lacerations, exhaustion, extreme dehydration, and tons of other issues it's seriously crazy more people didn't die.
In regards to the fires that broke loose Sunday night during the Chilli Peppers set, this doc shed light on the fact that Michael Lang, unbeknownst to anybody else, secretly planned to hand out 100,000 candles as a surprise to everybody as a show of unity and standing up against gun violence. People with brains on the production staff began freaking out when they saw what was happening and were told to shut up.
Just an absolute debacle.
Vendor greed, the promoters greed, lack of proper sanitation services, lack of shade, and supplying a hundred thousand pissed off, drugged up people with fire all led to what was luckily not a far more violent situation.
One thing that was telling was how every interviewee in this doc each had their own personal idea of when "they knew things turned from fun…to…ok… we're concerned now."
It's safe to say something like this wouldn't happen today, because we've matured, evolved, etc. But have we really? Social media or winding up on the internet because everything is filmed now, and social media is an evidence machine, might deter some people from engaging in the mob mentality that plagued this festival, but then you have to consider the Astroworld tragedy just happened a few months ago…
It's strange how if you mention Woodstock '99 to anybody today their instant reaction is "those dudes were all fucking tools." Which further proves that everybody should enjoy whatever music it is they enjoy now because the next generation of know-it-alls will inevitably revolt against the last popular thing and tell you what a loser you are for liking it.
I'd love to poll people who were actually at this fest (I only know a couple. My business partner in Cleveland being one of them, which is still wild to me), and see what they think about these docs. Do they now think- "shit I hope I don't appear on any of this footage", "I wonder if I can still file a lawsuit", or "damn that was even better than I remembered"?
The only big misses in this doc was the omissions of three of the biggest acts.
How they made zero mention of DMX and his epic set was crazy.
And they also didn’t mention Metallica whatsoever and barely referenced Rage Against The Machine. Very strange. Other then that this was a great watch.
(Sidebar- I had no idea what a cool, smart, and normal guy Jonathan Davis is)
p.s.- Go for it Cam…
p.p.s. - Chaps can concur that Limp Bizket concerts were no fucking joke back in the day.