Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage ★★★★

I'm always down for a good doc about significant cultural events from the past and this had the added bonus of the musical highlights. I had some neighbors who attended Woodstock '94, but I had forgotten there even was an event to celebrate the thirty years since the original Woodstock.

There were a few things unanswered things about the event that I'm looking into on my own. I seem to have located a full release of the three day concert itself and that looks like the ideal companion to this. What I wondered about was the pay-per-view aspect. It sounded like MTV was carrying the event, but then they got the hell out before it ended? Not sure how the broadcast aspect went down, but it does look as if the performances went uninterrupted. I hope to answer these questions on my own after downloading the concert DVD set.

The filmmakers hint at some trouble at the previous Woodstock events, but they neglect to mention how commonplace it is to have incidents of violence, destruction and mayhem at any large gathering especially rock music concerts. A simple google search brings up concerts with far more tragic outcomes with even more established musical acts. The most egregious omission has to be its failure to include details about the Free Concert at Altamont. If you've watched this and not seen The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter put that up high in your queue as essential viewing. Hiring the Hell's Angels to do your security has to be included in a movie about the poor planning of a concert.

The film takes a somewhat misguided detour into more contemporary culture debates in the way that academics like to eye the past through their own narrow lens of the world. There are multiple talking heads on hand for this. "Girls Gone Wild" videos are charged with putting women back in "cages" and "kept in their place," which contradicts the viewpoints of women who were fighting for equality in terms of sexual conduct and public nudity. The documentary seems to bend toward notions that these women were showcasing oppression and that their exhibitionism was not their choice, but a choice brought about by systemic pressures put upon them by the likes of MTV.

Another controversial aspect is the frequent discussion of the musical guest lineup. There is definitely a shortage of female performers, but we don't really get into specifics about what acts were negotiated and why. It's seems like quite a diverse card just to have Jewel, Willie Nelson, and Insane Clown Posse all on the same ticket. The talking heads do some moralizing and finger pointing. Kid Rock gets some of the most negative coverage for allegedly ushering in misogyny and racism with his music, while the concert clip of his performance reveals his drummer to be a plus-sized African American woman clearly relishing the gig.

I also had to chuckle a bit when several interviewees gets even more heavy-handed by mourning the loss of "progressive grunge." One calls Kurt Cobain's tragic passing "a loss of hope." I liked some of Nirvana's stuff, but I am not sure that I got much optimism or a particularly feelgood sense from his music. 8.5/10

Needle drop: Bawitdaba

Stay hydrated, fools.

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