Netflix Doc Details the True Story of Woodstock ’99 and the Protests That Followed

Woodstock ’99 was the third large-scale peace and love music festival held in upstate New York. Except the concert wasn’t about peace and love, and it degenerated into an epic trainwreck of violence, arson, fires, riots, assault, rape, and destruction. Today, Woodstock ’99 is remembered as “the day the music died” and as one of the most violent music events ever.

On August 3, Netflix dropped a three-part documentary, Trainwreck: Woodstock ‘99, about what happened the weekend of July 22–25, 1999, and why the event turned so violent. “Utilizing rare insider footage and eyewitness interviews with an impressive list of festival staffers, performers, and attendees, this docuseries goes behind the scenes to reveal the egos, greed, and music that fueled three days of utter chaos,” reads the official logline for the docuseries.

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Woodstock ’99 was held at an old concrete and asphalt airbase in Rome, NY, with two main stages a two-mile walk between each other with very few shady areas to rest while attendees walked. Even worse, the toilets and showers on site were insufficient for the number of attendees and were soon unusable and overflowing. Before the concert, the organizers also decided to install fencing surrounding the base to prevent the gate-crashing that had occurred at previous festivals; however, in the end, this only made Woodstock ’99 unsafe to innocent bystanders who could not escape (attendees actually broke off a section of the “Peace Wall” not to get into the show, but to get out).

Then, something happened that is harder to predict far in advance, a heatwave. According to Esquire, the lack of working facilities, the festival taking place on a military base, and the difficult environmental conditions all contributed to the violence that occurred at Woodstock ’99, especially since the festival was marred by overwhelming, out-of-control, masculine energy. Esquire’s Laura Martin writes, “As the temperatures rose, so did the aggression in the bro-heavy festival line-up (as The New Yorker noted, only three solo female musicians performed over the whole weekend).

NOW Protests Sexual Assaults at Woodstock ’99

Netflix

There were five rapes and numerous accounts of sexual harassment and assault reported to Rome, NY, authorities after Woodstock ’99, and as reported by MTV, two women were allegedly gang-raped in the crowd during Limp Bizkit and Korn’s sets. However, the concert organizers didn’t take these allegations seriously enough for women’s rights organizations; for example, the NY chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) protested the alleged sexual violence that occurred against women at Woodstock ’99 at the Metropolitan Entertainment offices because the company’s president, John Scher, was one of the festival’s co-producers.

“There is no excuse whatsoever for these acts of violence, and the individuals responsible should be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said New York NOW chapter president Galen Sherwin in 1999. “We are outraged by the dismissive comments made by concert promoters and by their refusal to take responsibility for the atmosphere of sexual violence at Woodstock.”

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 is available to stream on Netflix beginning on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.