Who Should We Blame for the Death, Riots, and Misogynistic Mayhem of Woodstock ’99?

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    Catherine Lash/HBOLimp Bizkit’s Fred Durst was the embodiment of late-’90s aggro dudebro ugliness, and his band’s riot-instigating performance at Woodstock ’99—the second revitalization of the festival brand by co-founder Michael Lang and producer John Scher, following Woodstock ’94—took the brunt of the blame for the event’s devolution into violent, misogynistic bedlam. The new documentary series Woodstock ’99: Peace, Love, and Rage doesn’t let Durst and his Limp Bizkit cohorts off the hook, and Scher in particular eventually points the finger squarely at the red-capped frontman for most of what transpired over three July days in Rome, New York. Yet director Garret Price’s film, thankfully, isn’t that narrow-sighted. Instead, it shrewdly casts Durst and his fellow musicians less as causes for the chaos that erupted than as catalytic expressions of a simmering rage bubbling up in American culture at the time—a fury that the festival itself both deliberately and accidentally stoked.Part of HBO’s new “Music Box” series created by Bill Simmons, Woodstock ’99: Peace, Love, and Rage (July 23) views its subject as a disaster preordained by a combination of poor planning, commercial exploitation, and tipping-point youthful disaffection. What began as a nostalgia-infused event marked by the hottest rock acts of the day—Limp Bizkit, Korn, The Offspring, Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers—turned sour and fetid quickly, thanks to extreme heat, overflowing sewerage systems, and a lack of water. When Limp Bizkit took the stage on night two and encouraged the largely white, male and furious crowd to bounce along to “Break Stuff,” the effect was that of a bomb going off. And in that incident’s aftermath, the festival transformed into a veritable Lord of the Flies conflagration in which attendees set bonfires, looted merchandise and food stands, and smashed everything in sight.Lang states that, with Woodstock ’99, he and Scher sought to give that young-adult generation something which felt contemporary and, for better or worse, “that’s what contemporary was.” Woodstock ’99: Peace, Love, and Rage doesn’t completely disagree, positioning Limp Bizkit as a symptom of a dangerous malaise in America at the turn of the millennium. That atmosphere, Price contends, was the byproduct of numerous factors: fears of Y2K; the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal; the Columbine school shooting massacre (which had taken place three months beforehand), and the rise of trash media and the ensuing coarsening of American culture (Girls Gone Wild and magazines like Maxim and FHM get lambasted here). It was an era, the film contends, that was rampant with anger and sexist objectification, having already replaced the progressive spirit of the early-’90s Grunge moment with a general neanderthal crudeness.Read more at The Daily Beast.

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