Fifteen Years On, Woodstock ’94 Still Something That Definitely Happened

wstockEverybody was crowin’ last week about the fortieth anniversary of the original Woodstock, the three days of peace and love in upstate New York that had nothing to do with Mel Brooks or heart-shaped hot tubs. I’ll admit that wild August weekend in ‘69 was a watershed moment for the decade, right up there with the debut of “The Munsters” in ‘64 and the introduction of Tupperware to Europe in 1960. However, for people like me who were raised in the ego-driven era of Atari, Michael J. Fox, and Garfield coffee mugs, Woodstock was just another lifeless entry in our history books (like Teapot Dome with a few stray, blurry boobs). Besides, they couldn’t even get Tommy James and the Shondells to show up at that bitch. What kind of drug-infused hippie festival were they trying to run over there?

Honestly, if you want to get all in my face about a corporate jack-off music festival disguised as some kind of important cultural event for the young generation, you’d better be sure you’re screamin’ about Woodstock ’94 (which quietly celebrated its fifteenth anniversary last week in the shadow of its older, more established brother). That was the heaping pile of money and useless nostalgia I cared about. The memories are still so vivid. Why, it seems like just yesterday I was watching the liberating and mustachioed antics of Jackyl lead singer Jesse James Dupree on the Woodstock ’94 Pay-Per-View special. Please don’t tell me that band’s rendition of “Headed for Destruction” didn’t touch a nerve with you or your loved ones, because that performance spoke to every U.S. citizen the minute Jesse sauntered on stage in his flashy white tuxedo and giant American Flag top hat. And you thought Steven Tyler knew how to wear ostentatious head gear.

Jackyl
Jackyl: touching nerves since 1990.

Of course, what most people remember about Woodstock ’94 (aside from the lousy coverage on MTV and the inexplicable presence of both Roguish Armament AND Huffamoose) is mud. Oh, the mud. It was everywhere—on the ground, on the crowd, on the bands, in the drinking water, squirting out of reporter’s microphones, and flowing spectacularly from Calvert DeForest’s ear canal. Some Woodstock ’94 participants derided the mud, such as Primus’s Les Claypool (his name is HYPOCRITE), but most found joy in the excess of watery dirt. Green Day staged a massive PR stunt around it. Nine Inch Nails wore it as an accessory to accentuate their grimy, frightening industrial sounds. Indeed, the mud at Woodstock ’94 played an integral role in defining the festival as the most unsanitary event since the first Woodstock (or perhaps Rick James’s first week in prison).

Speaking of people who weren’t there for those two extra days of peace and love (and delicious Pepsi, the choice of a new generation), a lot of big name artists were inexplicably absent from the Woodstock ’94 roster. Where was Pearl Jam or Soundgarden or the Beastie Boys or Smashing Pumpkins or even goddamn Dr. Dre? What were these motherfuckers doing that weekend? Dicking around at Lollapalooza? Playing Sega Genesis? Engaging in some other early nineties activity of a humorous nature? The alternative revolution was at critical mass, and we got Blind Melon instead of Billy Corgan? Weak sauce, bro. Thank God Rollins Band and Cypress Hill were in the house to iron out the serious cred issues this multi-million dollar farm jam was burdened with.

hoon
Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon picks up Dr. Dre’s slack.

On a similar topic, I believe Woodstock ’94 hosted the one of last “classic” Metallica performances, by which I mean one of the last performances before Metallica hired a professional stylist, busted out the slide guitars, and generally started acting like the rich pompous jerks they always knew they were. Someone should erect a monument in Saugerties to James Hetfield’s old hair, the once mighty heavy metal mane that commanded an army of unwashed American youth to just rock in a pure, unadulterated fashion. Future generations must be aware that once upon a time the biggest band in thrash didn’t look like a renegade GQ pictorial.

There’s no getting around the fact that Woodstock ’94 was a tad silly in concept and execution. Yet, it could have been a whole hell of a lot worse. I cite the rumor that KISS was offered some ungodly sum of money to reunite their original line-up and headline (this was back when KISS was still sans make-up, unaware that no one wanted to watch a bunch of grizzled old men in leather chaps pretend to be Warrant). I can’t imagine a more transparent attempt to boost ticket sales while eschewing whatever tiny spirit of the original festival remained. Oh wait, yeah I can—how about attempting to reunite Nirvana with a new lead singer less than six months after Kurt Cobain’s death? Apparently, the people behind W’94 tried to put that vile plan into action as well.

Let’s stop for a minute. It’s August of 1994. Who could possibly substitute for Kurt Cobain in a reconstituted Nirvana? The list is pretty short. Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Regis Philbin. That kid from “Squirt TV.” No, I’m joking. Kurt was a one in a million dude, and no one could ever fill his tattered Converse shoes…not even Gene Simmons.

regisIf the original Woodstock was a snapshot of generational sands shifting, Woodstock ’94 was a snapshot of a loosely organized family reunion where a bunch of far removed relatives you aren’t sure you recognize show up for the open bar. Multi-day rock concerts had become par for the course years prior to this unnecessary sequel, and an air of “does this really mean anything?” hung over the proceedings like a stale fart. For me and virtually everyone I knew, the answer to that question was a resounding “no, not at all.” We were the “Beavis & Butt-head” generation. Sarcasm and eye-rolling always won out over heart and earnestness. Our sand-shifting moment was…I don’t know. Maybe Letterman’s move to CBS?

Still, I don’t outwardly reject Woodstock 2: The Search For More Money. There were a few hot performances. It gave America something to talk about for a week or two. I cannot directly link it to any misfortune or pain I experienced that year. WS’94 may not have been as meaningful or explosive as Woodstock ’69, but it sure was a hell of a lot cooler than Woodstock ’99 (two days of beer pong, rioting, and sexual assault). I cringe at the Limp Bizkit-tinged memories of that soulless crap pile.

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7 responses to “Fifteen Years On, Woodstock ’94 Still Something That Definitely Happened”

  1. whyvonne says :

    Wow, was looking for daily lineup, sure enjoyed your take on the festival… you are right on the money. My friend and I flew out from California for the event. After standing in some sattelite parking lot for 6 hours smashed up against a fence and waiting for a shuttle– wasn’t sure what we were getting into … got to show late afternoon Friday, and was appalled at the idea of having to buy scrip– what a pisser. Most of the crowd/people were cool but the vibe of the entire fest/promoters was “let’s make money”.. Rollins Band, Cypress Hill are the only standouts in my mind. We left Sunday morning. It was a disgusting human soup by that time. I kept looking at the fools in the mud, then following the trail of water up to the leaking port-a-potties…. the place was a complete biohazard (confirmed by an old friend of mine who was a roadie for Metallica) We left and went to check out NYC and return home to California. We both were/are pretty hardcore veterans when it comes to festivals ie: Dead Shows, Reggae on the River, Electric on the Eel, Polo Fields in S.F. We know how to get down and dirty. Woodstock ’94 had some other terrible filth to it. Well beyond dirt and feces. It’s no wonder I don’t recall the line-ups.

  2. jamesgreenejr says :

    Glad you enjoyed my scribblings. Sounds like you had a wild time firsthand. Leaking portapots, ick.

  3. Anonymous says :

    I was there and remember referring to it as “commercial stock” with my friends. Still, I got to meet Allan Ginsburg, got apiece of the red hot chili peppers set list when they threw it into the mosh pit, and saw some great stuff. I guess it’s what you make of it.

  4. Jefferey Johnson says :

    I always felt Corgan was underrated and I love everything Smashing Pumkins put out, but Blind Melon was one helluva performance man. I have always loved the bandand still listen to them every day almost but in terms of Woodstock ’94, there were few other performances that hit like theirs did. Music was dead on, held the crowd’s attention and they were completely in tune with the atmosphere of it. (For better or worse.) Shannon lead the band and crowd through the early performance like some mad Pied Piper that you followed because you knew you wanted to be wherever he was going. His death was up there with Cobain’s because of what could have come from him if he was allowed more time, much like Kurt. I can’t think of another artist who wrote a song about their grandmother that is as outright awesome as Vernie. Shannon could write songs about everyday mundane things that we all go through and they connected in a way that very few others could. Lemonade and Galaxie are great examples of things we all experience yet Shannon turned them into anthems for those who have been arrested in a bar fight or those who still loved their first car. The article is an A- because its dead on, except for the fact that without Blind Melon Woodstock ’94 would have had a lot less soul than it did. It was lacking in the first place, but Blind Melon picked up more than just Dr. Dre’s slack.

  5. jamesgreenejr says :

    Thank you for the high grade regardless, my friend.

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