Saturday, August 3, 2019

We Watched The Woodstock '99 PPV: Day 2 (07.24.99)

Woodstock '99 PPV:

| DAY 1 | | DAY 2 | | DAY 3 |

Check out that well-paced East Stage line-up:

Block 1, The party starters: Tragically Hip, Kid Rock, Wyclef
Block 2, The VH1-friendly frat party: Counting Crows, DMB, Alanis
Block 3, Time to tear this MF down: Limp Bizkit, Rage, Metallica

It looks very smart on paper. What could go wrong?

The Stage Mural Of Doom

Between 3:50:00 and 4:00:00, the PPV experiences one of its many lulls when not much is happening. The show kills time with random live shots of naked 20-somethings meditating and pre-recorded montages of retired town locals: "How are we gonna get to the golf course? They're gonna terrorize everything! It's gonna be a blood bath!" How's that for prophetic?

Contracted boomer sound guys supply the muffled set-break music. We had to Shazam this, but one of these idiots chose "Two Wrongs" from Joe Cocker's 1987 Unchain My Heart LP.

While awaiting Counting Crows around the 4-hour mark, the PA plays "Magical Mystery Tour." We initially thought this was yet another boring boomer sound guy selection. But then Counting Crows finally takes the stage right at the "climax" part (when the song slows down at the end). Did the band personally select this as their Woodstock 99 walk-on music? If so, they highlighted a point that horrified us quite deeply: The East Stage's clownish decor may have been intended as a football-field sized tribute to one of the scariest album covers of all time. The logo across the top of the stage looks identical to the font used on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour with similar stars and rainbow patterns filling up other areas.

We're interested in knowing what persons were responsible for choosing this as the theme of Woodstock 99's backdrop. This mural of doom confronted 400,000 sensory-immersed, dehydrated, malnourished, acid-dropping 20-somethings for three days and drove them all to the point of insanity. Considering this chilling context, the festival's aftermath feels even more disturbing. Who knows what Lord-Of-The-Flies / mass-suicide types of horrors might have ensued had the festival continued even longer?

#1 The Death Count (R.I.P.)

- Joe C was forced to leave Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" tour by November '99 due to health concerns but was present for the rapid, meteoric ascent of "Bawitdaba" and their iconic Woodstock performance.
- Verne Troyer -- then known as Mini-Me -- introduced Limp Bizkit's set with "You wanted the worst? You GOT the worst!"
- The original '90s line-up of Dave Matthews Band performed the East Stage, including sax and woodwind player LeRoi Moore who passed away in 2008.
- The Tragically Hip opened the East Stage on Day Two. The band split up in 2017 after the death of their vocalist and lyricist Gord Downie.

#2 Highlights

2.1 "Killing In The Name"

Our crowning Day Two highlight goes to the flag draped over Tim Commerford's bass amp.

Rage allegedly agreed to a lower-than-normal stage volume after festival staff briefed them that all hell had just broken loose. They also obliged with less frequent banter than than almost any other Day Two artist from either stage (aside from Zack quickly dedicating "Freedom" to Leonard Peltier). No bullshit; just ass kicking, intensity heightening further with every song. The tension hits an apex with the final minute of their closer "Killing In The Name," culminating with the flag burning throughout the mantra in its coda: "Fuck You / I won't do what you tell me" hasn't sounded this exciting since 1993.

2.2 The Plastic Bottle Barrage

We had so much fun watching Kid Rock's set that we almost completely forgot how much we hate his terrible music. This easily wins for "Best Set / Worst Songs." His grand entrance was a 10 out of 10. The build in the intro of "Bawitdaba" was a 10. Joe C's "I'm Not A Fucking Midgit" t-shirt gets a 10. He dedicates "Balls In Your Mouth" to Howard Stern. He brings his platinum award for Devil Without A Cause on stage. His cover of "Fortunate Son" might be the weekend's most tasteful (albeit possibly unintentional) Woodstock '69 tribute. (Creedence initially released the song as a b-side a month after Woodstock. Barely missing the cut off.)

And finally, the grand finale: The plastic bottle barrage. A few recent Woodstock '99 retrospectives have attempted to call out this moment as problematic (assuming it resulted in crowd injuries), but it's honestly incredible. Joe C accurately yells "Holy shit!" into the mic as the stage quickly fills with a sea of plastic for over two minutes. The ground was already a trash heap -- might as well make something beautiful out of it.

2.3 James Hetfield's Best Look

Homie needs to bring back "the road warrior."

Metallica's set has bonus tracks (cut from the YouTube edit): Wasted and having the time of his life, Kid Rock staggers onto the drum riser before "Battery" and splits a Corona with Lars Ulrich.

2.4 Best Limp Bizkit Cameo

For some reason, Puff Daddy made it his business to be there for Limp Bizkit, taking a helicopter into Woodstock just for this one set and then peacing out right after they were done. In the biz, it's all about who you know, and Durst knew literally everyone.

2.5 Best Song: Counting Crows

We're not huge Counting Crows fans, but we are HUGE fans of "A Long December" -- still one of the greatest songs of all time and the hottest jam of Day Two. It looks like they lugged out the grand piano just for this one song. Completely worth it.

2.6 Best Non-Cover Attributions: Bruce Hornsby

Bruce Hornsby's set was not shown in full until about 3AM. It's not really all that notable, but we want to talk about it at length anyway because we think it's funny to talk about Bruce Hornsby for a long time.

John Scher -- Woodstock 99's co-organizer -- had made it a point to personally introduce Hornsby's shockingly half-dope set, sounding way better than it had any right to be. He does not perform with his '80s band Bruce Hornsby and The Range, so most of his AOR '80s hits are absent. No "Mandolin Rain," or "Every Little Kiss," or "The Valley Road." (We had to look up those song titles. "Mandolin Rain" is kind of a jam btw.)

They play a 12-minute version of his most well-known song, "The Way It Is," boldly introduced as a Tupac Shakur cover. They follow this with a bluegrass version of a song we hadn't heard in years: "Step by step / One by one / Higher and higher..." It's "Jacob's Labber," a song Huey Lewis not only covered but took to #1 in 1987. Hornsby's non-Range band is tight as fuck, despite the guitar player's wack faux-Anastasio tone. (Later on the same stage, Mickey Hart and Planet Drum's guitarist predictably achieves the exact same sound. Bummer.) The stage mix and sound-quality rest among the day's fullest, effectively outing Everclear who took the stage immediately afterwards and sounded like absolute shit.

In the uninterrupted re-airing, a panning camera catches a kid who is likely amid a very intense acid trip, hiding from the 100 degree heat with a white blanket. [See photo.]

#3 Other Notes

3.1 Most Compelling Disaster: Wyclef Jean

Considering the festival's aftermath, it's not especially strange that Wyclef's painfully awkward set hasn't placed on multiple "worst of all time" lists. He repeatedly emphasizes "This is Pay-Per-View" to the massive crowd, but appears entirely unrehearsed, shouting impulsive instructions to The Refugee All-Stars. The only preparedness we detect come from moments blatantly plagiarized from bands who had already played that weekend.

Stolen from James Brown and Kid Rock: The Refugee Allstars' lackluster solos kill time for the first 10 minutes before he takes center stage.

Stolen from 3rd Bass: Wyclef has his DJ play "Jump Around," likely unaware that both Everlast and DJ Lethal from House Of Pain separately performed later that weekend. (By the end of Woodstock 99, "Jump Around" was played at least three times.)

Stolen from Lit: After botching yet another cliched "Star Spangled" Hendrix-tribute solo (missing several notes), Wyclef fails at igniting his stratocaster with lighter fluid, and he again fails miserably at a meaningless, unearned guitar-smashing attempt. With a pricetag still hanging from its headstock, the axe stays 100% intact despite Wyclef's physical exertion.

Stolen from Kid Rock: Less than one hour after The Plastic Bottle Barage, he does the exact same thing.

Stolen from James Brown (Again): Wyclef asks a random audience member (only referred as "Diana") to wrap his final 3 minutes with an impromptu karaoke version of "Piece Of My Heart." Halfway through, Diana yells "STOP THE MUSIC!" and effectively calls out The Refugee All-Stars on playing the song incorrectly -- on live TV, in front of 300,000 people.

There's so much more, but we need to move on with our lives eventually.

3.2 The Point Of No Return: Limp Bizkit

There's a lot to unpack here. A few underlining points:

#1 Durst's vocals pretty much suck, but otherwise their set is actually not bad at all -- way better than their reputation would indicate. The interesting parts of their aesthetic derive almost entirely from bassist Sam Rivers keeping up with guitarist Wes Borland's peculiar inventiveness. Together, they're the secret glue holding it all together, meshing the funk and dissonance within most of the best '90s hiphop.

#2 With 20 years of hindsight, Durst's "provocation" feels unfairly overstated. Perhaps the lore made us anticipate something more extreme, but he's clearly seizing the day, feeding off the crowd without flinching. Otherwise, their set arrived precisely calculated to fuck shit up.

Unfortunately, YouTube has edited out most of Durst's controversial stage banter. "The Point Of No Return" and its aftermath can only be found in full on the PPV version. Here's a breakdown of the timeline:

08:46:00: Recalling the Korn set from one night earlier, the crowd density is not nearly as packed, but they're twice as exhausted, dehydreated, and hungover. Now four songs deep, the rowdiness reaches a new peak.

Durst responds to a note from production: "Hey, they wanna ask us to ask you to mellow out a little bit. They say too many people are gettin' hurt! Don't let nobody get hurt, but I don't think you should mellow out? Mellowing out? That's what Alanis Morissette just had you motherfuckers do. "Birkenstock Rock," y'all. This is 1999, motherfucker. Take your birkenstocks and stick 'em up your fuckin' ass! Now I'm gonna do somethin' to see if I can't get this whole fuckin' place from front to back to get the fuck up!"

The repeated phrase "mellow out" had us thinking they might go into "Sour" from Three Dollar Bill Y'all, which would have been appropriately chill, but instead...

08:47:05: We definitely did not expect the turning point of Woodstock 99 to happen during a Ministry cover (nor did we realize Limp Bizkit ever covered Ministry, let alone during their Woodstock 99 set).

The entire second-half of "Thieves" removes Ministry's lyrics and switches to a breakdown, slowly and slowly building up to that final "GET THE FUCK UP!" He might be a terrible singer, but he's a natural hype man.

08:52:27: "If somebody falls down, pick 'em up!" - Durst sneaks in hardcore ethics.

"One thing I'm not seeing here--- Ohhkay, I'm not saying that." - Durst finally acknowledges they've taken Woodstock 99 to the point of no return -- attempting to unfire the gun, but it's far too late.

08:55:00: Durst gives the crowd a genuine glance of surprise for a quick moment. Seconds later, cameras show the first plywood surfers.

09:00:00: Sam Rivers kicks off "Re-Arranged," their only moment remotely approaching "mellow." Impressive guitar tapping from Wes Borland.

09:08:45: During the breakdown of "Break Stuff," he encourages to crowd to let out "all of that negative energy." Aerial cameras zoom to an ant colony of humans pulling plywood from "The Alamo," also known as Woodstock 99's sound booth tower, exposing the left side and back end. Many shirtless humans have entered. Others pass around 20 boards of plywood. Within moments, dangerously large amounts of people begin crowd surfing them.

09:09:45: DJ Lethal's intro to "Nookie" might not be audible through the PA. TV viewers can still hear everything, including Fred Durst realizing his mic got cut. A chant begins: "BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT!" A piece of plywood caves in, unable to hold the weight of the five dudes standing on top, knocking over about 15 other people. Durst thanks someone in the crowd for hitting him with a bottle of orange juice.

09:11:45: PA's back on.

09:16:05: After the 2nd chorus of "Nookie," three porto-potties behind the sound booth are knocked over. About 40 determined shirtless dudes are ripping the entire thing apart. Garbage is flying everywhere.

09:17:45: The outro "Nookie" dies down. The sun has set.

09:23:45 It takes six minutes, but Durst is finally on his very own plywood at the edge of the crowd, and he dedicates "Faith" to all the ladies. Podcast 99 recently claimed that "Durst singing "Faith" while surfing plywood" was the triumphant defining "Star Spangled Banner" moment of Woodstock 99.

3.3 Future Hits

Fun Fact: Rage did not play "Guerilla Radio" at Woodstock, even though The Mandella Effect had previously assured us that this actually did happpen. Same goes for Ice Cube's "You Can Do It."

This was probably the weakest of the 3 days for songs that would later go on to become hits in some capacity, but there were a few...

Kid Rock "Cowboy"
Issued to radio in early August, peaked #5 on Billboard Modern Rock, debuted on TRL August 3rd and retired from TRL on November 2nd after placing in 65 episodes.

Limp Bizkit "Re-Arranged"
Issued to radio in mid-September, peaked #1 on Billboard Modern Rock.

The Chemical Brothers "Out Of Control"
The single charted #21 in the UK. Its video (featuring Rosario Dawson) debuted on 120 Minutes in October.

Counting Crows "Hanginaround"
Released in mid-October, peaked #17 on Billboard Modern Rock, hit #28 on Billboard Hot 100.

Limp Bizkit "Break Stuff"
Issued to radio in March 2000, peaked #14 on Billboard Alternative, debuted on TRL at #6 and appeared at least 30 times throughout March and April.

Moby Play singles
No record exists of Moby's Woodstock setlist, and he does not appear on the PPV. But his summer '99 shows frequently included many of the future hits from Play including "South Side," "Porcelain," "Natural Blues," and "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad."

3.4 WTF Moments

- "Sometimes there's an abundance of things, and sometimes there's a lack. Today, there's an abundance of titties." Dave Matthews' now infamous observation embarrassed so many people that it killed the on-stage objectifying for the rest of Day Two on both stages. We have no memory of his "making weird noises between songs" schtick. DMB's setlist included the most nostalgia bombs of any band so far. The last time we heard "#41" or "Two Step" or "Too Much" or "Tripping Billies" was probably 1998.

- Art Alexakis from Everclear wins the "angriest angry dad of the day" award for his "angry dad" set. "Fuck you to anyone who wants to make this into a commercial venture." Nice try, dad. Their drummer is the poor man's Tre Cool. In a TRL reminiscent moment of slight redemption, they pull over 100 mostly half-naked fans on stage for the last song. One girl with a "thousand mile stare" is visibly peaking on some very intense acid.

- After the Rage set, the show sneaks in a montage of Danny Masterson and Wilmer Valderrama's mundane adventures at The 6th Element aka the all-night rave. Nothing happens.

- The most gigantic WTF of the day goes to Wyclef's "Oldstock Rock." Congratulations.

3.5 Miscellaneous

- Day Two of the PPV kicks off backstage with some long-winded exhausted riffing from Kennedy, host of MTV's Alternative Nation and current Fox News contributor. Sadly, Kennedy may have been the most prepared and musically informed out of the 3 or 4 embarrassingly douchey bargain-bin nobodys selected to provide announcements or interview artists between sets. One clip from YouTube that we haven't been able to locate in the PPV shows a backstage VJ -- or DJ or whatever he was -- interviewing Los Lobos for 8 minutes worth of insultingly racist questions. The band did not seem happy about this.

- Frequent interruptions from the ColumbiaHouse.Com giveaway.

- With regards to their recent history, we would prefer to speak positively about The Tragically Hip. The singer rolled around on the ground a lot, and we like when bands do that.

- Los Lobos and Mickey Hart and Planet Drum both covered "Not Fade Away" as the 2nd-to-last song in their set. Some might say they both chose it as their penultimate song, but not us. We would not say that.

Some good setlist choices:
- Alanis Morrisette played "Uninvited" which we never realized was a non-album track.
- Ice Cube did all three of his hits from The Predator!
- Los Lobos covered "Are You Experienced?" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy." (They did not play "La Bamba.")
- Mickey Hart and Planet Drum's highlight was a drum & vocal song called "Tall Grass."
- The Chemical Brothers did lots of stuff from Surrender, their best record, released about a month prior.

Overall, the majority of the music was very good. We're ready to rescind our "worst concert of all time" award. Sorry Woodstock 99. We had no idea that you didn't completely suck.

Woodstock '99 PPV:

| DAY 1 | | DAY 2 | | DAY 3 |

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