NEW YORK More than a month after Woodstock '99 ended with fires and riots, the specter of the ill-fated festival haunted Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards.
In a rare moment of sobriety amidst the glitter of the ceremony at the Metropolitan Opera House, the Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock asked his fellow artists to do more to protect women at concerts from sexual attacks like those reported at Woodstock '99.
"I read in the news and heard from my friends all about sexual assaults and the rapes that went down at Woodstock '99 in July, and it made me feel really sad and angry," Ad-Rock (born Adam Horovitz) said after he and his bandmates accepted their Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Intergalactic" (RealAudio excerpt).
Ad-Rock asked fellow musicians to do everything they can to make sure such crimes don't happen at future concerts.
"We can talk to the promoters and make sure that they're doing something about the safety of all the girls and the women who come to our shows," he said. "I think we can talk to the security people to make sure they know and understand about sexual harassment and rape and they know how to handle these situations."
At least one artist at the ceremony took the speech to heart. "I was deeply touched by that, especially since it was a man saying it," R&B diva Mary J. Blige said backstage after the awards.
Although Ad-Rock's speech was the only mention of Woodstock '99 from the stage, the festival, which ended in the early morning hours of July 26, was a constant topic of discussion during the evening.
Without naming names, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich criticized Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst for his onstage behavior during Bizkit's Woodstock '99 set, during which hundreds of concert-goers were injured in the mosh pit and dozens of fans vandalized a control tower as the band played its song "Break Stuff."
"When certain people sit there and incite the audience to do certain things ... that's maybe not the smartest thing to do in retrospect," Ulrich said backstage. "Groups obviously can incite it if you sit there and tell 200,000 people to start smashing sh-- up ... some of them are dumb enough to do it"
Ulrich said Metallica took a different tack during their Woodstock set later that same night. "We just went out and shut the f--- up and played, instead of trying to incite anymore," he said. "When you can feel that kind of energy in the air, you just try to do your best to not add to it."
During rehearsals for the ceremony, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst told MTV News that the group has just finished a video for the single "Re-Arranged" that will address Woodstock '99.
The thrash-rap band, which has maintained a public silence about Woodstock since the festival, insists it did nothing wrong. While waiting to enter the Opera House, Durst said, "All we did was play a Limp Bizkit show," and laughed when reminded of the vandalism that took place during the set. "Crazy crowds, man," he said.
"We went into press silence after Woodstock," he told MTV News, "because everybody was trying to pinpoint [the blame] on us. So I decided my press release would be my video, so 'Re-Arranged' is our press release [for what happened] at Woodstock. And the concept, well, you'll just have to watch it and see what it's about.
"But it is about being persecuted for something you're not guilty of," he said.
"The living conditions were terrible, but I'm sorry," Durst told the cable channel. "I didn't realize what was happening, but we're still gonna be Limp Bizkit and do what we do."
Rapper Will Smith said backstage that no one but the concert-goers themselves should be blamed. "People have to take responsibility for their own actions," he said.
For a list of winners at MTV Online, click here.
(SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.)