Today marks the 40th anniversary of the final day of the original Woodstock (the music actually carried over into the wee hours of August 18), so a lot of people are re-evaluating the lasting legacy of the festival. Did it really usher in a message of peace and love, or was it simply the beginning of a brand name? Is it truly a great representation of the era’s mentality or just another slice of Boomer nostalgia? Whatever the case, Woodstock left a pretty bad taste in everybody’s mouth when the festival celebrated its 30th anniversary with another three-day affair in upstate New York, featuring Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The aggro attitude of the music combined with the questionable resources of the festival and a general feeling that everybody had been ripped off led to violent mosh pits, multiple cases of sexual assault, vandalism and fires. MTV was there live (and often the victim of the crowd’s aggression) and captured the debauchery on film.
The aftermath certainly put the concept of Woodstock to bed for a while. In fact, promoters intended on celebrating the 40th anniversary with another festival but had trouble recruiting sponsors and support funds. The now-poisonous Woodstock name probably had something to do with it, but they were also dealing with a frigid economy and a musical landscape overflowing with festivals (in ’99, Coachella was a small upstart event, Lollapalooza was dormant and events like Bonnaroo, All Points West, Outside Lands and Virgin Fest were years off). But Woodstock ’99 didn’t do the legacy any favors, and replaced the images of peace and love with notions of aggression, misogyny and greed. It certainly taught future festival organizers what not to do, but couldn’t we have learned those lessons without so much unchecked brutishness?
What do you think: Were the Woodstock ’99 organizers to blame, or did the bands not do enough to try to control the crowd? Was it simply a matter of macho guys trying to outdo each other? Leave your thoughts in the comments or head over to Your.MTV.com and make your voice heard!