Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99



Did we need another look at Woodstock ’99?

Not really, last year’s HBO movie was sufficient.

I imagine some young people might watch this Netflix series for the trainwreck value, to get a peek at what once was, as for older people, aware when the festival took place… I recommend it only because it shows where we were then and how we’ve evolved to where we are now, and that’s informative.

John Scher never takes responsibility. In either of these productions, HBO’s or Netflix’s. I guess that’s a prelude for what was to come. If you deny it, did it really happen? Even if we can see it happen with our own two eyes? Donald Trump has gotten away denying footage, and let’s see how much money Alex Jones ends up paying. So we’ve got two paths today, denial and overt apology, which sometimes serves the same purpose, if you fall on your sword quickly and dramatically enough, you can shift yourself to the other side, into the heart of the people, and get away with it, at least that’s the theory. But since everybody accused by #MeToo has been tarred with the same brush, more men are now denying their behavior. As for the public getting over the transgression, there are people on social media keeping it alive.

There was no social media back in ’99.

But the internet was nascent.

Yet, AOL ruled, almost no one had a high speed connection. The mainstream was caught flat-footed that same year when Napster burgeoned. And the mainstream has been trying to catch up ever since. Except for the tech companies that got ahead of the public and ultimately reign to this day.

And then there’s Michael Lang. A terrible businessman with a somewhat charismatic personality and an incredible sense of optimism to the point of being delusional. It’s like Lang was stuck in 1969, but times changed.

The music in 1969 brought us together. The original Woodstock featured acts of different colors of different nationalities. Kids were optimistic about their futures, despite the war in Vietnam. They felt like they had power.

And there was a social safety net, there was no homelessness, you didn’t think you were going to starve. And there was little income inequality. You could make it from here to there, and the rich didn’t lord their wealth over you, and there weren’t all the billionaires of today telling us they know better. Today, people revere the rich, in 1969 they revered the artists. Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been.

So if we have to point to one person responsible for Woodstock ’99 it would have to be Ronald Reagan. Who legitimized greed. I know his supporters will deny this, telling us the astrology-addicted Reagan was a saint who could do no wrong. The Wall was gonna fall no matter what. But Reagan lowered taxes, let Wall Street go wild, made greed the national religion.

That’s what Woodstock ’99 was all about, the money. They started with the money and worked back from there.

And they had the brand name, “Woodstock.” Believing it would translate just like Ford Motor which has labeled an SUV a Mustang.

But times had changed dramatically.

Today we have scores of festivals. But they rarely have 250,000 people in attendance and although the music is a drawing card, people go for the overall experience. Today they won’t accept hot dogs and pizza. They want gourmet food. And the festivals are so expensive to begin with that no one complains about the prices, if you go you know it’s going to cost you plenty. But now you’ve got a card, you don’t even need to bring cash. And promoters have become experienced. Don’t go to a festival put on by a newbie, there will be problems, I guarantee it.

Today you go to the festival for the badge of honor, to be able to say you went. You shoot selfies and post and… That’s how far we’ve come, everyday life is not good enough, we’re looking for high level experiences. And the music industry provides these.

As does the food industry, and many other verticals.

Used to be it was only about music.

Now you can sell tickets for Coachella without even announcing the acts. Sure, the lineup is important, but less important than ever before.


The acts at Woodstock ’99 were much bigger than the acts of today, MUCH bigger. Everybody knew who they were. From Sheryl Crow and Jewel to the Chili Peppers, Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit.

What made them big?


MTV made you a worldwide star, often overnight.

No outlet has that power anymore, NONE!

Woodstock ’99 was your chance to see all these acts in one place. Kind of like the original Woodstock. Whereas today no one expects to see all the big acts on one stage. It’s impossible, never mind they play different music that doesn’t appeal to everybody.

Today you can have a music festival and it doesn’t even make the news, other than in its local burg. Music festivals are no longer big news.

As for the kind of music featured at Woodstock ’99…it was ROCK!

Now rock is a sideshow. You couldn’t get 250,000 people to show up for a lineup of today’s Active Rock bands. Or maybe you could, promoting it a la the Gathering of the Juggalos, a place for like-minded people to get together, a gathering of the tribe, a tribe with almost no traction outside its relatively small number of members.

And the hit acts of 1999 were far different from the hit acts of 1969. In 1969 the acts had a social conscience, they were against the oldsters, the policies of the government. In 1999? The acts were all about the money and at best they proffered frustration, against the system that delivered so few possibilities to the audience. Believe me, no one would have had a hit with lyrics telling people to break stuff back in 1969. We were coming together, not pulling apart.

So the energy was different.

In 1969 you wanted to do drugs and mellow out.

in 1999 you wanted to drink beer and rage.

Michael Lang believed in core values his audience didn’t. They didn’t have a clue! Times change, as they have again. 1999 is twenty three years ago, watching this movie is almost quaint. Not only is there no social media, there’s no mobile phones, never mind smartphones.

That’s a big difference between the centuries. 1996 was the year of AOL. And 2000 was the year of the cell phone. The internet and mobile telephony existed prior to these dates, but this is when they gained more acceptance.

So when you went to Woodstock ’99 you were out of touch, with everybody but those in your direct environs. This has not been the situation since. You not only call or text your parents, you do so multiple times every day!

And even owning your own car is no longer a huge desire. No, people don’t take buses, but they believe they can fly and then Uber everywhere.

As for control… Woodstock ’99 was a forerunner that we’ve only just realized.


Up until Covid-19, there was a belief that America was under control. That we had politicians with our best interests at heart, and a police force to enforce the law.

Now not only do people take pride in defying the law, the police force, even the elected officials are not concerned with general welfare. Yes, the Republicans just voted down a $35 cap on insulin and if you want to really have your head spin, read this:

“How Republicans Are ‘Weaponizing’ Public Office Against Climate Action – A Times investigation revealed a coordinated effort by state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.”:

And it’s not only Republicans. Kyrsten Sinema killing carried interest legislation? The rich get richer. And the rich control elected officials. And you? You’re screwed, so why not burn down the house.

But you shouldn’t. Because there are cameras everywhere and you’re gonna get caught. Like the rioters on January 6th. They go to jail while the instigators are still free… White collar crime? Go for it. Once again, the rich skate. Assuming they’re smart enough not to leave a record. And even if they do… They just erase the texts with impunity. Yes, they’re going to get away with it. It’s just like you erasing the hard drive at the 7/11 after you’re accused of shoplifting. Good luck with that.

Tell me to get vaxxed?

NO! What are you gonna do about it?

Well, polio is now coming back. But not for me! Not yet anyway. Screw everybody else but me. Yes, you’re on your own, as a result of the evisceration of the safety net by the Republicans in cahoots with Bill Clinton. We know you’re just a lazy nitwit looking for a handout. So, if you have no power, how do you respond? Take action, loot! Which is what happened two years ago during Black Lives Matter. How else were people going to respond, take their money out of their nonexistent bank accounts?

And the law and order people don’t obey the law and don’t keep the order. Trump let the 1/6 rioters run free. Screw order. And there are good people on both sides…

And then there is truth… Forget Trump, just watch John Scher and Michael Lang bloviate in either of these films!


But Michael Lang is dead.

John Scher helped build the modern concert industry. He’s still a lone wolf, but just about all his competitors sold out to the man, for the big check.

Time moved on but everybody still thinks it’s the music business of yore. That hit acts have infinite reach and the music is a healing force that is top of mind for everybody. Ridiculous! Music at best is the evanescent soundtrack to your video game, your gourmet meal, it doesn’t even represent the same thing it did in 1969. Peace and love? My ass. I’m a BRAND!

And the acts just use music as a platform. Just like the promoters of Woodstock ’99. Money was paramount. The experience…was barely thought about. You buy a ticket, we’ve won.

And with the internet and social media the individual is now powerful. Sure, we still have musical stars, but there are social media stars just as big. You can build it at home. You can broadcast at home. Performing a trick is easier than practicing an instrument for twenty years and touring the country in a van.

So the major labels consolidated. Those with power have gotten bigger, and the U.S. government has allowed business to run unfettered. The craziest is the antitrust e-book decision that forced Amazon to RAISE PRICES! For the good of the people? That’s another thing… Elected officials are way behind the public, never mind techies… They don’t understand the problems and by time they take action the issues they’re addressing are passé and new ones have arrived.

It’s chaos I tell you, just like Woodstock ’99.

The boomers are done. And the Gen-X’ers are running on fumes. Music is a youth business. I don’t care how much you listen and go to shows, the youth listen more and spend more dollars. So the focus is always on them. You go where the money does, just like Instagram going from images to clips. Stay static, and you die.

And since the barrier to entry in music is so damn low, it’s constantly being disrupted. The labels have no control whatsoever. At best they can sign what has already broken online. As for starting from scratch… It could take you years just to break even, never mind make a profit.

Everything you believed in, everything you thought, is gone. Sure, we still have festivals, but they don’t resemble Woodstock ’99, and the music doesn’t resemble that at Woodstock ’99, never mind Woodstock ’69. Times have changed, but boomers still think they rule.

Especially in the touring business. Which is run like Amazon and Facebook. All the innovation comes from outside the big players. And the upstarts either sell out or the biggies go into competition with them and crush them. The big get bigger. Hell, just look at Michael Rapino’s compensation, no one ever made this much money in touring before. As for Lucian’s Grainge’s payout… It’s just heinous.

Talk about wanting to break things.

And no one has accounted for masculinity, never mind ignorance. All this talk about #MeToo at the end of this Netflix production is just that. Do you actually know men? The only ones who’ve been reached are the ones whose behavior was fine or just barely over the line. The rest… The ones with a brain just kept it underground, and the ignorant…

Are all over this Netflix series.

You’ve got to check out the9thinning on TikTok. His clips are akin to the old Jaywalking bit on the “Tonight Show.” He goes around and asks people basic questions that they can’t answer.

This one is my favorite:

Yes, he asks people wearing music t-shirts about the bands that are pictured…and the people are CLUELESS!

You couldn’t even buy t-shirts when rock was beginning to burgeon.

Then you had to go to the show.

The t-shirt was a badge of honor.

Now it’s a fashion statement.

The Ramones were edgy unaccepted punks who started a movement. Now they’re responsible for baby attire for the progeny of people who didn’t cotton to the Ramones to begin with, because they were too dangerous if they even knew about them at all!

Music is not the counterculture anymore.

There is no counterculture. And the main culture is wealth. How can I get rich? And the opportunities for the underclass are few, so they throw the long ball, take ridiculous chances, it’s better than coloring between the lines like the powers-that-be want you to, at least you have a chance of making it.

But really, you’re angry.

The rioters at Woodstock ’99 were angry.

Hell, I’m angry. More angry than ever before in my life. I mean if Orbán had spoken at a Republican conference in the sixties, there would have been riots in the street. Today, not only does authoritarian Orbán testify, they took away a woman’s right to an abortion in many states and our elected officials keep telling us to vote to enact change. Just like telling Woodstock ’99 attendees to stay calm in 90+ degree heat on tarmac sans enough water and…

It’s just that the Woodstock ’99 attendees were not as defeated as we are today, they still had a modicum of hope. They didn’t yet realize the game was rigged. These are the same people who were told owning your own home was the best investment and lost their property in 2008 when the executives at the banks who caused this loss were financially rewarded for it! Angry and depressed yet?

Woodstock ’99 wasn’t a one-off. It was a petri dish, which cultured the infection which has continued to be spread and be ignored.

We ARE Woodstock ’99.

But we believe if we weren’t there we’re safe. If it floods in St. Louis and Kentucky who cares, at least it isn’t me! It’s the opposite of the Woodstock ethos…love your brother? SCREW ‘EM!

When Don Henley sang we hadn’t had that spirit since 1969 he was right. He knew, BUT YOU IGNORED HIM!

And just about everybody is ignoring the future now. Never mind the future, the present!

Yes, our rock stars were seers, laying down truth.

Today they’re just uneducated moneygrubbers looking for a way to get rich. They’ll do whatever it takes. Be outrageous for effect, to get noticed. Sacrifice their integrity, their morals… Hell, everybody else is, why not?

Everybody else is tearing down the festival grounds, why shouldn’t I?

Everybody else has a gun, do I need one too?

Everybody else sold out to the man. 

It’s everybody for themselves in America today. Woodstock ’99 was just a harbinger of all this.


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