The beauty and whimsy of 1970’s Woodstock is something the few to many have experienced once in their lifetime. It captured the calm and effervescent unity amongst the festival-goers. 30 years later, we would see the reverse happen at Woodstock ‘99. The festival defined a cultural shift in society that didn’t parallel the 1994 festival. They direct partial blame toward pop music, which didn’t fit the mold of the 90s counterculture. Garret Price’s new film Woodstock ‘99: Peace, Love, and Rage delivers dueling cases for the horrors and beauty of the festival.
Garret Price delivers an informative horror flick and concert documentary full of ideas that have a thin veil, like most true crime documentary series trending today. What they bring into the fold are these ideas about the raging toxic masculinity that has allowed many acts of sexual assault to go undermined in the aftermath, the auditory response from the audience, and the lengths to which a performer knew what they were brewing.
As the documentary stacks idea after idea, there are moments where the film starts to tread between pieces of information undercut by stunningly restored footage of the concert from the various archives – MTV/Pay-Per-View/Print media. However, it cuts corners to keep intact the most glaring issues, one of which culminated from an underlying motto of the original festival: FREE LOVE.
Free love wasn’t necessarily free in 1999 unless you were one of many aggressors who chose to redefine the term free. 1999 had people violating females, ages as young as 14, and the idea of free love on both ends was an expression of love of one’s body with the amount boobs present and the toxic-rape culture with the amount of sexual assault reported. In the documentary, Moby mentions that within the nu-metal and rap, the understanding was absent and picking apart what they like: misogyny and homophobia, which fueled frat boy rape culture.
Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica weren’t on a tight leash. The underlying issue stemmed from a callous nature when performing. It was a matter of trying to find equilibrium between an image and the safety of the attendees. It shifts the perception of the concert as this wild rage-fueled event, and it undermines performance highlights and any positive discourse throughout the past 22 years. These discussions spread from the infrastructure to the pre-established sentiment created by MTV in the fight between the uproarious and bombastic rap-rock/nu-metal and the new age of fun and hyperactive teen-pop, amongst others.
Garret Price creates juxtaposition by breaking nostalgia glasses and forcing us to see glaring differences between the three festivals. Unfortunately, despite the number of beautiful highlights, there isn’t much to digest outside of nu-metal and Limp Bizkit made white boys extra harsh and rapey.
Piece-by-Piece, more issues get passed over in simple mentions by the interviewed artists, attendees, and music critics. It makes the marketing of the film slightly manipulative as it breezes through topics swiftly. There are moments the film shows you the all-night party for fans of electronic music and Moby, which gets tossed aside like a salad on pizza night.
The film takes the time to show the chaos, but it lacks proper cohesion in the editing shifting around these topics like a commercial right before the climax. There have been exposés and articles revisiting and detailing the events of the festival. At a point in the film, you hear Rolling Stone Magazine’s music editor, Rob Sheffield, remember having to sleep on white pizza boxes for its linear comfortability and piss visibility. The amount of trash and debauchery preceding the peak of the chaos, with grace and debilitating nausea, became an afterthought. The many attendees had a mindset that mirrored those from the 94 festival: one last hurrah before adulthood.
Garret Price does a solid job telling you this horrific and chaotic story that formed the wrong kind of unity and demonized an ideal that held for years. It’s filled with beautiful restorations of performance and unique interviews from critics and festival-goers. I recommend this to whoever enjoys a solid music documentary that shies away from an individualized artist.