From Kid Rock to $4 bottled water, this year's Woodstock catering to different crowds
July 25, 1999
BY DANIEL RUBIN KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
ROME, N.Y. -- Forget Woodstock, this is Disneyland, a rock-and-roll theme park. To survive it, you need a map and a plan.
There are 70 bands playing on stages that are 20 minutes apart, a trek through a heat-scorched midway of mud, dope, flesh and $4 bottled water by Ogden.
Tuned Out? There are 40 movies screening 24 hours-a-day, an extreme sports park, nightly raves, and booths to play videos, get your e-mail, tattoo your triceps or paint your breasts.
It is 1990s-style niche marketing. Nothing unifies everyone, so there's something musical for all, the girl-with-guitar poetry of Jewel, the white heat of Metallica, the anger rock of Korn, the hip-hop cool of Wyclef Jean.
"What struck me from reading all the talk on the Woodstock Web site was that there are a ton of factions in pop," said Barry Maguire, a musician who is to play on the emerging-artist stage Sunday with singer Kirsti Ghoulson. "A Metallica fan and a Jewel fan want nothing to do with each other. And in fact, Metallica fans want to hurt Jewel fans."
When someone writes "Woodstock for Dummies" -- and someone probably will, since these reunions seem here to stay now that the promoters have found a way to keep the barbarians from storming the gates -- some survival strategies are needed:
Apply plenty of sunscreen, pack light, bring toilet paper, leave the dog at home.
Far different spirits were at play in separate pockets of the 3,552-acre former Griffiss Air Force Base where this festival runs through late tonight, or whenever the tribute to Jimi Hendrix fades away.
The East stage is where the punishing rock lives, the action is wildest, the most soda bottles fly, and the craziest surfers ride the top of the crowd to music by Offspring, Korn, Bush and Rage Against the Machine.
Across the way, the West stage offered old-guard funkster George Clinton, who celebrated his 59th birthday here, and older-skewing acts like Bruce Hornsby, Los Lobos and Mickey Hart, the only announced performer to have played both the original, 1969 Woodstock and its very different descendant, which is being aimed at the gut of 18- to 25-year-olds.
"They are screaming just like we were screaming," Hart said Saturday while Kid Rock finished up on the West Stage in a shower of profanity that made Country Joe's once-edgy Fish Cheer -- "Gimme an F!" -- seem like a nursery rhyme. "You can say anything in music, and it's OK. Even if you don't know why you are screaming, you want to outrage your parents. You want to separate yourself from other generations," said Hart, former drummer with the Grateful Dead.
With more than 220,000 in attendance and another 15,000 at work, Woodstock 99 has become the third-largest city in New York State this weekend. A 44-year-old man died of cardiac arrest. A woman was rushed to the hospital to deliver the first baby of the newest Woodstock Nation, but it was a false alarm. There were two weddings, no word of divorces, and lots of evidence of love in the air, on the grass, on the tarmac, in amazingly open view at a place where nudity was, if not the norm, then something whose novelty waned.
Even during the solemn incantation by a stand of Tibetan Monks that officially started the events, women were baring their breasts as the pay-per-view cameras descended and the crowds roared. This continued through the gyrations of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, who at 71 is still all teeth and hair.
"This is sort of a take-your-top-off kind of day, is that what it is?" singer Sheryl Crow asked between songs during her set Friday.
As thousands howled, she yelled, "Psyche!"
It wasn't just a girl thing. A guy roamed the crowds wearing only a strategically placed tube sock, attached with duct tape. And when someone snapped a water main during a set by Jamiroquai, that gave hundreds of nostalgic crazies the medium they needed, and for the remainder of the day, many wore nothing but mud, dirt and grass.
"I sort of got pulled in," said a browned Fran Campillo, 17, of Ogdensburg, N.Y., who wore a white bandage across a deep gash on her left knee. The mud people stopped when it was clear she got hurt. That didn't stop them from hurling clumps 20 and 30 yards in the air to the gardens where people drank $5 beers.
Given the size of the tent city whose inhabitants began arriving Thursday morning, it was a wonder to State Police Maj. James Parmley that there had been only 16 arrests as of Saturday morning. Most were for drugs, from marijuana to crack, and one man was charged with sexual assault. Hundreds also were treated for heat stroke.
The third time seems to be a charm for the Woodstock trilogy. While gate-crashers have been as much a part of the Woodstock history as the mud, good fences promised to make this $35- to $37-million event profitable, said its promoters, who include Michael Lang, creator of the original, and John Scher of Metropolitan Entertainment. From event to Webcast to pay-per-view to CD to movie, they're banking on a multimedia score.
Ossie Kilkenny, one of the partners putting on the festival, said the question of whether he takes home any money is "all tied up in the multifarious complexities of pay-per-view."
There was no question people were spending. "This Woodstock is nothing more than someone making a lot of money," said Justin Dicks, 21, an electrician from Rochester, N.Y., figures four days of fun and music will cost him $500. Fans groused about $4 water, $12 pizzas and tickets that began at $150 and jumped $30 that day of the show.
The town of Rome welcomed the expected infusion of $30 million into the local economy. "We need a good shot in the arm," said Rob Taylor, 35, an Army accountant who was dancing shirtlessly to James Brown on Friday morning. Twenty minutes earlier, he and the other workers on the converted base were told they were free to check out the concert. Colleagues had come to work in tie-dye T-shirts to mark "Woodstock Day," he said. He also noted that gas prices had climbed 10 cents a gallon in the last week.
The roads to Rome were paved with $50 parking spaces, $20 cases of beer, and campers and tents up for rent.
One local not interested in going is Maurice Isserman, who was at the original Woodstock in August 1969, when he was 18, on summer break from Reed College, and hoping to change the world. What he remembers was being hungry, being wet and being curious.
"I think it's the third that was most important -- I didn't know what the event was going to be," he said by phone. "Those who go to this Woodstock probably won't go hungry, they probably will play in the mud, but I don't think anybody's gonna be very curious. The script has already been written. It was laid down in 1969. There isn't any room for surprise any more."
Isserman, a professor of American history at Hamilton College, says he's trying hard "not to be the aging baby boomer," but the gathering of tents and tie-dyes reminds him less of Max Yasgur's farm than the Civil War re-enactments he drags his 4-year-old son to.
"The re-enactors are really good," he says. "Their curses are authentic, they handle their weapons authentically, they flop down on the field and lie in the grass authentically. But ultimately, a Civil War reenactment is not the battle of Gettysburg. I think something similar is happening here. People will look authentic and they will behave authentically, and do all the things they imagine happened at the original, but ultimately, it is an re-enactment, it isn't Woodstock."
There was lots of talk about the generations. A 1968 VW van with the Pennsylvania plate DAYJA VU pulled into the compound Thursday, making its third Woodstock appearance. Nancy Stouffer, 48, has given the camper the full psychedelic treatment, with the words "Far Out," "Groovy Kind of Love," "Magic Bus" and "Flower Power" written on surfaces not covered with a rainbow of flowers and waves.
As she talked about 1969 -- "Traffic, starvation, craziness, then it rained and we got out" -- her 17-year-old son, Vance, played Frisbee in the field with two friends from Camp Hill.
"There was a lot of emotion back then," she said. "The kids who are doing things today, it's not driven by emotion; it's driven by trends." She hissed the word.
She called over her son to ask him what he thinks about the '60s.
"Drugs," Vance Stouffer said.
"A big party," added his buddy, Noel Carroll.
She shook her head vigorously. "In the '60s, that's not what drove things. It was the camaraderie. Why do you think they hang on to that era? They've got nothing to hang onto."
Young Stouffer and his buddies were hanging onto a long weekend of music by bands like Dave Matthews, DMX, Limp Biskit, Creed and "what's his name?" -- Willie Nelson. "They rock," he said.More stories and coverage
Copyright © 1999 The Beacon Journal Publishing Company Primary content and graphics © 1999 Knight Ridder New Media, Inc. Technology and portions of the content and graphics © 1999 Zip2 Corp. Information deemed reliable but is not guaranteed. Just Go is a registered trademark of Knight-Ridder New Media Inc.