Ty Burr says, If you combine rock's rebellious fury with lots of young guys, you gotta expect trouble

By Ty Burr
Updated July 28, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

EW surveys the violent aftermath of Woodstock

You get what you pay for.

By that logic, doesn?t a $150 ticket, $4 bottles of water, and $12 slices of pizza earn a concertgoer the right to set the sound towers on fire and trash the T-shirt booths?

Well, that?s what the revelers/rioters ponying up for their 15 seconds of nationally telecast fame told the camera. Hey, I?m running amok because turning Woodstock into CommercialStock sucks, man. And by the way: Hi, Mom.

Ahhh, horse-puckey. What went down on the last night of Woodstock ?99 was a young-guy thing, just as the whole event was a young-guy thing, down to the hall-monitoresque crowd control that gave the audience something to rebel against and to the constant calls for women to take off their shirts (you pay $150 dollars to see bona fide rock pro Sheryl Crow, and all you can do is yell at her to show her rack? I?m sorry, but that?s Moronism in action).

Still, those who expected anything different should have their head examined, for what?s rock and roll in the first place if not a young-guy thing — one that?s been predicated on the release of hormones, rage, and tear-the-roof-off joy ever since teenagers ripped up movie theater seats to the sounds of Bill Haley and the Comets playing ”Rock Around the Clock” under the credits of ”The Blackboard Jungle”? The way I see it, the original Woodstock was the aberration, catching youth culture just at the moment that it embraced blissing out instead of jacking up. And that was a mayfly moment, anyway: Before the year was out, Altamont reminded us that this music?s strength and danger are one and the same. Rock and roll is about releasing the devil, folks, not taming him. That?s the definition of the form.

So while you had plenty of performers at Woodstock ’99 who showed off great gifts of musicality, maturity, elegance, and power — well, that?s not what people went there for. They wanted to hear the acts that matter at this minute — groups like Limp Bizkit and Korn that trade in hard rhythm and free-floating anger. Is it all a pose? Depends on how big a fan you are, how much the music matters to your life. But it sure as hell connected up in Rome and gave the okay to set the house on fire.

Want to blame someone? Oh, hell, blame everybody. The audience members who happily lost themselves in mob behavior (congratulations: you just became everything you profess to hate). The musicians who egged it all on (imagine how pissed off Fred Durst would have been if it was HIS Mercedes that had been crisped). The media caught in their feedback loop of coverage and exploitation. And (to my mind, the dimmest bulbs of all) the promoters who jammed 225,000 people into a giant holding pen, overcharged them for food and water, didn?t give them enough toilets, stoked the flames with rap-metal acts — and smeared it all with moldy, useless Back-to-the-Garden hippie rhetoric that has little or no bearing on a 17-year-old kid in 1999. After all, only someone who was deeply clueless or hopelessly nostalgic would hand a roiling mosh pit ”peace candles” — and not expect them to be used as torches.