There's this thing that used to happen that doesn't anymore, because the last time they tried to have it, everything turned to complete shit… literally. From simple concepts like love and peace, a music festival was born. And out of the ashes of the past came a generation of pyromaniacs, lushes, and bourgeoisie recreational drug addicts- of which I am a part of history, I guess, because I was in attendance at the controversial Woodstock '99.
This was during a period of my life when I was game for just about anything. When asked whether or not I'd like to drive from Minnesota to New Orleans in February, sleep in parking garages and haunted hotels along the way, so we could visit Graceland and the French Quarter, the answer, of course, was "yes." If offered mystery shots, or blind dates, or magic brownies, I always replied, "you bet!" So when a group of my college classmates invited me on a little joyride up through Canada then down to Rome, NY so they could go to this renowned event, I was absolutely thrilled! The five of us piled into the minivan with our coolers, our tents, and my guitar, and we set out on the 1,200-mile journey while blasting all of our favorite bands that we were about to witness in person.
When we arrived, it was like entering Area 51. The concrete and asphalt air force base was boarded up like a fortress. The temps were in the mid-90s and you could see the steam rising up from the compound like a warning signal. We wormed our way into the long line and waited to be let inside. It was quickly disclosed that no booze was allowed through the gates. What this implied to the foolish teenagers and 20 somethings who had stocked their coolers for a long weekend of binge drinking, was that all the alcohol they'd packed would need to be consumed in the time it took for them to get up to security, so that not a drop would be victim to the giant trash receptacles at the front of the line. It was like witnessing feeding time in a shark tank. Guzzling sounds could be heard from both ends of the line, as everyone proceeded to get completely annihilated before the first act even hit the stage. It was poor footing to start the weekend on to be sure, but we followed suit and watched the contents of our beer bottles and boxed wine bladders slowly slide down our gullets. Then before we knew it, we were inside the gates.
These were simpler times before the luxuries of high technology like cellphones and ticket entry codes, so the number of forged tickets was staggering. For basic folk like me, who had actually bought theirs, $200 for the weekend was a lot of night shifts spent working at the pizzeria. I aimed to get my money's worth. Had I known that the steep price would include dehydration, hunger, heat rash, and sexual harassment I might have just stayed home and watched "Will and Grace." It was not a glamorous experience in any way. The high temps caused long lines at the sparse water stations, and being that everyone was hammered and inhibitions were down, a few cavemen thought it would be hilarious to break off the water spigots and deprive an entire festival of fresh water (unless you paid $8 for the bottled variety the festival organizers were slinging). Food was exorbitantly priced, so I just didn't eat. There was another perk to choosing starvation though, which was not having to engage with the Biffys. If you have a weak stomach skip to the next paragraph. They hadn't been pumped all weekend and had literal shit pyramids emerging from their seats. People must have been standing on top of the seating ledge, just doing their best to aim for the peak and not drunkenly slip. All the fires and the riots pale in comparison to the Biffys. It was horrific.
We did manage to escape the insanity for a brief respite in the Adirondack Mountains. While making our way along the winding roads, we found a glorious little cafe, whereupon we all gorged ourselves on steak, eggs, coffee, and sundaes. We also found a beautifully pristine lake and bathed ourselves for the first time in days. We all had welts covering our faces and bodies from too much sun exposure and the water felt incredibly healing. We begrudgingly made our way back to the car, unsure of the calamity we would be met with once back at the festival. The crowd had grown so much that we were forced to take a shuttle bus back to the air force base. As the bus stopped to pick us up, we were greeted by topless girls and shots of Everclear (apparently they had become less stringent about their prohibition rules as the weekend progressed). When we got back to the grounds, we were disappointed to discover we'd missed Kid Rock, but Korn was about to start, so we made our way to the main stage, trying to avoid being pelted by flying bottles or step in human excrement.
So, yeah, I was there and it was a pretty mixed bag of terrible and incredible. I guess that's life in general. Someday I'll tell my nieces and nephews about it and they'll think it I'm awesome.