What happened at Woodstock 99 festival?

Ellissa Bain

Last week, Netflix’s documentary The Most Latest Man on the Internet had people hooked. Now, Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 has caught everyone’s attention.

The three-part series delves into Woodstock, a New York festival that took place in July 1999 and aimed to recreate the original Woodstock event of 1969.

It was supposed to be a “millennium-defining celebration of peace, love and great music,” the Netflix documentary’s description says. 

However, the weekend descended into chaos and it’s been named one of the biggest music disasters of all time. Quite simply, as the docuseries bio says, it was “three days of utter chaos”.

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 uses archival footage and interviews to describe the catastrophic festival that took place at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the documentary yet, here’s what happened…

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 | Official Trailer | Netflix

Why Woodstock 99 was a disaster

Woodstock 99 was supposed to be an amazing festival, echoing the “three days of peace and music” that occurred in 1969.

Jamiroquai, Sheryl Crow, Metallica, Limp Bizkit and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were just a few of the amazing artists who performed and 400,000 people attended.

However, the festival was riddled with problems that all started with the weather. Due to recent storms, the whole site was turned into a mud bath.

Photos from the event show people swimming in puddles of wet mud, which certainly isn’t ideal for a festival, especially when you’re camping.

Along with that, the temperatures were above 100 °F (38 °C) all weekend and food and drink prices were stupidly high, so people were spending a fortune on water alone.

The air force base where the festival was held was made of tarmac which reflected the heat, and there was also a 1.5-mile walk between the festival’s two main stages.

Woodstock '99 in Saugerties, New York
Photo by KMazur/WireImage

Violence, sexual assault and fire

Even more issues came when there were huge amounts of violence, riots and even accounts of sexual assault.

Sadly, as reported by Pitchfork, three people died over the weekend, and there were also 1,200 admissions to onsite medical facilities. 

Many of them had to be treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration, with others suffering injuries due to riots and many being injured due to the overcrowding.

400,000 people attended the event, but not all of them had tickets. Thousands of people bought fake ones and gate crashed the event, meaning there were far too many people.

As well as that, there were 44 arrests and a huge fire broke out on the final night during the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ headlining performance.

To make things even worse, the band sang a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s song Fire as the festival was ablaze – which was certainly ill-timed.

Woodstock Security Working During A Live Performance
Photo by Getty Images/John Atashian

Three people died at Woodstock

Three people sadly died throughout the weekend.

One of them was 24-year-old David G. Derosia, who died from a heat-related illness, whilst 28-year-old Tara K. Weaver was hit by a car after she left the concert.

A 44-year-old man with a pre-existing heart condition also died of cardiac arrest in the Woodstock campground site.

None of the fatalities were related to the violence or catastrophes at the festival, but over 1,000 people had to be medically treated.

700 of those people were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration as temperatures soared and access to water was limited.

Many people also got something called trench mouth, an infection that causes swelling, inflammation and ulcers in the gums.

Its name comes from World War I as the infection was common among soldiers who were fighting in the trenches.

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