Metal My Movie: Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

Viewer Discretion is advised before viewing. This documentary deals with assault and violence. Find out more information here.

It is Metal March on CJLO 1690AM. Once again Metal My Movie is back, where we take a look at a movie and give it the metal treatment it deserves.

The original Woodstock festival took place from Aug. 15-18, 1969 – held by its fundamental philosophical notions of peace, love, and freedom of expression, all while listening to music. 30 years later right before the turn of the millennium, another Woodstock festival took place. The promoters of the festival wanted to relive the magic of the original Woodstock and bring it to a new audience to experience, however it was far from the original experience of the core philosophy. The festival, known as Woodstock 99, would come to be known as a disaster music festival – captured in last year’s HBO Music Box series. For this first Metal My Movie segment we will explore the changing shifts of musical acts featured at the Woodstock 99 festival and how this correlates to the shifts in societal norms as seen in the documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage from director Garret Price

The original Woodstock had more musicians that were all about the foundations of peace, love and freedom. More times than not, the most radical inclination was political or societal in nature. Think about Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star Spangled Banner'' on electric guitar as the counterculture radical move of the time. Wyclef Jean would reenact this moment at Woodstock 99 but many would not get the reference having not been there at the original festival. Woodstock 94, another rendition of the classic festival name, brought the grunge movement with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam to the forefront without any problems and it was music with meaning for the times. The late ‘90s had some spectrums of music including the boy bands on one side and another side being nu metal. However, the music that was promoted at Woodstock 99 was more aggressive, misogynistic, and misguided towards the young male audience goers in attendance.

Looking at the festival’s lineup, there were only three big female acts billed among the three days – one per day. Woodstock 99 was slated as a nu metal festival as seen from the Saturday night lineup. Following the only female artist billed on Saturday night, Alanis Morissette, bands such as Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and Metallica played back to back.

The shifting nature of the bands billed at Woodstock 99 was met by a cultural response. We can take a look at how MTV was received at the festival. Most of the male attendees that were there for the nu metal scene did not like the presence of a channel. They felt MTV had sold out to cater to their little sisters with the emergence of the boy bands. This can be seen through The Offspring frontman Dexter Holland’s visual statement, who opened his set by breaking Backstreet Boys mannequins on stage with a plastic baseball bat. However, this would only be the beginning of the violence seen at Woodstock 99.

The original Woodtock festival had something to say about the political establishment at the time though this cultural festival that criticized the government. In contrast, Woodstock 99 saw Kid Rock saunter on stage in a full white fur coat and cane before going into his hit song "Bawitdaba." The counter political ideologies of the original festival were mismatched with the same toxicity found in the songs played at Woodstock 99, something that especially shined through when Kid Rock stated during his set that “Monica Lewinsky is a motherfucking hoe and Bill Clinton is a goddam pimp.”

Taking a look at Limp Bizkit’s two hit songs that frontman Fred Durst decided to perform, “Nookie” and “Break Stuff,” further reveals how the situation unraveled. During “Break Stuff,” he said, "Don't let anybody get hurt. But I don't think you should mellow out. That's what Alanis Morissette had you motherfuckers do. If someone falls, pick 'em up.”

A few songs later, Limp Bizkit were leading into another one of their hit songs, “Nookie,” which is a euphemism for sex. Before leading into the song, he said to the audience, "So for that sake, I want to let everybody know that I'm doing all this shit for the nookie." Halfway through the song, he continued speaking to the audience. "We already let all the negative energy out. It’s time to reach down and bring that positive energy to this motherfucker. It's time to let yourself go right now, 'cause there are no motherfuckin’ rules out there,” as a way of encouraging the audience to let themselves go with no rules of conduct.  

Limp Bizkit disregarded the stage management’s advice to settle the crowd, creating an unsafe environment for the female audience members amongst the male audience members. Durst’s messages about sex and letting energy out with no rules put the female members of the audience in more danger, given the rowdy crowd.

The true escalation of the festival however would come Sunday night when the riots and looting started. The sign that the festival was out of control was when a fire was started and stage management told Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to take control and tell the audience to disperse to make way for the fire trucks. Instead, the band retook the stage for an encore performance cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” stoking the audience and the flames into more of a frenzy. 

Woodstock 99 on many levels is seen as a failure, as after Sunday night’s escalation into fire, riots, and looting, members of the New York State Troopers were called in to peacefully disperse the crowd. The biggest irony is that some of the members of the non-violent group PAX handed out candles in a symbol of peace that would later lead to the fire destruction caused on Sunday night. There would be in the weeks to come many more horror stories to emerge from the festival, as it was revealed that some of the female attendees were assaulted, receiving little help from security or the musical acts.

The Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage documentary explores perfectly where the metal/rock fusion of the nu metal music scene went wrong in promoting ideologies of aggressive violence and misogynistic toxicity. The music and festival community eventually had to look back after the dawn of the millennium to create a better scene in the future. Despite this, today the nu metal scene still deals with the case of recent abuse allegations against Marilyn Manson that will be seen later this March in Evan Rachel Wood’s new documentary Phoenix Rising. Clearly, there still needs to be changes to the scene towards a positive direction.

Next week Metal My Movie takes a look at Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, as the film series celebrates its 20th anniversary. Got a movie you feel should get the Metal My Movie treatment? E-mail us @ Remi hosts At The Movies alongside regular co-host Danny every Tuesday morning from 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. only on CJLO 1690AM.