Netflix Series on Rome’s Woodstock 99 is Tough to Watch
An opinion piece by WIBX morning show host, Bill Keeler |
Train Wreck, the 3-part Netflix series about Woodstock '99 at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome is at times, tough to watch. The producers certainly seem to have chosen their negative direction from the very beginning, however, that conclusion might just be justified.
My wife and I attended the three-day event back in July of 1999 and up until this documentary, we both really felt that everything went incredibly well, right up until it didn't on Sunday night when the fires and the mayhem broke out. Now, I wonder if the fact that there were some 300,000 people there explains why even though we were present, we had no idea that bad things were going on at another part of the base, even as early as Saturday evening.
The documentary certainly shows good intentions and high hopes during the planning stage and even through the event. Sadly, it also shows that in order to save money, producers cut corners on camping facilities, sewage removal, control over food and beverage, garbage removal and most importantly security leading up to the festival. All of these factors seem to have played a role in the flames that burned into early Monday morning and gave Woodstock '99 it's bad name.
After watching the documentary, I feel like I had no idea that there were so many enraged male deviants who were close to tipping over the sound tower on Saturday night. I also had no idea that security was losing control during most of that night on Saturday, including a van being driven into the rave hanger which was filled with thousands of concert goers. It's a miracle no-one was injured, or killed. I also had no idea that producers asked Fred Durst to help calm down the crowd on Saturday night, and instead he went out and nearly inspired the weekend's first riot. Ultimately. I had no idea Saturday was such a festering problem.
Yes, I knew the bathrooms were disgusting, but we commuted so we had no idea how bad it really was there. I also knew of nudity and sex, but I assumed it was all consensual. I had no idea how often women were being assaulted by archaic neanderthals attempting to relive the worst parts of Florida Spring Break.
This documentary changed my opinion.
I feel like the lineup of bands that targeted angry young males who on this particular weekend were sleep-deprived and filled with drugs and alcohol, played a huge role in the bad things that happened at Woodstock. The crowd was just filled with so many of them and they seemed like they were so angry and so ready to explode. Even I feared and knew the lineup was problematic weeks before the festival, back when it was initially released. It's a wonder the outcome wasn't worse considering the different types of crowds that were placed into the producer's beaker.
We did know that Sunday night was bad as we were there for the fires, the passing out of the candles, the looting, and we saw food trucks being toppled and State Troopers marching in. My wife and I both agreed that describing what happened on Sunday night as a riot was a pretty fair description. However, I'm afraid I was a bit naive to think that everything was perfect and peaceful leading up to that moment. The documentary shows that there was a lot going wrong long before Sunday night.
The three-part series shows enough bad (and enough ugly) including horrific stories of underage girls passed out and being raped by older guys, that I feel like there's no room to defend even the best parts of the weekend. And to be honest, there were many great parts of Woodstock '99, but this collection of videos and interviews showing very bad things happening, overshadows all positives. Worse, the documentary makes it uncomfortable to even speak about the positives because all I can think about is that 15-year-old girl being raped by an older guy in a van at the rave.
After watching, I'm not sure I can defend the event the same as I used to. Whether this production delivers a fair assessment, or a negative one that was created by slick editing, a dirtiness seems to be felt in the room after watching. I feel like the producers leave no space for people like me to say, "but look at all of the good that happened during the weekend."
In an effort to be completely fair, I also think one very important mistake made In the documentary is that all of the negative focus is on the producers and the lack of planning, expensive water and weak security. There's absolutely no accountability directed at the concert-goers. At what point do we take a look into the crowd and say, is this who we were in 1999? Disgusting humans allowing ourselves to get so drugged and drunk that we, especially guys, are willing to do anything, no matter how bad or shameful? Is there no blame to go around for the 300,000 ticket holders because collectively, our abhorrent behavior should have been prevented by the organizers? In other words, we must be supervised otherwise expect us to act like the animals that we really are. Even for those not participating in deviant behavior, there's culpability because we just watched like we were at the zoo and when we were done, looked the other way. That's pretty scary, because over the last 20 years, the bulk of that Woodstock crowd just finished parenting the next generation of young adults. Good God, we're now the ones in charge and we're teaching our kids how to behave!
Let's hope we've become better and hope even more that our kids can do a better job at simply being human when they're placed in a similar unsupervised situation. And if your generation was the one that attended the first Woodstock in 1969, don't be too quick to judge this generation. Remember, those disgusting kids on the tarmac in Rome back then were raised by YOUR "peace and love" generation!
Sadly, it's official. This documentary has indeed tarnished the Woodstock brand and I don't see how it can ever recover.
RIP Michael Lang.