Woodstock 99; When Fun Turns Into Fear

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When I lived in New York in the late 90’s I wanted to experience all that I could.  So when I heard that Woodstock was returning to upstate New York, I was in!  I was bartending at Greenwich Café in the Village and a friend who was a waitress there made plans to go with me.  My then boyfriend rented us a car, bought my ticket, and supplied us with plenty of Ecstasy and Mushrooms for the duration of the three day concert.  We were very excited.

It didn’t take too long to get to Rome, New York where Woodstock was being held (on an old military base of some sort).  However, once we got within 30 miles or so traffic got very heavy, within 10, it was dead stopped.  We were in our car sitting still for hours.  With no where to go pee and no idea if we were ever getting inside.  We had left the city sometime in the morning, by the time we parked, it was around 2am.  We didn’t have flashlights and parked amongst a huge sea of cars.  Putting a little of our drugs on our person and leaving most in the trunk of the car, we grabbed our gear and set out on our walk inside.  Once inside the main objective was to set up our tent.  All we could see in the dark were colored bumps on the ground, no ground.  There was nowhere to set up.  We continued walking getting desperate looking for any tiny space on the ground where we could place our tent.  Finally, we found what we thought was sufficient space and began to set up.  It’s funny enough to watch two blondes try to set up a tent, but two blondes at 3am, after almost 20 hours of driving and trying not to take someone elses tent down in the process…it should have been video taped.  We literally had to cross our tie downs over other tie downs and hammer our spikes almost into other tents.  Finished, we climbed inside and proceeded to get ready for bed, but, first, the bathroom.  I don’t think we got to bed until 5am.

By the time we woke there were plenty of people mulling about, it was already blazing hot and we decided just to brush out teeth right outside our tent with water bottles.  We got dressed, in bikinis of course (with skirts over) and set out to see what we could see.  We started checking out bands first on the smallest stage and meandered about looking for food.  I seem to remember the first day things were already a mess.  The garbage cans were overflowing leaving trash everywhere, I don’t think anyone ever came to empty them the entire weekend.  There were no tents or tables or shade to eat your very expensive pizza, so the dirty, littered ground was the only place.  Good thing we really didn’t plan on eating much!

Overall, the mood of the concert goers was happy, friendly, upbeat, excited and pretty high.  The things that come to memory most during those days were the overflowing port-o-potties, a break in a water line causing the free water system to break and an opportunity for some crazy fuckers to play in the mud.  You didn’t want to get too close to that mess, you had to walk far around it as it was guaranteed you were going to be hit by flying mud.  The thing that bothered me the most is the plumbing problem in the ONE womens shower (the line was about an hour), once you got in, you were standing in about two feet of disgusting water.  Needless to say, I only took one shower in three days!

Overall, I had a great time.  I met some fun people, one of which got me backstage on the second stage.  Of course, there really wasn’t anyone back there, most of the bands hung out in their buses somewhere.  I did, though, have to make a trip out to the car to retrieve what was in the trunk and I remember it taking a very very long time as there were lot’s of balloon sellers along the way!  I know this is terrible to admit to everyone, but nitrous is very very fun.

So the memories are foggy, the music was great, there was no shortage of men that allowed women in bikini tops to sit on their shoulders, and when we were tired we laid down amongst the trash and tried not to lay in vomit, or to get stepped on.  I was on top of someones shoulders during Kid Rock’s performance when Kid pleaded with the 400 thousand person audience to throw plastic water bottles,  as this was happening throughout the weekend and it really did look pretty cool like locust swarming over the crowd, when a bottle that had been trampled on flung across the sky and it’s cut edges sliced open my chin just under my lip.  I spent the next hour or so in the med tent and could hear “I’ll be gone till November” wafting through the air…I really wanted to hear Wyclef Jean sing that song.  I was so bummed that I missed almost his entire performance.  As I said before, people were pretty decent for the most part throughout.  I especially remember the big security guys being especially comforting in times where I felt unsafe.  I would make my way to the very front of the stage and when it got too much, they could tell and would lift me up into the secure area between the crowd and the stage and off to safety.  I seem to remember touching the lead singer of Sevendust (hubba hubba) as I was exiting such an instance!  There were some instances that were pretty shocking, one that comes to mind pretty vividly was this girl who had most, if not all, of her clothes off and was on all fours like a cat.  You know how cats when they are in heat will walk with their butts in the air in the hopes that another cat will come along and do what it’s supposed to do to a female cat in heat?  As I walked passed, I wondered how long it would be before she got her wish.

The very last performance on the main stage for the weekend was The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  We had made our way pretty close to the stage and could clearly see Flea as he came out on stage completely nude as he often did.  The music was amazing and energetic right up until they stopped the music to ask the crowd to not panic and let the emergency crews through to a fire that had begun.  You see some smart group had handed out white peace candles to a crowd that was, at this point, anything but peaceful and a group had promptly started the speaker tower on fire.  When I turned around to see this, my first thought was, “Am I going to die today in a stampede?”  It was a very serious concern as you can well imagine.  We made our way to the sides in hopes of being in the safest place.  There were walls that made it very difficult to disperse other than in the middle of the very large crowd.  People started tearing down the walls, fires were starting everywhere, it was a miracle I got out and got safely back to my tent.  I had cut my foot pretty severely and we went in search of the med tent.  Once we found it , it was a very scary site.  The place had been abandoned by any medical personnel and it it’s place were people trashing the place looking for any drugs that may have been left behind.  Luckily they left the first aid stuff behind and we were able to fix up my foot.  I was trying to rest in the tent when I heard these yells, I looked out the window of the tent and could see hundreds of glow sticks flying through the air.  It was obvious they were having “glow stick wars”.  It started moving closer to the tent and next thing I know the tent is being pelted with orange and green.  I didn’t feel safe in the tent so we left (I’m not with my friend at this point, we had met two very nice guys and had been separated at this point)  so I’m with the guy I had been hanging with most of the day.  No funny business, just a nice guy!  I was grateful for his presence because it made me feel safe to be with a guy, especially one that was a firefighter from Boston.  We walked as far as we could from all the mayhem.  At this point the National Guard had arrived in riot gear and all of the vendor tents had been looted (hence the glowsticks, from Ace Hardware’s campers store.  We found a place to hunker down on a piece of grass, but we were surrounding by guys walking up looking for drugs, yelling, threatening.  It was all very scary.  I thought more than once that a group of guys could walk up, overcome my friend and rape me.  I pretty much stayed up all night, very very scared.

The next morning I couldn’t wait to get my stuff, get to my car and haul ass out of this insanity.  At first light I found my tent amongst the zombie-like figures walking through debris, fires now mostly out, smoke and something that resembled the Armageddon aftermath.  My friend was sound asleep with her new friend and wouldn’t wake up.  You’re kidding, right??  I tried numerous times and finally told her that she had one hour or I was leaving.  Why I even gave her an hour, I don’t know.  During that hour I saw the riot cops standing guard over the vendor tents and I asked him if he thought it was possible to get money out of the overturned ATM machine he was standing next to.  He proceeded to say something about us ungrateful, disgraceful people who had done all this to which I replied, “There were 400 thousand people here, about 400 created this mayhem, the rest either left or were scared to death all night, such as myself, and where was he to protect me?”  He didn’t respond.  I was right and he had to know that.  There was talk of the obvious, the lack of free water and the nerve of the vendors to charge 5.00 a bottle in blistering heat, the port-o-potties, trash everywhere.  It was a combination of three days of drugs, dehydration, heat exhaustion, frustration and a dummy passing out candles fueling the light bulb ideas to start fires.  I just knew I wanted nothing more to do with it.  When my friend still didn’t get up an hour later, I grabbed my shit, dropped 40 bucks into the tent so she could train or bus it back to Manhattan and ventured off to find my car.  Good luck.

Nothing looked the same as it did at 2:00am three days ago.  A lot had transpired in that time, some drugs, and for the life of me, I could not find my car.  After walking around for a couple of hours, some kind soul started driving me around to try to find it.  I can’t remember how much longer it took, but finally I found the rental (thank God I remembered what it looked like!!)

I left there and cried for the first hour.  My friend never forgave me and told lies about me to the others at the café, but, I really didn’t care.  One bit.

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