Woodstock 99: Unspeakable heresy or way-cool bash? Discuss.
When plans to hold Woodstock ’94 on the 25th anniversary of its mythic forebear were announced a little more than five years ago, pundits went apoplectic with indignation, reviling the very notion as a blight on the hallowed memory of the original event. But when the mud-slinging cleared and the festival was over, many naysayers reversed their opinions. The consensus seemed to be that Woodstock’s sequel was a pop-cultural landmark in its own right. Even the timing seemed propitious. With alt-rock peaking, the 350,000 fans who made the pilgrimage to upstate New York in ’94 constituted a community with a shared sense of musical and cultural aesthetics — just like the hippies back in ’69.
Now, five years later, they’re doing it again. Woodstock 99 is set to be held July 23-25, in Rome, N.Y. (a good three-hour drive northwest of Bethel, N.Y., the site of the original festival), and will feature the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, the Dave Matthews Band, DMX, Wyclef Jean, Metallica, Alanis MorIssette, the Offspring, and Sugar Ray, among others. ”This is really about the current generation,” says John Scher, one of the festival’s organizers, explaining the absence of Woodstock ’69-era rockers. ”This is not your father’s Woodstock.”
That’s for sure. This one’s being held on a former Air Force base surrounded by a daunting, military-style fence. ”It’s going to be virtually impossible for people to get in without a ticket,” notes Scher. To further foil the gate-crashers who siphoned profits away from the first two fests, ”we’re also building a 12-foot-high, wood-and-steel-reinforced wall around the entire site,” says Scher. (Jeez — maybe Woodstockade might be a more accurate appellation.)
There will be plenty of diversions to keep the prisoners — er, audience — amused, though, including an extreme sports park for cycling and skating. Two former airplane hangars adjacent to the fields will be put to use, one to show independent films, the other to showcase emerging artists and hold all-night raves. And expect plenty of entrepreneurs to be on hand, hawking wares both legal and otherwise. (Armchair music fans can catch it all on pay per view; for $59.95, you can enjoy a continuous telecast in the comfort of your mud-free living room.)
Woodstock ’94 veterans Collective Soul are one of a handful of acts (including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sheryl Crow) who will be returning. Frontman Ed Roland scoffs at the idea that there’s anything controversial about using the Woodstock name: ”I thought it was just a great weekend of music for the fans.” Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin — whose band will play the festival for the first time — is slightly more cynical, calling the entire affair ”a clever marketing ploy.” Still, he admits, Los Lobos have no qualms about accepting such a high-profile gig: ”You think we’re crazy?”
Tickets for the three-day fest start at $150 (advance purchase), and organizers expect to unload all 250,000. Scher estimates gross ticket sales for Woodstock ’94 totaled ”about $28 million” and expects to rake in ”even more” this time out. Looks like Joni Mitchell’s assessment of the first Woodstock Generation still holds true of its descendants: ”We are golden.”