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On the Road Again
Live Reviews:

July 22-25, 1999
Griffiss Air Force Base,
Rome, New York

Looking from a hilltop...Woodstock '99

By now we've all heard the news, reviews, stories, et al. surrounding last weekend's garden party for 225,000 in Rome, N.Y. so just to be a little different, this piece will feature a daily summation of our FOUR days of peace, love and happiness in the decommissioned Griffiss Air Force Base — an ironic location for a festival steeped in peace.

According to festival organizer Michael Lang, the founder of the Woodstock cultural phenomenon (and a music festival pioneer), he wanted to present Woodstock every five years so each generation could have a Woodstock all to themselves (he called it a rite of passage). This selling of a notion — primarily based on the movie which most people in attendance saw — of belonging to a particular generation, has made Michael Lang a very rich concert promoter as well as his partners John Scher and Ossie Kilkenny.

It should be noted that this being the third time around for Woodstock (the first was in 1969, followed by a 25th anniversary festival in 1994), a lot of the bugs should have been worked out; while several were, many more flaws became apparent. However, don't assume that this was a completely flawed affair — far from it. There were a lot of people (approximately 225,000) there looking to have the fun they came and paid $150 for, and these people made do with all of the reported hardships (long lines for all necessities, EXPENSIVE food and drink, LOADS of garbage, poor sanitary conditions).

The end result of what was supposed to be a good time was inevitable in light of these downsides — and four days of relentless sun, heat, drinking and drugs, no less. If the shameless, blatant capitalism of this festival wasn't so obtrusive, perhaps the degree of rebellion and riot would have been lessened. One can only speculate after the fact.

Van of Love
Groovy Wheels

Think of Paradise Lost. The original idea and the spirit of the 1969 festival was indeed all about good vibrations and the idea that music, love, understanding and solidarity can change the world — but compared to the Vietnam War, civil uprisings and political awareness in the 60's among the younger generation, none of this sentiment was present throughout the 1999 festival — mainly because there was no major focal point similar to the above to "vibe on." The current festival was merely a celebration of the original, there was no apparent awareness of changing the world, just the awareness of the cliche slogan of sex, drugs and rock and roll and there were excessive amounts of all three.

There were a lot of attractions and spectacles to be taken in, if a break was needed from the large crowds either at the East or West stages, many of which could be termed as being "ground-breaking." On site was a flight hangar turned 24-hour movie theatre showing all genres of films such as the average staple rockumentaries, horror, comedy and so on. Of course, the last screening was the original version of Woodstock. This movie hangar served as a welcome break from the heat and the din of the festival outside. A good "chill-out" for any who needed a break (and there were a few thousand).

There was a really cool Jimi Hendrix exhibit as well, which screened all of his concert films in super hi-fi and a collection of guitars and various tidbits of his on-stage fashion, not to mention biographical information. There was also a 3-D sound film but the lineups were too much to wait through in light of all the other attractions present.

There was the Action Lounge as well. There was nothing loungy about this place with the exception of those lounging around to see the wall-climbing, nude BMX racing(!), skateboarding and various other extreme sports-type stuff. There was a "view-sonic hot air balloon", and last but not least, the ShagAquarium staffed by New York's finest cheerleaders in a 10,000 sq.ft. room equipped with a pounding sound system and an upside-down lawn sprinkler system for constant indoor rain (or shower depending on your needs).

Some other factoids to speak of before the music:

  • the distance between the two main stages was about 2/3 mile which made for a lot of walking in the event of wanting to see your favorite acts booked at the same time
  • the site of Woodstock for the three official days of its run was New York state's third largest city after New York City and Buffalo
  • the "Woodstock wall" was 12 ft. high and 3 miles long, containing all the people who did as they pleased in a semi-controlled environment
  • there were 37 arrests in total (pre-riot) mainly related to drinking and drug possession
  • 2500 porta-johns with a clean up staff of 450 for 225,000 people
  • 2 births, 3 deaths (one unrelated to the festival), 2 marriages and no doubt many, many conceptions (the new "Woodstock generation" to come?)
  • 2 escaped murder convicts were rumored to be en route to the festival to "rock out"
  • (in US funds) $4 Coke and Bottled Water! $12 pizza, $6 hamburgers, $10 burritos, $6 beers (limit two per visit), an absolute atrocity blamed once again on the promoters for setting these prices to the vendors to pass on to the patrons
  • 500 State Troopers to handle one insane traffic fiasco
  • lots of nonprofit consciousness-raising tents set up such as anti-gun violence, AIDS awareness, War child, Amnesty International, FarmAid, and so on
  • LOTS OF PUBLIC NUDITY! More on that to follow. . .

    I am the Grassman...

    The unofficial opening day which featured many local acts on the third stage called "The Emerging Artists Stage" was a good warm-up for the musical onslaught to follow over the next three days. The West Stage also featured many local acts and it was a good test of the sound system for all to hear (very, very loud!). High atop the West stage was the Woodstock mascot, a very large inflatable dove with olive branches around its eyes. It was removed only once throughout the festival probably due to high winds and there was also a similar dove but it was fixed atop another hanger unrelated to the field.

    Thursday was a good day to familiarize with the venue simply because there was a mere 40 000 people present. There were all kinds of booths with everything from tattoos, body piercing, body painting (which kick-started the nudity vibe of the festival), clothing, head shops, etc. Vendors were out in full force and although they too were being heavily regulated by the organizers, there was an immediate hustle to recover their $4000(US) vending fee over the three days. Hopefully most were packed up by the time the riots hit.

    There was an extremely casual vibe about Thursday, people were mellow but the anticipation for the full-blown show on Friday was mounting. G Love & Special Sauce closed the West stage on this day and their set sampled songs from their entire catalogue. They were met with great applause and left to a hearty ovation.

    Later that night back at the E.A. stage, there was a special birthday celebration for the Father of the Funk, George Clinton, master-blaster of the Parliament-Funkadelic scene. The warm-up band that night featured original P-Funk members such as Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell (also of Talking Heads) and the band played on for what seemed forever. The 59 year-old Clinton outlasted most of the 50 000+ people congregated to dance. Give up the funk.


    The true kick off to Woodstock 1999. Most officials were holding on to the phrase "pray for rain" in the hopes of re-enacting the previous incarnations of mud and love (the rain came briefly on closing day). A rather odd way of starting the event up, but leave it to the Godfather of Soul to bring it all around and fire it up.

    James Brown

    JB didn't make an appearance until maybe 20 minutes after his band started up. They were setting the stage as well as warming up the crowd and once James hit it, you knew the festival was happening because he wouldn't have it any other way. For the next 40 minutes, there was a relentless churning out of the funk, a revue of all of his greatest hits such as "Living in America", "Funky Drummer", "I Feel Good (I Got You)" and "It's a Man's World". There was also a poignant vigil for JFK Jr., his wife and sister-in-law. James wanted 30 seconds of silence and he got it from the crowd only to be followed up with great applause for the Kennedy family. (Another acknowledgment of the tragedy during the course of the weekend was the half-massed flag flying from the West stage). Further into his set, James paid tribute to the late great Jimi Hendrix, the first of many nods over the weekend to the one who closed the first Woodstock, by playing a rendition of his "Star-Spangled Banner" only to be followed up by "Foxy Lady". There couldn't have been a better way to start the festival off.

    Iroquois Jamiroquai

    This was a funkin' hot set, not to mention the afternoon sun. The audience was a nonstop dancing entity and all the grooves that the band hit complemented Jay Kay to a tee. He danced around, played with the cameras, sported a white-feathered headdress and sang all the hits with only a few selections from their new album. Jay Kay did get to be a little obnoxious mid way into his set observing all the beautiful topless ladies who were flashing the cameras, the audience and himself. At one point, he singled out a buxom brunette commenting that "you have the best tits that I have seen in a long time. . ." and instead of offending anyone, there was mass applause which was a little surprising in an age of political correctness. He further led an audience chant saying that "American breasts are the best breasts in the world." Toward the end of their set, a thumping disco bass riff revealed a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You", a fitting tune for a band of this caliber to cover. Sections of the audience were whipping up pieces of mud on the stage as Jay Kay danced and dodged around them saying "Ha Ha mother@#$%&*$!" As Jamiroquai left the stage to cool down after a blistering set, the crowd remained hot.

    Sheryl Crow
    Sheryl Crow
    As the Crow flies

    Decked out in tight brown-tasseled leather pants and an even tighter white T-shirt, you could hear the sophomore jocks in the audience chanting for Sheryl to "take your shirt off'. She opened with "A Change Will Do You Good" followed by "My Favourite Mistake" before finally rebuking the meatheads. Stating that "you have to pay me way more than you did to see my tits", she maintained her trademark smirk-smile throughout her set. Crow played both bass and guitar during her biggest hits, and sometimes she simply sang and appeared to be having a great time. After all, Woody '94 kick-started her career with mass exposure, so obviously she was happy to come full circle. Her voice was remarkably strong throughout her set especially during "Sweet Child of Mine", the Guns N' Roses hit, giving Axl a run for his money. At one point in her set, she commented on how there seems to be a breast awareness theme for the day — having said that, the entire weekend revolved around female breasts and apparently nobody took offense to this; in fact, they rejoiced in the breasts. Leave it up to Sheryl Crow to "break the ice."

    By the end of Crow's set, it was time to take another tour around the venue and soak up the Woodstock '99 vibe. There was always constant music playing so it is safe to say that the Offspring were hot based on the adulation of their younger fans, not to mention the hip-hop sensibilities of DMX. One extremely positive comment to make about this Woodstock was the musical diversity. There was literally something for everybody, and some people were undoubtedly being turned on to new forms of music they otherwise would have overlooked; besides, they had no choice based on the sheer volumes emanating from both main stages. Of course, there were a lot of Korn and Bush fans present, and they apparently did a really good job of closing down the East stage on day one.

    The West stage was a totally different scene. Performers (in order) included The Roots and the Insane Clown Posse followed by the master once again, George Clinton, which was fitting since the previous two owe a lot to this funk legend. Starting with James and ending with George on the first day was the perfect way to lead up to the first rave.

    Moby was the main attraction on this night and throughout his hour-long non-stop set, there must have been 100,000+ getting down, feeling the love as well as all the drugs that were everywhere. People were having a great time and by the end of Moby's set, he too was buck naked behind his sequencer; by this time, the nudity trend was in full force. The temporary city did not sleep at all overnight. The rave raged on until around 7:00am Saturday, and once the music stopped emanating from Hangar 100 (the nocturnal name for the Emerging Artists stage) the sound of 50 oil-can drums (recruited from the assigned roles as garbage cans) had over-ridden everything else; this particular drum-circle of around 100-150 people continued for the duration of the festival.

    As people left the drum circle, others joined and there was a constant rhythm up until the fires erupted. As the morning came, people could be seen congregating around the faucets near the port-a-johns, breaking off the taps and having showers, once again, some naked, some not and nobody cared, they seemed to like the freedom to do whatever they wanted and they did.

    Hip crowd
    Hip fans make their presence (and nationality) known

    People were already exhausted by the second day. The sun had taken its toll after a constant 14 hour exposure or so. The Canadians on site didn't seemed to be fazed at all because they were anticipating The Tragically Hip, who were opening up day two.

    The Tragically Hip
    The Hip's setlist
    One hour before the band took the stage, Canadian flags were beginning to crop up all over and by the time the announcer took the stage, he commented on "all these weird flags that he sees" to great applause. Just as the Hip were walking onto the stage, the crowd noise and the patriotism was overwhelming and the Hip started their set rolling like an old steam engine. It should be noted that up until this point, this was the most attentive audience of the festival; the crowd literally rocked as hard as the band. As the Hip played hit after hit, the crowd noise became louder and louder — at certain points, Gord Downie didn't have to be singing as the audience was pulling their weight.

    Hip Live
    The Gords rock out
    Hip Live
    Blow-Up Doll at High Dough

    The boys were in fine form. They pulled songs from all over their catalogue of Albums, and it truly was a Canadian onslaught of rock and roll. They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, and the overwhelming show of Canadian flags must have had some sort of positive impact on their performance. Michael Lang, the man behind the original Woodstock later commented at a press conference that "the Hip captured the spirit of 1969 in their set. . ." High praise indeed. A definite high point of the three days in the land of sunshine, and possibly the ice-breaker that this fine band needed to break in America after continual persistence.

    Alanis Morrissette

    Unlike the Hip, there weren't as many Canadian flags wavering about the crowd but like the Hip, there was a lot of energy in the crowd in anticipation of this set. Alanis worked her pop songs inside out during the course of her 75 minute set. There were slightly different arrangements of "older" songs from her first record and everybody knew the words to just about every song she and her band performed and they were flawless. It was almost as if you had been listening to one of her two CD's. By this time, the crowd in attendance of her set must have been close to 120,000. A truly remarkable sight. It was truly refreshing to see the presence and success of these two Canadian acts in the international spotlight doing what they have been perfecting in their homeland over the past number of years and getting the recognition they deserve.

    Before and after Alanis Morrissette, there was a lot more touring about the site. Bruce Hornsby could be heard off in the distance playing his trademark style of piano and playing his hits, namely, "The Way It Is". Bruce seemed to have a pretty big audience as well but they were seemingly more chilled out. Perhaps it was the sun and heat or the music, maybe both, who knows but one thing is for certain, he kept his audience going with him.

    Ice Cube put on a very aggressive yet tight set with heavy bass and drums and you could picture one very large bouncing audience and dust storms all around the front of the stage. Security at the entrance and exits of the camping area were beginning to become a little obnoxious, probably no fault of their own, having to put up with the heat and lots of crazed people — but they managed to keep it together. A little tolerance on both sides part would prove to go a long way in this little party of ours.

    Upon visiting a nearby campground that afternoon, you could see the signs of filth cropping up all over. One particularly disturbing sight surrounded an outlet of porta-johns. They weren't being cleaned out frequently, and there wasn't any toilet paper available. If you didn't go prepared, you simply didn't go. The washing stations around the toilets were disgusting as well. All the water run-off from the taps, combined with the mud and the seemingly overflowing toilets created a "cess lake" of sorts and this stream of filth was infiltrating some tent areas.

    Surprisingly, some people weren't fazed at all by this predicament! This scene was a VERY common one all throughout the camping areas and it didn't make for a pleasurable affair. Besides the toilet situation, there were endless amounts of garbage strewn all over; the trash cans were overflowing and nobody seemed to care. It seemed that cleanliness wasn't high on anybody's priorities list, at least it appeared to be that way. In the venue, garbage was being cleaned up but not fast enough; the blame is not solely going to the organization of the staff. It had a lot to do with the mass ignorance and blatant disregard for our common ground, people dropping their garbage everywhere, not caring. This was very depressing, because not only was it anti-green, it showed that nobody was paying attention to the real message of the festival (social awareness). If nearly 1/4 million can come to celebrate Woodstock, how could they have missed out on the most obvious of messages?

    Mud for it
    Mud for it!

    Earlier that afternoon near the West stage, there was a similar scene with the washroom stalls but since they were located on grass, a HUGE mud/grass fight erupted between the washroom side and field side (there was a strip of concrete dividing the two) which lasted a couple of hours. Once again, people didn't care that maybe the mud they were wallowing in had fecal matter in — oh well! At one point, there were a couple of topless ladies mud wrestling, putting on a show of sorts, and it created another trend; all in good fun, no doubt.

    Promoters Michael Lang and John Scher

    For every day of the festival, there were always two press conferences given by the organizers to brief all of the media present on current situations. The Saturday afternoon press conference was especially heated. John Scher, a partner of Michael Lang's basically would not give up the mike during these instances and as the festival went on, he began to infiltrate the West stage mike making his presence felt in a rather annoying manner. Some of the media were asking valid questions regarding topics such as security (they were rumoured to be walking off the job due to low pay and long hours), clean up (this was a big concern), credentials and wristbands being ripped off in the crowds or the mosh pits and so on.

    When he wasn't skating around the questions, he was accusing the media of being too negative or trying to make the festival out to be a mistake or failure; these lines of Q & A eventually led John Scher to erupt at everyone in the tent. It was a feeling similar to a teacher openly scolding a class — an uncomfortable tension. If he wasn't being sarcastic or belligerent, he was being overly condescending. At any rate he was being annoying. "But the band played on. . ."

    Mickey Hart/Planet Drum

    One of three returning participants from the original Woodstock, Mickey Hart (drummer for The Grateful Dead) had managed to attract all the new and old Deadheads as well as the curious to witness his unique blend (sounds like coffee) of "world-music" on the West stage as the sun was setting. A truly remarkable and beautiful vibe was present here, it can't be put into words but everything seemed to fit from the time of day, the assembly of people and the song selection.

    There were families, little kids, babies, all colours abound and Mickey Hart seemed quite genuine in his performance. The music of Planet Drum contained elements of Latin grooves, funk, jazz and some crazy percussion. There really was the feeling of the original Woodstock here perhaps because it was emanating from an original but nonetheless it was there. Somebody was overheard saying that "I can feel the presence of Jerry here. . ." It wasn't long after hearing that the tour around the venue resumed, leaving the sounds of the Planet Drum to fill in the space.

    Crowds gather atop a tractor trailer

    By this time, people were visibly exhausted and burned out from another day of sun, booze and perhaps malnutrition and there was an uncomfortable edge in the air, none of that peace, love and understanding stuff, a genuine 90s in-your-face kind of edge or aggression and at this point, it was realized that the feeling of the original festival would remain in the past confined to the film and peoples' memories.

    Shortly after this realization, there was an incident in progress during Limp Bizkit's set. Basically, they were shut down after four or five songs due to a few thousand overzealous fans rushing toward the centre floor of the East stage, crushing and hurting a fair amount of people who were unable to get pulled out by security in a timely manner.

    One of the sound towers was also pillaged, and the wood panels that were torn from it were in circulation for all to "surf" on above the crowd. The situation was seemingly getting out of hand, and it only took a couple of idiots to spoil it all for everybody — a trend which was to snowball into the inevitable fires and riots by the festivals' end.

    Rage Against the Machine

    It was almost as if somebody was writing a script for the recent turn of events. To say that it was fitting for Rage to follow the Limp Bizkit situation is a major understatement. There were even more people crammed in to catch their notoriously high-energy set and you could see the authorities and security personnel preparing for the worst. Rage played a solid set of songs covering both of their albums seemingly without incident and all the kids in the crowd knew every line from every song and there were a lot of high points in their set. Actually their set was a constant level of high energy, every single song they showcased.

    The only break for the audience in their set was in between songs. A minute or two would pass between tunes while they tuned up and prepared for the next onslaught of aggression. There was no verbal interaction between the band and audience but Rage managed not to alienate their audience at the same time. By the end of the set, you could see that people were literally burned out, Rage took whatever energy they had left and dissipated it all, leaving little or no energy left for Metallica, who were set to close the day's events at the East stage.

    Enter John Scher once again. As the crew was tearing down Rage's gear and setting up Metallica's, he took the mic from the MC and warned the audience of a pending thunderstorm which was met with extremely loud cheers. He kept mentioning that the weather bureau was keeping in constant contact with the festival and that Woodstock 1999 was the third largest city in New York state (again to mass cheering).

    He became annoying once he took on that condescending tone of voice of his. He kept repeating over and over to "stay-off-of-the-tower, remember, stay-off-of-the-tower, stay-off-of-the-tower, what's everybody gonna do? That's right, stay-off-of-the-tower". Understandably, he didn't want anyone else to get hurt, but he didn't have to be so annoying. People were either laughing at him or standing in a group screaming for him to "SHUT UP!"

    After confirming that high winds and rain were inevitable, he took on that tone all over again, first with the tower spiel then "remember-light-ning-met-al-bad, grass-good" after a few more repetitions, it was apparent that most people had no respect for this man which was sad in a way; he only wanted to ensure everybody's safety but he did it in such a demeaning way.

    There was also an instant when he compared the duration of the pending storm to one of Lars' (drummer from Metallica) drum solos. At this point, John Scher was reminiscent of the dad who tries to use the lingo of his kids in order to be seen as cool. He wasn't cool at all. Perhaps he was trying to emulate Wavy Gravy or the other MC from the original Woody and immortalize himself on film they way they had; we'll never know. Enough about John Scher for now. The winds were in fact picking up and another mud storm seemed inevitable.


    As soon as they took the stage, they let 'er rip. The high-octane quartet opened with "So What" from the recently-released Garage Inc.. They then proceeded to pick from their extensive back-catalogue. They played the older, thrashier, faster tunes mixed in with the slower, more commercial, ballad-type stuff they been noted for lately and they were praised by the crowd from start to finish. The winds were picking up even more now and there was a little bit of lightning here and there and the crowd went berserk, some cheering, some making the mad dash back to their campsites or to find what limited shelter there was.

    Somewhere in the set was a medley of older songs and every now and again, James Hetfield (vocals, guitar) would prompt the audience into cheers but they were fading fast. Another day spent in the sun and the pit left them feeling spent. Metallica played well, offered a good selection of tunes but there was something about their set which seemed lack lustre, there was no fire in the music, they seemed to be going through the motions which was quite unlike this band. Towards the end of their set, the PA sounded like it too was burning out. It seemed like the perfect time to bail from the East stage for the day. It never really rained but it came very close at times.

    Now that both stages were done for the day (the Chemical Brothers closed the West stage), night #2 of Hangar 100 was about to begin — this time, there seemed to be AT LEAST 100,000 people in the surrounding area waiting to get down with Fatboy Slim. The vibe by this time seemed almost comatose; perhaps it was the mass amount of drugs in circulation, but the place turned into a full-out freak show with glow sticks everywhere, nude people, beer, strobe lights, lasers, heavy, heavy bass and the Fatboy himself.

    As soon as he started up, the airfield erupted into one simultaneous bounce and it lasted well into the dawn. Things would only quiet down once people succumbed to complete exhaustion and despite all of that, the drum circle was still going strong. One more day left, nobody knew what to expect but something was definitely on the way. . .


    It was noted on Saturday by John Scher at the press conference that the Reverend Al Green, scheduled to open Sunday on the West stage, had canceled due to feeling uneasy about flying in light of the JFK Jr. tragedy. It was a definite shame, because everybody could have used a little Sunday gospel/soul to mellow out. It might have been the perspective and positive vibes the good reverend had to offer to get everyone through one more day of what was supposed to be three days of paradise but the sheep was to be without a Shepherd.

    It was also revealed that 1,000 wristbands had been stolen and were being sold outside of the gates; if there were any latecomers still, they could "officially" buy a wristband for $70. The show was not a sell out as hoped, and in fact people were beginning to leave probably because they had enough — or maybe they knew what to expect later on. . .

    Willie Nelson

    Willie agreed to play a longer set in light of the Rev. Al Green cancellation and all were lucky to have this opportunity to see him play. Upon being introduced as "an American legend", the outlaw Willie Nelson walked out on stage, decked out in black jeans, black hat, black shades, black tank top, the trademark red bandanna wrapped around his forehead, and runners. The midday sun seemed hotter than ever but there was a fairly sizable crowd present to great Willie with loud applause, waves, flags and he proceeded to charm the audience with his brand of outlaw country music.

    He played the same guitar he has played over the last 20 years or so (it has had a hole in it for some time and there was a lot of writing or signatures apparently on his guitar) and was backed up on piano by his sister Bobby, his old companion Paul English (immortalized on the song "Me & Paul") on snare drum, another acoustic guitar, bass, bongos and harp — a country jamboree to boot. Willie was very gracious to his audience, he kept commenting on how it was great for him to be there, and he was also gracious to all of his band members. They each had many solo breaks to step out and shine, and he even let the guitar player sing a couple of songs.

    Willie and the band played all of his signature songs like "Whiskey River", "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Crazy", "Night Life", "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys", "Always on My Mind", "On the Road Again" and at one point during a blues jam, Willie disappeared and later returned with an electric guitar (a rare occurrence) and proceeded to play a wailing guitar solo! Toward the end of his set, Mike Ness (who was about to play on the West stage) joined Willie to sing back-up vocals on "Amazing Grace" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". After a few more tunes, Willie and the band was done and they exited with mass applause and he came back "for one more". By the end of his set, you could look around and see all walks of life present for Willie, perhaps this is the reason why he is regarded as an American legend.

    Only one act had played, but it felt as though it was time to take another tour to survey the crowd activity, to see how people were holding up. Most people were carrying on as if they were unfazed but slowly you could see the exhaustion setting in. The Brian Setzer Orchestra could be overheard paying tribute to the Allman Brothers with a rendition of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" prior to one of his songs. The swinging sounds of his band seemed a little out of place because there was a lot of energy in the music and the people seemed to be running out of theirs. Despite all of that, he led his band through a hyper version of "Rock This Town".

    Our Lady Peace
    OLP fans
    Front row OLP fans

    Without fail, there were many Canadian flags present for this band. The crowd was exceptionally enthusiastic when this band appeared and whenever they played their signature songs like "Naveed", "Starseed", "Superman's Dead", the crowd went wild. OLP took this opportunity to showcase some of their new songs from their forthcoming album (there even was a plane circling the venue with a trailer advertising the imminent release, Happiness... Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch, which was a bold move since all the momentum from the recognizable tunes had been lost.

    Birdman: Raine belts one out

    Upon speaking to some of the American kids that were there, they were raving over this band, terming it "really cool rock and roll". These same kids also professed to loving the Hip, hopefully this trend will continue for other Canadian bands as well. The band themselves seemed to be on a musical high playing really tight and solid and Raine seemed to be having the most fun of all. At this time, there was none of the unease and burnout present at the east side of the venue. It was really refreshing to see OLP greeted with so much enthusiasm and hopefully when the new album arrives, this enthusiasm will carry over further into the US.

    Little more than snippets of Rusted Root and Everlast were picked up. Rusted Root could be heard playing their "rootsy" brand of rock, and they even managed to do an exceptional cover of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" while Everlast played the hits off his CD in addition to the House of Pain classic, "Jump Around". It was too bad that there wasn't a House of Pain reunion with the Limp Bizkit boys, perhaps due to schedule (or possibly personality) conflicts.

    Gordie Johnson
    Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson

    John Entwhistle, another original participant from Woodstock (The Who) played at the E.A stage around this time, and his band played some of the cover songs that the Who used to play. Right after Entwhistle was another premier Canadian act, Big Sugar. Gordie Johnson (vocals, guitar) started out their set with another nod to Jimi Hendrix by playing a version of "Oh Canada" and proceeded to lead the band through a set of sugar-coated tunes to a good reception. All in all, a good turnout and feedback for all Canadian acts who participated in this momentous festival..

    Elvis Costello

    Elvis has always managed to recreate himself over his career, easily changing musical styles and genres; it was refreshing and interesting to see him play a stripped-down set with fellow Attractions piano player, Steve Nieve (as in naive). Dressed in a black suit and nerd-glasses, Elvis showcased hits spanning his musical career such as "Accidents Will Happen", "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea", "Veronica", "Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes" and many more.

    In certain spots, he led an audience singalong and he even managed a cover of the Beatles classic, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away". Elvis always seemed more John than Paul; he even resembles him at times. The stripped-down versions of his songs proved that Elvis has always been a gifted singer-songwriter and the guitar/piano accompaniment only demonstrated this point.

    Sevendust, one of the heavier musical acts on the bill of the day (next to Megadeth), played a blistering set of commercial metal music. Loud, gutterall vocals with searing guitar and bass was a good wake-up for all those present who needed a sudden jolt, and there were many by this point. Collective Soul followed Sevendust on the West stage, and their brand of light rock was in heavy contrast to the 'Dust until they played an accurate cover of the Ozzy Osbourne classic, "Crazy Train". Touché.

    The threat of a storm was back again. The winds were picking up, and the sky was going dark but remarkably, no storm came. There was a group of storm clouds approaching the East stage about to engulf the entire venue but oddly enough, as the clouds got closer to the stage, they split into two and passed the venue on both sides. A strange occurrence indeed.

    Jewel: Peaces Of You

    The beautiful, talented Jewel took to the East Stage dressed in black, and she definitely helped to mellow out the crowd. There were still the odd "show us your breasts" comments but her composure never wavered. Her presence on the stage was vaguely reminiscent of Melanie's set at the original Woodstock, and she impressed all with her musical ability (singing, playing the guitar and yodeling).

    Her band complemented her well and all was relaxed. Her set could be compared to the calm before the storm because all of the remaining acts — Creed, Godsmack, Megadeth and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were testosterone-filled louder rock music. Let's face it, Jewel's music isn't exactly the right soundtrack for fires and riots.

    One final tour around was in order, and that was the first indication that something bad was going to transpire. Hopefully there would be no incident so all the ravers could get down to the DJ stylings of one Perry Farrell, another ground-breaker on the music-festival front. His set was greatly anticipated as is anything he gets involved with, but he never got to perform. Walking between the two main stages, you couldn't help but see that there was more garbage than ever before — some of the vendors had already packed up. Already, there were isolated fires in garbage cans, and there was smoke everywhere.

    If you were to look around, there wasn't a strong presence of security and people weren't too concerned about these fires; they seemed almost desensitized to them. As the sun was setting, more and more flames could be seen and the realization came that at any given time, mayhem could break out. PAX (peace in Latin) was an organization present at this Woodstock and they were advocating a vision of a society free of gun violence, asking people throughout the weekend to sign a petition to show solidarity. Upon signing this petition, you were given a peace candle to light in unison with everybody else (at approximately 8:00pm) at the West stage. These candles were blamed for starting the fires which got out of control that night.

    By this time, only the Chili Peppers remained to play, and then the special Jimi Hendrix tribute was to take place. There were all kinds of speculations as to what the "surprise" would be. John Scher noted in an earlier press conference that "it would be something like you've never seen before. This will go down in history as a great closing to a great gathering. I can guarantee you that." If he only knew.

    Speculation ranged from Lenny Kravitz joining up with either the Experience or Band of Gypsys (Jimi's bandmates) to the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton to AC/DC. Nobody knew what to expect, but they certainly didn't want to miss the star attraction that would close it all down.

    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    The anticipation for this band was huge. How could they top their last Woodstock appearance with the light bulbs on their heads or the Hendrix wigs? What would they do? A few short moments before they took the stage, they held a prayer with some Tibetan monks and they readied for the stage. Flea disrobed, wearing nothing but his bass; Anthony sported his new short blond Iggy Pop-style hair; Chad was hidden behind his kit and John Frusciante returned to the fray wearing orange coveralls (the kind garbage men wear) for a little twist of humour.

    A blistering set of punk-funk ensued, demonstrating that this band is best when they have John. They didn't lose any of the momentum they seemed to have lacked at the last Woodstock. Anthony, always on the mark, commented on how he noticed that the audience resembled a modern day Apocalypse Now (by now there were all kinds of fires) and how they liked drugs, to be nude, to light fires and free sex. He later appealed to "all the menstruating ladies out in the audience to remove your tampons from your menstruating vaginas and toss them up toward the stage for this next song". There was a collective "EW!" emanating from the audience and the band proceeded to play "Suck My Kiss".

    Flea definitely needs to be commended for his comments to the audience toward the end of their set. He basically scolded all of the jerk guys out in the audience for taking advantage of the bare-breasted ladies over the past three days, saying something to the effect of "they've graced us with the presence of their beautiful bare breasts, and they are only there for us to look at and enjoy, they're NOT there to grope and grab. It's their breasts, not ours, so hands off." Anthony's comment to Flea's statement: "yeah, be nice to the tits". The band played a few more tunes then left the stage and the audience was cheering, waiting for the encore.

    For a short moment, the encore was in question. Enter John Scher one final time. There was a sizable fire in progress on the south side of the field and you could see kids dancing around it. Scher pointed out this fire to the audience and said that this fire is not part of the show and he asked for everybody's cooperation in assisting the fire trucks to put out the fire. He repeated this a few more times, noting that the Chili Peppers will come out again but not until full cooperation has been secured. It sounded as though he was scolding the audience for the actions of only a handful of people. Once again, he WAS interested in everybody's safety, but he should not have drawn attention to the fire; he shouldn't have been given the mic in the first place.

    The Peppers came out a few short minutes after, and played their encore. The first tune was a serious funked-up version of "Sir Psycho Sexy" followed by the ironic yet fitting "Fire", a tribute to Hendrix. It was really good to see them back in fine form again. The last impression of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that night was Flea slamming his bass down and seeing his bare ass as he walked off stage. He seemed a little upset. . .

    Now it was time for the big finale. Anticipation was high, to say the least. Loud applause ensued when the image of Jimi Hendrix was projected onto the screen, replaying his performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the original Woodstock. After that, there was a brief laser light show set to his music, still to great applause. As soon as the music was over, a voice came over the PA saying that "if you're still here now, you have successfully made it through the weekend". THAT WAS THE END OF THE SHOW!

    No big jams, no surprise guests, c'est tout. A very anti-climactic end to a momentous concert event like this was extremely disappointing. Were people upset to the point of rioting? Probably not, even though it was suggested the next day by several media sources. Walking out of the venue, fires could be seen all over, including the camping areas. Big ones and little ones raged,but at this point there was no rioting going on. That probably happened once most of the people were out. There was no security anywhere. Throughout the weekend, they wore these yellow "Peace Patrol" T-shirts and now there were none to be found anywhere.

    Anarchy was abounding now in the absence of authority. It is a big shame that all these people were able to congregate for three-four days for the sake of music, art and love only to have it end in fire, smoke and destruction. The mentality of a handful of idiots has now spoiled the memory of something which was intended to be an example of peace, love and understanding. The spirit of Woodstock was meant to eradicate all of the everyday negativity we experience; it was supposed to demonstrate to us that if we can pull together, we can make some much needed positive changes in our world. Sadly, one of the first things that will come to peoples' minds when they think back to this event will be the last impressions of riots, fires and destruction.

    The garbage problem in a nutshell

    It wasn't all that bad. People of this generation do have their own Woodstock now, and though it differed greatly from the original festival, perhaps all in attendance learned a little something more about themselves and the world around them. One can only hope that this event opened up some eyes and it would motivate these people to think and act positively toward their environment and their neighbours. Hopefully the stupidity of some won't jeopardize the future likelihood of any more events like this. There still is a lot to learn, we've got a long way to go but there still is hope, peace and love, man.

    — review by Paul Gangadeen

    — photos by Richard Beland

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