The original Woodstock festival, which took place in Bethel, New York, for three days in August 1969, I imagine being a epicenter of “peace, love, and light”. Kind of like a IRL remake of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, with better music.
Several subsequent festivals have been organized to celebrate the anniversary and honor the memory of Woodstock 1969. The spirit of peace and love lived on in most of them, but Woodstock 1999 became, quite literally, shit.
When the festival was over, there were around 1,200 hospital admissions, 44 arrests, multiple reports of sexual assault, and three deaths.
The festival’s problem with feces on the premises added an extraordinary dimension to this hell.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, and Metallica were just a few of the many great bands. For those who loved contemporary popular rock, the lineup left little to be desired. During Red Hot Chili Peppers’ performance on the last day of the festival, the audience set a Mercedes-Benz on fire. Whether it was a conscious flirtation with Janis Joplin’s famous performance at Woodstock ’69 is still unclear.
After that, things spiraled. Thousands of festivalgoers began burning more cars, looting everything they could, toppling sound systems, and smashing their way into ATMs. The festival came to an end when hundreds of riot police stormed the festival and, amidst burning piles of who knows what, tried to restore some kind of order among the raging crowd.
The most bizarre aspect of this shitshow, was the shit baths. If you’ve ever been to an outdoor festival, you’ve come across them; the porta-potties. A necessary evil which you before approaching, should down a few drinks. It helps you be somewhat less affected by the smell.
On the festival grounds there were several large barrels of water intended for drinking. However, some festivalgoers thought it would be a better idea to use the barrels as bathtubs. Not a great idea, but still better than the idea that followed, which was to cut off the pipes that supplied water to the barrels, thus creating a flood that spread across the festival area. Meanwhile, a cluster of porta-potties nearby had started overflowing and leaking.
The flood of drinking water eventually merged with urine and feces, creating a soft bed of poo-tinted sludge.
Some more not so great decisions were made, and soon you could see people covered in mud wandering around the area. Several had started using the puddle as a playground. Of course, they thought it was the usual kind of mud puddle they were bathing in. With completely ordinary, feces-free mud.
What I wonder most about all of this, is how many units must one down to miss the stench?
Woodstock ’99 was an attempt to replicate Woodstock ’69, but if I were to guess, Wes Craven and Johnny Knoxville replaced Disney as the directors of this edition. The happy hippie idyll was literally transformed into a burning inferno (with a shit-cherry on top).
If we are to find a glimmer of light in all of this, there is probably nothing that captures the epitome of a carefree human being quite like a shit bath does. I have never been so liberated as to bathe in other people’s feces. However, this could possibly be an exercise perfect for a meditation retreat. An exercise that only those who have transcended a certain level gain access to. A final and ultimate exercise in completely letting go of the self and the physical world. The universe is strange enough, that this could very well be the path to Nirvana, and the reason so few of us find it.