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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

A Chilling Autopsy of Netflix’s Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99

Trainwreck: Woodstock ‘99 is a lean, focused account of how poor planning, profit-mongering, inferior security, crisis planning, and ‘dudes gone wild’ led to one giant mess. Those old enough to remember will recall the news footage of violent riots and fires, but very few understand why a festival celebrating ‘peace and love’ descended into chaos. Comparing the differences between Woodstock 1969 and 1999, the three-part Netflix documentary traces each day of the notorious music festival and goes behind the scenes to uncover the real story behind Woodstock ‘99.

As we all know, the original Woodstock was driven by community, a shared vision for peace and harmony, and an attempt to advance humankind. Food and drink, accommodation, and amenities were provided free of charge, all supplied by local farmers, artisans, and businesses – tradesfolk who believed in this utopian mission. The festival’s culture was defined by its very audience. In stark contrast, the 1999 iteration of Woodstock was driven by putting profits before people. Unsurprisingly, this vision didn’t quite align with that of the teenagers who flocked to Rome, New York, to celebrate their own history-defining moment of peace, love, and music.

Profits Before People:

The greed of festival management provoked the riots that ended the three-day “celebration.” Their desire to generate enormous profits influenced the decision to sell food and water rights to independent companies – making things very expensive inside the venue. They also booked bands based around record sales and high-profit margins, inviting musical acts that were largely the antithesis of a peace and love, hyping the crowd into angry hoards. The scorching heat of the largely concrete and asphalt event space contributed to an increasing need for clean water, which quickly became a significant issue.

Poor Security:

Unfolding to the background of nu-metal, when these basic needs were not met, angst began to build among the already riled-up youth of the 90s. Moreover, the lack of proper security and events management resulted in even more disarray. Numerous complaints of sexual assault, molestation, and violence against women marred the event. And with a whopping 250,000 people in attendance, the lack of security caused significant trouble, with the crowd becoming more and more intoxicated as the weekend went on.

Cultural Ignorance:

The documentary makers skilfully wrap up how corporate greed and a misunderstanding of youth culture heightened tensions between the fans and organizers. It reached boiling point when the ‘surprise headline act’ failed to materialize, whipping the crowd up into a frenzied mob that started multiple fires, engulfing Woodstock’s legacy. This really wasn’t helped by the poor decision to hand out candles to an already agitated mob during Red Hot Chilli Peppers' charged performance. In the end, the festival management and creators lacked all integrity, refusing to be held accountable.

Context is crucial to understanding how the third iteration of Woodstock turned into a mud-and-shit-spattered riot. More importantly, it highlights how promoters and event’s organizers only view security as a ‘box ticking exercise, a ‘necessary burden’ – they know they need it, but aren’t willing to invest in and listen to professional, specialist advice.

For us at ICE24™ and our sister company Al Thuraya Consultancy™, we understand people, crowds, movement, and risk. We’ve been providing security for events in the Middle East and Africa for fifteen years. We know how important security is for developing a safe space for all to enjoy live entertainment. By building secure environments for staff and audiences, we enable promoters to bring people together in celebration of culture, creating legacies that don't go up in flames.

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