After the Fyre debacle that spawned a million documentaries, ‘the kids’ are now expecting all music festival documentaries to tell a funny story of a failed experiment. Trainwreck, Netflix’s new look at Woodstock ‘99 is not that movie. It is a tale of rock n’ roll, sure, but also mob mentality, some Lord Of The Flies shit and some terrible crimes committed on young girls who were just there to hear some of their favourite bands in the sun with their friends.
It has taken a couple of days to review this documentary, as the more you think about it, the more your opinion of what happened (it starts at horror and escalates when you remember some of the dumbasses shown in this footage) changes and you start to question what the directors of Trainwreck were trying to say and what they wanted to say about the doomed festival. At first I enjoyed the early moments of rock fun in the park and it is funny when the blame for much of this is always placed upon the shoulders of nu-metal, that Bush were headlining night one and even now 20 years later, Gavin Rossdale seemed to be the only famous interview who felt in anyway bad about what happened. He is definitely the good guy of the piece, but also Jonathan Davis of Korn comes over well, his band were merely a chance for a rock audience to lose their shit to a great rock show. And by lose their shit, I mean in a proper gig way, jumping up and down, screaming along and loving every second. But then…there is another side. We see troop upon troop of college kids who would be fired from American Pie for being too stereotypical and too many of them are carrying such charming signs as SHOW US YOUR TITS. But it is not one, it is not a single Stifler in a crowd of otherwise great kids just having a laugh, there are little groups you see, hands searching where they should not be, girls trying to crowd surf and getting felt up for their troubles. Sheryl Crow is asked to get her tits out, for Christ sake. She of course is more ballsy than anyone in this testosterone army, but she does not deserve that response, no one up on a stage does. Jewel seems so broken as she hears the response to her art and just walks off and leaves and only the worst kind of viewer would blame her for doing so.
So, Limp Bizkit. You might be surprised to learn I fucking loved this band. I know I was mostly listening to foppish Scott Walker types, but at the same time, I could not resist that cover of Faith and I was all in after that. I saw them in Finsbury Park at a free gig organised by MTV. They were fantastic, the audience was calm, just enjoying the rocking out, I saw no problems. Woodstock ‘99? Not the same thing. You see, by the end of the second day of Woodstock ‘99, the kids were starting to get pissed off. Their water had been taken away on their way in, which has happened to all of us gig goers at one time or another, but the vendors here had a deal with the festival that they could charge anything for anything. So water that was $4 a pop at the opening of the festival was suddenly $12 as supplies dwindled. The toilets looked like Dante’s circles of hell, water that was spraying out freely was mixed with so much waste that punters got trench mouth. In 1999. Aaaand then they started to decide to do something about it. There was no social media, so this was not a hashtag about unfair prices, no, they started tearing down the wall. Yes, that Pink Floyd reference was intended, there is a chilling scene where some kid is chanting “Tear down the wall!” from The Trial, whilst obviously having no fucking idea what that album is about as the wooden walls are crushed underfoot.
Soooo, Limp Bizkit are the second day headliners and Fred Durst does his usual hyping up the crowd, but this is a crowd that unlike your song does not just want to sing about breaking stuff, they just want to BREAK STUFF. So far, so Beavis and Butthead, they are just gonna pull down a few bits of the wall and leave it at that. Aaaand then Fred Durst starts surfing on a broken off piece of the wall and, yes it is a good visual, especially for the PPV audience, but it is also dumb as fuck and lights another match under an already flaming crowd. Aaand here again is a problem I have with the director/producer, you interview Durst and just get a classic “It was crazy, man” interview, when you could have gone in and demanded to know why he surfed the broken wall and how he felt it inflamed what was to come. But nope, again, this is the problem here, we are shown the horrors but nobody is brought to the classic Manics question “Who’s responsible?”
Then the sound towers start coming down. Now people are in fear for their lives. Jock hilarity has become an arena where people can fucking die because you wanted a laugh. Again, the documentary team has interviews with all the organisers and all we get is “Well, then it got really crazy nervous laugh” which when girls are reported to be getting raped in the fucking pit is not good enough. I wish we had someone with the gravitas of Larry King or Geraldo Rivera who could come up to these multi millionaires and ask how they can fucking sleep after organising something so badly. It was not just a bad crowd either, the security, first hand interviewed here again, were made up of teens with no experience. When presented with 200,000 pissed up goons, these kids had no way of stopping it. And again this is not questioned or drilled into those responsible, using the ‘give them enough rope’ style of film making is fine if you’re dealing with a behind-bars-killer-type, but here I need Morton Downey Jr to come up and shout “WHAT THE FUCK?”
Aaand then Day Three happens. Rumours are floating around of a massive surprise to end the festival. Here is a little enjoyable slice of ‘oh this is just about music’ documentary as the fans and those backstage start wondering who it could be. Dylan is mentioned, Prince is mentioned, Guns N Roses are mentioned. Whooo will it be? By now in the documentary you should be ready to be let down and, oh look, there is no special after show deal, unless you count the Hendrix video package, which from the response, the kids do not. But we are not even there yet, there is more responsibility to be taken. I’m looking at you Red Hot Chili Peppers. Again, a band that I have no problem with, I fucking loved Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik and thus I have always had a soft spot for even their worst tediums since those magic days. But not this. Flea comes waltzing out, completely naked, sure we have all seen this before with the socks on cocks photoshoots, this is not the problem. The problem is that Michael Lang, let us name and shame here, the organiser of the original Woodstock and someone who you would think would have an idea of how the zeitgeist is swinging, decides to commemorate recent terrible school shootings with a vigil of 100, 000 candles. If you have read this far, you know how this is going to go. Everything gets set on fire. The kids get feral. Aaaand how do RHCP respond to this? After being taken off so the emergency can be taken care of, they return and cover, I kid you not, Fire by Jimi Hendrix. Dumb. Stupid. Fucking antagonising. And how do you think the kids respond? Yep, everything fucking goes up. The footage, even from the other side of the screen is terrifying. Everything that can be stolen is getting stolen, as one teen Beavis explains it “Well, everyone else was doing it…” And any sense of control is gone. So the kids go to the rave tent. What could possibly go wrong during a Fatboy Slim show?
We see contemporary footage of the star, again in no way trying to gage the sociological horrors that he was mixed up in (not involved in, lawyer types, yeah?), just telling us how he got out there as fast as he could. The difference between this and Jewel earlier in the documentary is that we then learn that what stopped his show was a van driving in, with a driver ‘high as balls’ and a 15 year old girl in the back with a ‘guy’,who has just got off of her. Not with her, OFF OF HER. Why is there no attempt to get an interview with this girl, or learn who the abuser was or indeed the van driver. Again, I found it tough to watch without knowing the health/mental state of those involved. Well, one girl involved. Same problem I have thrown at the documentary throughout.
At the end, you are left with a load of rich people still being rich, who just shrug off all the problems. I mean that literally, all those responsible are here and shrug No mention of in a tiny way, apologising for messing up the legacy of one of the most important musical events of all time or much much more importantly not having the security and medical crew to stop unfathomable things happening to girls who just came out to rock out to ‘Break Stuff’ in a figurative way.
“Oh, this is just a woke review by someone who doesn’t rate any of the bands!” – fuck off, right, I remember defending my love of Korn and Bush and Limp Bizkit to my No.1 musical journalist hero Simon Price, so much so, that he created the term Kendallrock for all those American bands of the period. But I was not a jerk, I respected girls, I helped people in the pit, I never burnt anything. If giving a documentary a three star rating and suggesting you watch it but warn that there may be triggers or moments that will make you shout at the screen/sky is woke, then sure, knock yourselves out Trump kids. Everyone else, recommended, with the above caveats. I wonder how the organisers sleep, to be honest. “On a big pile of money, with lots of beautiful ladies…” Yeah.
Trainwreck is on Netflix now.