This Friday, HBO will debut Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage, a documentary about the infamous 30th anniversary staging of the iconic music fest. Ahead of the film’s premiere, Rolling Stone is debuting a clip focusing on one of the more serious and disgusting aspects from the festival: The lack of clean drinking water and the puddles of human sewage that festival-goers mistook as mud.
As seen in the clip, although organizers set up barrels of clean water for the attendees — which leaned heavily toward the young male demographic — to drink, the lack of water for showering and basic sanitary purposes forced many to turn those drinking stations into guerrilla bathtubs, instantly soiling their potability.
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Frustrated festivalgoers soon broke the pipes leading to the basins to access clean water, which caused a more sinister situation: The flooding from the burst pipes soon mixed with the rapidly overflowing, untended port-a-potties, creating a toxic cocktail of mud and excrement that attendees were only too eager to play in.
“Within the first 24 hours, you had kids rolling around in what they thought was mud, but was really human waste,” one witness to the mayhem says in the documentary as footage shows young people playing in the mud just steps from the backed-up port-a-potties.
“Mud has curiously always played an important role in the mythology of Woodstocks,” director Garret Price tells Rolling Stone. “There’s legendary images of the muddy fields in Bethel during the original festival or the career-defining performances of Nine Inch Nails and Green Day covered in mud in the ’94 edition. So not surprisingly, the kids at Woodstock ’99 weren’t going to miss out on the tradition even though it was one of the hottest weekends in New York state that year and the festival primarily took place on a concrete tarmac. I’m still not sure to this day if they knew or even cared where the source of a lot of this mud came from.”
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage, premiering July 23rd on the 22nd anniversary of the fest, is the first in HBO’s Music Box series of documentaries produced by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons. The film features interviews with Woodstock 99 performers like musicians, including The Roots’ Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, Moby, Jewel, The Offspring, Creed’s Scott Stapp, as well as music journalists and festival attendees that were on hand for what ultimately turned into a full-scale fiery riot by festival’s end.
“It’s such a polarizing event, because I spoke to a ton of attendees who had the time of their life that weekend while others had a much different point of view,” Price says.
“For all the bad things that you can point out in the story of Woodstock 99, there’s also positive things that can be attributed to the festival as well. One example is that it was truly an egalitarian event as far as being a music fan. There were no V.I.P. tents, special ticket tiers or ‘glamping’ experiences at Woodstock 99,” Price adds. “Every ticket was a general admission making it a true populist experience for music fans. My biggest hope (and what I experienced myself while making this) is to draw in audiences with nostalgia, but provide them with a film that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking, a way to dig deeper and reckon with how our society and culture acted during this time.”
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