Before Fyre Festival stranded hundreds of influencers at a "music festival" turned refugee camp, there was Woodstock '99, a four-day festival boasting dozens of big-name bands, a heat wave, limited access to water, and a hostile environment that became a ticking time bomb.
Meant to honor the 30th anniversary of the original festival of peace, love, and music, the event was held on July 22-25, 1999, and featured DMX, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, The Offspring, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, and Limp Bizkit, to name a few. Issues with the way guests were treated along with stifling heat and an atmophere of heavy testosterone proved to be a formula for disaster, and the weekend quickly deteriorated into chaos.
HBO Max's Music Box series takes a deep dive into the fiasco with Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, which pieces together firsthand accounts from people in the audience, on the stage, and behind the curtain. Their stories bring focus to the tumultuous festival that has since been dubbed "the day the Nineties died."
The Public Toilets Stopped Working During The Festival, Creating Overflow And 'Mud'
Halfway through the festival, many of the porta potties at the festival overflowed and stopped working, causing a stream of sewage to make its way to a tent area and shower area of the camps. The resulting mud became a massive issue for the festival, as it was almost impossible to avoid.
Made of human feces, urine, and flith, the "mud" added a stench to portions of the festival, which was already in the midst of a heat wave. Given that clean, free water was difficult to come by, people had few opportunities to clean up either their belongings or their person, adding to the hellscape that was Woodstock '99.
The Frenzied Audience Set Fire To The Venue During The Red Hot Chili Peppers Set
By the fourth and final day of the festival, the attendees had been through hell and back. Exhausted, overheated, and deprived of basic necessities for way too long, all the crowd needed was a reason to implode.
During the end of the festival, candles were handed out to the weary crowd for a well-intended vigil meant to honor to the victims of Columbine. Good intentions aside, the non-profit volunteers just armed the crowd with a weapon.
Soon, the vigil turned violent as people began using their candles to set the venue aflame. Small flames turned into large bonfires as angry audience members broke off pieces of the stage, stole merchandise, toppled food trucks, and destroyed the non-functioning showers and bathrooms.
On the stage, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were asked by Mayor Joseph Griffo to try and calm the audience down. Instead, the band played their version of "Fire" by Jimi Hendrix, bringing the audience into a fiery frenzy.
A Young Man Died Of Heat Exhaustion And Inadequate Medical Care During Metallica's Set
David DeRosia was a concertgoer and Metallica fan who only wanted to make it to the pit so he could perhaps be on MTV. Unfortunately, DeRosia collapsed during the performance.
Misdiagnosed as a drug overdose and supposedly treated for that initially, DeRosia was first taken to the base medical center before he was taken to a hospital in Syracuse. At the hospital, a doctor diagnosed him with "hyperthermia, probably secondary to heat stroke."
His body temperature was reportedly 107 degrees. He passed on Monday, July 26.
Limp Bizkit Was Blamed For Making The Crowd Violent After Playing 'Break Stuff'
On Saturday night of the festival, Limp Bizkit took to the stage much to the delight of the many, many fans who came to Woodstock '99 just to see the band. The crowd, already turning dark due to the many issues with the festival, was disorderly and looking for an outlet for its anger.
One witness stated:
When you have a crowd who are excited, inebriated, hot, and now you give them a band that helped them release that energy, what do you think is going to happen?
When asked by festival promoters to help quell the crowd, lead singer Fred Durst opted to sing the song "Break Stuff," which inspired the audience to do just that, breaking off large pieces of the stage and nearby structures. Festival promoters were quick to blame Durst and his band, but journalist Steven Hayden defended the performance:
It is very convenient to say that this aggressive rock band, "It's their fault." But if you look at the culture and the rot that was setting in... it is bigger than Nu Metal. And it is certainly bigger than Limp Bizkit.