Woodstock 1999 was supposed to be a thirtieth anniversary celebration of the original Woodstock 1969 festival. It was held between July 22nd and July 25th, 1999 but 200 miles away from Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY in Rome, NY instead. It was heavily promoted and MTV intended to broadcast much of the festival but it was also available live to pay per view cable TV customers in the US.
The concert was held at Griffis Airforce base and tickets were offered for $150 each. In order to prevent gatecrashers more than 50 off duty New York State troopers were hired to help provide additional security.
There were two main stages as well as several smaller side stages. A “rave tent” was opened as well.
Unlike the original Woodstock festival or some of the other anniversary celebrations there was a major corporate presence at Woodstock 1999 and there were temporary malls, ATMs and even mailing stations set up for concert goers to make use of.
None of the acts who appeared at the original Woodstock appeared at Woodstock 1999, although many were still active in the music world and did appear at the 40th anniversary celebration ten years later in 2009 (which was held back in Bethel, NY at the original site)
Instead many of the late nineties most popular acts were scheduled to perform including Bush, Creed, Live, Alannis Morisette, Metallica, DMX, Elvis Costello, The Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. A then fairly unknown Black Eyed Peas appeared on a small side stage.
From the first day of the 1999 Woodstock Festival it was clear that the weather and other environmental conditions were going to be a problem. Temperatures topped an unseasonably warm for upstate NY 100F and the humidity was almost unbearable.
Concert go-ers who had not brought enough food and drink of their own found themselves with few options. They could go into the town of Rome, which is small as was unprepared for all the visitors, or buy from on site vendors who were charging as much as $12 for a single slice of precooked pizza and cans of soda for $4 each.
Toilet facilities were also seriously inadequate and by the second day many of them were overflowing and completely unusable. there were also not enough water fountains. Frustrated by this some fans broke the main water pipes, leading to the huge mud pits that became a part of the festival's problems as well.
This was the complete line up for the 1999 Woodstock Festival
West StageFrostbit Blue
Little Big Jam
G. Love and Special Sauce
The String Cheese Incident
Emerging Artists StageImmoral Fibres
Gary Durdin & The Clay Pinps
The Umbilical Brothers
Insane Clown Posse
George Clinton & the P.Funk All-Stars
East StageJames Brown
G. Love and Special Sauce
Emerging Artists StageBen Lee
Beth Hart Band
Chris Pérez Band
Linda Rutherford & Celtic Fire
Mickey Hart/Planet Drum
The Chemical Brothers
East StageThe Tragically Hip
Wyclef Jean with the Refugee Allstars
Dave Matthews Band
Rage Against the Machine
Emerging Artists Stage2 Skinnee J's
Full Devil Jacket
Our Lady Peace
East StageWillie Nelson
The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Creed featuring Robby Krieger
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Emerging Artists StageBig Sugar
Music from the concert was released as a 2 disc CD set called “Woodstock 1999” in October of 1999. A DVD that featured one song from 29 of the acts that were the best known at the time followed in 2000. The band Bush included most of their performance on their Greatest Hits DVD.
Woodstock 1999 is, over a decade later, better remembered for the violence that occurred there than the musical performances. Some crowd violence was rumored during Limp Biskit’s set on Saturday but the real problems started on Sunday during the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ set. Bonfires were set and fans in the crowd began tearing things down to get more fuel. The MTV crew covering the concert left. Later MTV New anchor Kurt Loder described the scene in an interview with the USA Today newspaper:
"It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place. It was clear we had to get out of there.... It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you're not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger.”
Eventually the crowds were calmed by the arrival of a large number of New York State troopers. There were not only reports of looting and vandalism but of sexual assault as well. Only seven people were arrested at the site though.