Woodstock 99

Jeffrey Quackenbush has some insightful thoughts into the disaster that was Woodstock 99. Why was the festival plagued with so many problems? Start with the music.

Much of the music was aggressive, featuring fast, pounding rhythms, distorted, guitar-heavy instrumentation and vocals rather deficient in euphony. The lyrical content was fixated on drugs, sex, violence, and degeneracy. But everyone interviewed in the documentary is horrified that actual destructive behavior broke out among the crowd, causing real injuries and costs.

This reminds me of a few years ago when Trent Reznor was surprised about how his fans were treating his fiancé/wife badly. When you make music with lyrics like You know me, I hate everyone,” you shouldn’t be surprised that your followers are misanthropes. Similarly, when you make aggro, base music, don’t be shocked when your fans act accordingly.

There are a few things we can say immediately about these contradictions. First of all, some amount of  drug use and wild, hedonistic behavior does not automatically lead to violence, mob criminality, and general foolhardiness. By the same token, promiscuity and sexual provocation should not be equated with non-consensual sex acts. We can distinguish these things morally, and argue for the value of certain restraints over others. However, the gap between them, psychologically, is narrower than liberal” sensibilities want to admit, and so we should still view the festival as a study in contradiction.

There’s a very thin line between glorifying acts of depravity and watching those acts of depravity actually take place — and that line is easily stepped over. Quackenbush is right that a lot of people don’t want to admit to that.

Later in the essay Quakenbush wanders into the importance of pagan rituals and pretty much loses me but there’s a lot in here to be considered and learned from this festival gone wrong.

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