Photos From Woodstock ’99 That Show Just How Much of a Trainwreck It Really Was

Wed Aug 17 2022

It’s no secret that Woodstock 1969 was iconic. This Music and Art Fair saw half a million people travel to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to see the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, and so much more. The festival took place during the midst of the peace and love movement, and Woodstock 1969 brought together people who wanted to sing, dance, and engage in community spirit.

After the success of Woodstock 1969, festival organizer Michael Lang hoped to revive the peaceful, loved-up, hippy-fest again in 1999. The three-day event was held at an abandoned air force base in Rome, New York, and Michael hoped that it would be just as legendary – and even more profitable – than the original. But soon the “peaceful” festival transformed into a fireball of riots, looting, assaults, and more. No wonder Woodstock ’99 has been hailed as “the day the music died.”

Drinking Water at the Festival Was Sparse, and a Lot of It Was Contaminated With Feces

Festival organizers didn’t allow attendees to take in their own water, which made music lovers solely reliant on those within the festival to keep them hydrated. However, there was a lack of water everywhere. While drinking fountains were stationed across the air force base, the faucets were either broken or running suspiciously brown water. Plus, the lines to use them were enormous.

Joe Paterson, a public health investigator, was on-site during this time, and he took samples of this water to be tested at his lab. When he returned to his results, he discovered that much of the water was contaminated with human feces. He confessed that “The thought that people are out there, drinking this, exposing themselves, bathing in this stuff… It was like the worst nightmare.”

Over 4,000 People Were Treated by Medical Personnel Over the Course of the Three-Day Event

Although Michael Lang wanted to create something just as incredible as Woodstock 1969, what he didn’t realize was that 1999 was a different era. The peace and love movement had come to an end, and the punk rock ’90s were in full force. Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were all the rage, writing songs that promoted rage, violence, and anti-establishment values. Because of this, countless people got hurt.

From fighting and pushing in the mosh pits to being severely dehydrated, hungry, and high on illicit substances, festival-goers at Woodstock ’99 struggled to stay on their toes. After the event came to an end, it was reported that almost 5,000 people were treated in the medical tents over the course of the three-day event, with even more feeling the after-effects when they got home.

When Bottled Water Became Too Expensive, Water Pipes Were Broken and Mud Pits Were Formed

Over the course of the three-day Woodstock ’99 festival, temperatures soared. During the middle of the day temperatures rose to over 100 degrees, and vendors took full advantage of the fact that festival-goers were forced to surrender their own water bottles before they entered the grounds. To begin with, they charged $4 a bottle, but as people became even more thirsty they hiked up the prices to $12 a bottle.

Although there were designated water fountains at the event, the lines became so long that thirsty and angry attendees decided to break the water pipes instead. And while this did temporarily have the desired effect, the broken pipes soon created mud pits that then merged with the run-off from the restroom facilities. So, when some people rolled around in what they thought was just mud, they were actually rolling around in feces.

When the Organizers Handed Out 100,000 Candles for a Vigil, Festival-Goers Set Fires to Everything Around Them

When planning his 1999 festival, organizer Michael Lang wanted to fight back again gun violence – especially after the tragic Columbine School Shooting which had taken place a few months earlier. Because of this, Lang organized a staged vigil during the festival’s final act, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As they played a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, Lang and his team handed out 100,000 candles to those in the crowd.

Although Lang hoped the vigil would be peaceful and impactful, it was anything but. By this point, attendees were tired, hungry, thirsty, and incredibly annoyed. Three days of partying had exhausted them, and three days of being treated like animals had turned them wild. So, with their candles in tow, festival-goers joined as a herd to set fire to everything they could see around them, and huge bonfires erupted in the crowd.

Many People Managed To Get Into the Festival With Fake Passes, and It’s Unknown How Many People Actually Attended

When news of a Woodstock revival made the rounds, people across the US wanted to be there. So, they bought tickets for $157 – which was a huge amount of money back in the day – and they received their festival passes. However, many people were outraged by the price but were still determined to experience Woodstock in all of its glory.

The amount of people who got into the festival on fake passes is unknown, but not all of them got in. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that “Security guards said that they were confiscating fake passes at the rate of 50 an hour at just one gate.” All in all, it’s estimated that around 400,000 people attended the festival – which is way more than the capped ticket sales of 250,000.

As Carnage Raged on the Last Night, Attendees Looted Trucks and Stole Everything They Could Get Their Hands On

On the last night of the event, festival-goers had had enough. They were done with being treated like trash, and they were amped up by the artists who were promoting anarchy and male toxicity. Because of this, they all joined together to create carnage. They did this by starting fires, having fights, and turning the place upside down.

Without proper security to keep them in check, the festival-goers knew that they could get away with anything. Their mob mentality kicked in, and they soon began flipping over cars, smashing production equipment, kicking down the walls that surrounded the base, and looting everything in sight. This picture shows attendees stealing CDs and other items from production trucks that were parked behind the stage.

The Budget for the Sanitation Department Was Cut, and Free-Flowing Sewage Lined the Festival Floor

In an effort to bring the magic of Woodstock back to life, Michael Lang also wanted to make a serious profit. And while he spent millions on Woodstock ’99, some say that he didn’t spend it on the important things. In fact, the budget for the sanitation department was cut, which meant that the outhouse facilities posed a serious health and safety risk as the days went on.

As hundreds of thousands of people used the same few portable toilets, human waste began overflowing onto the floor outside – mixing with the makeshift showers that people had made. The assistant site manager for the event noted that “Like all departments, the Sanitation Department had budget cuts. Trash services and sewage services were all farmed out. So we’re relying on all these subcontractors… And unfortunately, they did not do their jobs.”

Attendees Set Countless Trailers on Fire, and Huge Explosions Could Be Heard Around the Base

When the sun set on the last day of Woodstock ’99, the fires began to rage. As one bonfire was lit on one side of the base, another was then set on the other side. And soon a domino effect of fire was cropping up and lighting the night sky orange. Of course, as more and more fires erupted, it became more and more dangerous. It became even more so when these festival-goers got closer to the trucks parked nearby.

In their state of rage and wild hysteria, attendees didn’t really think about what they were doing. They wanted to make a statement by setting the trailers ablaze, but what they didn’t realize was that these trailers contained gas canisters. Before too long, explosions could be heard across the air force base as these trailers erupted into giant fireballs.

Eventually, New York State Troopers Had To Get Involved, and They Arrested 44 People in Total

In an effort to save money and avoid bringing in members of the establishment, Woodstock ’99 organizer Michael Lang decided against using proper security guards or police to help at the event. And while this wasn’t too much of an issue to begin with, they soon realized this was a problem on the last night. As the event descended into chaos, the New York State Troopers had to be brought in to help.

Although they were severely outnumbered, the baton-wielding troopers did manage to stop many of the looters, fighters, and vandals in their tracks. Over 44 people were arrested over the course of the weekend, almost all of them on that wild last night. These arrests all took place after the organizers and production team were forced to barricade themselves in their office to keep safe.

There Were 4 Alleged Sexual Assaults at the Festival, and Women Were Severely Outnumbered

While both men and women attended Woodstock ’99, the large majority of attendees were male. As the festival was held during the frat-boy American Pie era, the women who attended the festival remember feeling like meat – and many were groped and touched inappropriately while they were crowd surfing or sitting on the shoulders of a friend.

Over the course of the three-day event, four alleged sexual assaults were reported to the police – including one instance where a girl was gang raped in the mosh pit during Korn’s set. Only one person was officially charged with sexual assault, and both medical personnel and festival-goers have acknowledged that they believe the number of sexual assaults on women to be much higher than what was reported.

Organizers Paid Youngsters $500 To Act As the “Peace Patrol” for All of the Festival Attendees

Michael Lang had some strict rules when it came to Woodstock ’99, and he confessed that “We didn’t want anybody uniformed or anybody carrying a gun. We didn’t want the influences of the government or of the police state or whatever.” So, instead of hiring proper security to monitor the 250,000 in attendance, he hired his “Peace Patrol” instead. In most cases, these were just teenagers who were paid $500 to do it.

One member of the Peace Patrol, Cody, was just 18 years old when he accepted the opportunity, and he noted that he only signed up because he just had to sign a form, put on a yellow T-shirt, and take the money. And as they were not trained, many of the Peace Patrol members engaged in the same reckless behavior that the attendees did. One patrol member stated that Woodstock was a place for “money and sex and b*tches.”

When Limp Bizkit Performed, They Encouraged the Fans To Be Destructive and Get Out of Control

Everyone who attended Woodstock ’99 knew that it was a different vibe to Woodstock ’69. The acts were more hardcore, and so were the attendees. This was ultimately the downfall of the festival, as the bands that played encouraged the festival goers to cause carnage. When Limp Bizkit made their way onto the stage, the crowd was already hot, drunk, and under the influence, and so chaos ensued.

When lead vocalist Fred Durst introduced their song “Break Stuff,” he addressed the crowd: “This is one of those days, y’all, where everything’s f**ked up. And you just wanna break some s**t. It’s just one of those days when you don’t wanna wake up.” He then told them to “reach deep down inside [and] take all that negative energy and let that shit out of your f**king system. Now, when this song kicks in I want you to f**king kick in.” Of course, the crowd did exactly what he told them to do.

Despite Everything That Was Going Wrong, the Organizers Saw the Event as a Success

It was clear for everyone who attended Woodstock ’99 that the organizers had failed to do their jobs properly. While the behavior of the attendees cannot be condoned, the inhumane conditions and complaints from festival-goers needed to be addressed – but they weren’t. Instead, the organizers of the event continued to hold press conferences throughout the three-day event, where they maintained that it was a success.

When the exterior wall of the festival grounds was violently torn down by attendees in protest of the profit-orientated team behind the event, organizer Michael Lang stated that “I think the exterior wall just makes an amazing souvenir, and people just couldn’t resist it. They were breaking it up into small pieces, I guess, just to have a piece of Woodstock.”

The Venue Was Not Equipped To Deal With the High Temperatures, and 700 People Were Treated for Dehydration

While Woodstock ’69 took place on a farm, Woodstock ’99 was a little different. In theory, having a festival on a 3,689-acre abandoned air force base that included ample camping space, hangars for raves, its own fire department and a medical center, seemed like the perfect idea. However, much of the area was made up of tarmac and concrete, which did not work well in the blazing heat.

Alongside this, the walks between the camp ground and the main stages were enormous. Festival goers were forced to trek 1.5 miles from one main stage to the next, and there was no shade around them to keep them cool. The Peace Patrol had to spray water on those in the crowd, but that wasn’t enough to undo the damage of the heat and the sun. All in all, over 700 people were treated for dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Insane Clown Posse Threw Money Into the Crowd During Their Performance and Caused Mayhem Among the Festival-Goers

One of the main thing that enraged festival-goers at Woodstock ’99 was that the organizers seemed to be all about profit. As well as charging extortionate amounts for the tickets, they also hiked up prices of food and drink while the festival was still ongoing. This left many people out of pocket, hungry, and dehydrated just as Insane Clown Posse came onto the stage.

When Insane Clown Posse performed on Saturday night, audience members were already annoyed, and they made things even worse when they started throwing money into the crowd. They taped $100 bills to dodgeballs and threw them out into the crowd, inciting riots and fights. When they ran out of $100 bills, they upped the ante and moved onto $500 bills, which made things even more chaotic.

The Lines for the ATMs Were Huge, and Festival Goers Eventually Broke Into Them and Stole the Cash Inside

When Woodstock ’99 festival-goers made their way into the festival, their food and water was taken away from them – meaning they had no option but to buy food and drink at the many concession stands within the air force base. But of course, they couldn’t do that without drawing cash out from the ATM, something that thousands of people wanted to do at once.

Because of this, music lovers had to wait in line for hours to access the ATM machines. This did nothing to help the moods of the hungry and thirsty attendees, and as they waited and waited they became more and more impatient. They were annoyed that they had to throw away their own supplies, and they were annoyed with the organizers who had failed to look after them. So, by the end of the three-day event, all of the cash machines on the base had been broken into, and all of the cash inside stolen.

A Truck Drove Through the Audience in One of the Rave Hangars and Stopped a Performance

On Sunday night, Woodstock booked DJ Fatboy Slim to play in one of the rave hangars. And while it was clear at this point that the audience was amped up and ready to turn at any point, nobody expected an intoxicated person to commandeer a truck and drive it into the crowd. As fires raged outside the tent, people struggled even more inside as they were forced to move out of the way of the moving vehicle.

Although organizers struggled to do anything about the fires, they felt as though they needed to get involved when the truck made its way inside the hangar. MTV reported that “The set was stopped momentarily after someone accidentally started to drive a truck into the area. After a 10-minute delay, Slim playfully threw on a 45-second snippet of Carl Douglas’ 1974 disco hit ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ before returning to his dance music.”

It Took Four Weeks To Clear the Trash Left After the Festival, As Festival-Goers Often Used Trash As Projectiles

As Woodstock ’99 attendees got increasingly annoyed hot, bothered, and annoyed as the weekend went on, they began to lose all respect for the organizers and the event as a whole. So, they started throwing trash, leaving it on the floor, and turning designated trash cans into ersatz drums instead. Because of this, it wasn’t long before the floor was covered in trash.

The people in charge of collecting the trash noted that their cleanup hours were limited to 4 am and 9 am every morning, but that this just wasn’t enough to deal with the huge mounds of trash found everywhere across the whole site. As if that wasn’t enough, the collectors also found it impossible to pick up the trash when the riots broke out. They eventually managed to clear the site of litter, four weeks after the event finished.

The EMTs Treated Around 200 People an Hour, and Three People Died While Attending the Event

Woodstock ’99 had a designated medical tent full of EMTs who tended to those who needed medical attention, but they were overwhelmed pretty quickly. As the temperatures soared, water became more and more expensive, drugs ran even rifer, and as violence broke out, they were treating more people than they ever expected. At one point, they were treating 200 people at once.

Over the course of the event, three people died at Woodstock ’99. One man collapsed in a mosh pit and then succumbed to hypothermia as a result of severe heatstroke. A 44-year-old also died as a result of the intense heat, and then a 28-year-old woman was hit by a car while she was leaving the concert. The festival organizers and EMTs have been blamed for this, as it’s claimed that they were negligent when it came to providing fresh water and proper medical care.

As the Designated Camp Ground Became Full, Attendees Were Forced To Camp on the Boiling Hot Tarmac

All in all, Woodstock ’99 organizers planned for 250,000 attendees – and they made sure that the grassy area at the air base was a good size for that many people and their tents. However, as more and more people scaled the fences and showed their fake passes, that number soon grew. As another 150,000 people tried to camp at the festival, there became a distinct lack of camping space.

When all the space on the grass was completely full of tents, festival-goers had no option but to pitch their tent on the boiling hot tarmac. This was not only uncomfortable but also extremely dangerous for those who had already been out in the sun all day with a limited water supply. Alongside this, it also meant that it often took attendees over an hour before finding their tents again.

As Security Was So Scarce, Narcotics Were Everywhere and Being Sold in Broad Daylight

Without proper security measures in place, the organizers of Woodstock ’99 relied on the Peace Patrol to keep their festival safe – but they were mostly kids looking to have a good time themselves. So, it was hard to control what was coming into the festival, and ultimately narcotics were everywhere. Not only were countless people taking them, but they were also being sold in abundance, in broad daylight.

One attendee noted that “I remember thinking I’d never seen so many drugs in my life; I saw at least five different kinds of drugs being passed around by the people near us… I was a little shocked and a little thrilled that these people were bold enough to not only do drugs, but to do them right in the open.” Of course, this did nothing to help the rowdy behavior and the chaos that ensued.

Many Members of the “Peace Patrol” Sold Their Yellow T-Shirts for Cash So Regular Attendees Could Go Backstage

Attendees at Woodstock ’99 could pick out members of the “Peace Patrol” by their bright yellow T-shirts. This allowed them to stick out from the crowd, and it allowed them access to all areas – including backstage, where all of the performers would hang out. They were given a few of these T-shirts for the whole weekend, and in their eyes, that meant that they had some to spare.

While it was not known by organizers at the time, members of the Peace Patrol actually sold these yellow T-shirts to festival-goers who were willing to part with their cash for backstage access. Unfortunately, they didn’t always have the best of intentions. One attendee noted that many fake Peace Patrol members would use this extra authority to surround girls and urge them to take their tops off.

By the Last Night, the Whole Crowd Had Become a Mob and Set Fire to the Whole Area

The fact that Woodstock ’99 was so different to Woodstock ’69 could be seen on the last night. While attendees at Woodstock ’69 went home with peace and love in their hearts, attendees at Woodstock ’99 went home after absolute chaos. They burned the place to the ground and turned into an angry mob looking to tear down the whole establishment.

One attendee noted that “Fire was everywhere. Smoke was everywhere… This wasn’t a few hundred kids acting out and being wild. This was something else. After days of being treated miserably and squeezed for every last penny, the closing night of Woodstock ’99 felt more like a generation rising up to destroy a system that had never worked for them… I recognized that the unbridled rage pouring from so many people wasn’t about Woodstock, not really, but about everything, an entire ideology that needed to burn to the ground.”