Feb 26, 2011

Surviving Woodstock '99

So, it was the year 1999 – 30 years since Woodstock – and a lot of us were still wearing the same clothes and smoking the same stuff. What better way to honour this seemingly timeless trend? By going to the thirtieth anniversary event, Woodstock ’99, in New York State, USA. Yahoo! When the music line-up was announced, I was certain that I would be going; I was so excited. It will have been the biggest music event that I had ever been to – and I was finally old enough to not require parental permission to go – they just offered their unwelcomed judgemental opinions – which I chose to ignore.

It was a mass exodus down to the States – there were no less than 8 full buses that left from the Toronto terminal that morning. We thought that it would be risky, but in the long-run better if we smuggled our own drugs across the border (WTF?) rather than buy them from strangers in the US; It would have been like a box of chocolates from Hunter S. Thompson - you never know what you’re going to get. In hindsight, both ways were retarded, but there we were, hiding pre-rolled joints and mushrooms inside a fantastically devised Coca-Cola can that had been hollowed out. We put it in the bottom of the cooler, along with the other 11 cans and we were pretty impressed with our strategy – but when we approached the border I was still shitting bricks. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous in my entire life. I mean, really... and entire bus of hippies and rockers going across the border? Talk about a target for illegal substances! They did manage to pull over about 3 of the 8 buses, but luckily, not ours. We weren’t more than 100 meters across the border and the entire bus erupted with a “YEAHHHHHHH!” It was hilarious.

Our bus driver managed to get lost and we were about 2 hours late. When we finally got there, the number of tents was already incredible. We found a place and quickly got sorted. My best friend decided she wanted to search out a programme, so she left – I reminded her – “Remember where we are! This place is crazy!” She waved me off like I was an annoying mother-figure and she left, “I’m only going to be 5 minutes!” And she left... with no wallet, no passport, and no shoes. Since I wanted to wait for her, Mark and I stayed at our site – and then an hour passed, and then two. Mark was getting annoyed and after another hour, we left to see if we could find her and to catch some of the opening sets. I was so pissed off with her. I assumed she had met up with some hot bongo-playing hippie and forgot that we were waiting. She was technically an adult though, so my annoyance didn’t turn to worry until later that night. Mark and I had returned to our camp site and there was still no evidence that she had returned. This was also in the days before everyone had cell phones, so it wasn’t as easy to locate her amongst 220,000 people. We went out for that night’s headliners and when we returned to crash at about 4am, she was still missing. I was now getting a stomach ache with worry. Where the hell was she?!

The next morning came and went, and it wasn’t until Mark and I were returning from an afternoon set that we were walking down the main strip and there she was – sitting on somebody’s beer cooler. She started to cry when she saw us – but she could barely walk as she hobbled over to us; her feet were terribly blistered from not having any shoes for the past 24hours. I was just so relieved to see her that I didn’t get angry. Apparently, after walking only 5 minutes from out camp site, she had gotten lost – and she found some nice people from Ottawa that took her in for the night – like a stray cat. She was in so much pain that we had to take her to the first aid tent to get her feet bandaged up. By this point, I was laughing at her. Fucking idiot.

It was so hot the entire weekend – and there were zero trees anywhere in this old airbase. The vendors were charging extortionate prices for water, food and ice; it was ridiculous. Mark and I didn't even screw once that weekend; can you imagine?! It was THAT hot. The only real way to cope was to try and lay down during the heat of the day and then stay up all night when it cooled off.

They had also under-estimated how many port-a-loos they would need, and the sheer stench anywhere within 100 meters of these over-flowing shit boxes was utterly nauseating. I trained my body not to need to go – it did me proud. It wasn’t until the final night that we came across a ‘secret’ set of toilets. They must have just arrived shortly before we found them – they even had toilet paper! This was just after the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performed and Carrie and I had just eaten the majority of our mushrooms. At first, I thought I was hallucinating the toilets, but no, they were really real – wonderfully, wonderfully real. Carrie and I each sat inside one beside the other and we giggled for about 10 minutes.

After that rejuvenating experience, we went back to the main field where people had started huge bonfires and it quickly began to look like a scene from Lord of the Flies. Then larger objects were being set on fire and suddenly there were a few loud explosions. What the fuck? It was terrifying, but luckily the mushrooms made it a bit more manageable and we found humour in it. We found our way back to our site and since we were camped really close to a radio station that was there, we got all the latest information from them. Apparently, the explosions were the propane tanks from the trucks blowing up. Soon, there were helicopters flying overhead and the smell of burning rubber over-took the entire area. We would shout out “We’re going to die!” and then I would laugh so hard I nearly peed myself. If nothing else, it was a unique experience. I thank you, Mother Nature, for magic mushrooms.

We managed to make it through the night in one piece. The State Troopers had been brought in and were escorting everyone out of the area. There were burnt cars, vendor trolleys, and garbage absolutely everywhere; it was a sad scene. It was the first time in my life that I had witnessed firsthand how disgusting we, as human beings, can really be – like locusts. In less than 3 days, the mob had managed to totally destroy the area – and all I could think of was: If this is was happened in 3 days... then what have we done to the earth? It was a humbling moment for me, and I’m sure a disappointing moment in our history. This festival’s slogan was “30 years of music and peace” – and a small number of people sure pissed on that ideal and ruined any hope in the future of having another one. I originally wanted to go to experience it and to say that I had been at Woodstock ‘99 – but instead, I say that I survived Woodstock ’99.


  1. INCREDIBLE story!!!!! glad you made it out alive

  2. it's amazing how so many situations where large groups of people cogregate and hang out for a bit, end up with violence and filth. like they forget how to act like responsible humans & resort to chaos & nuttiness.
    glad you found those fresh potties!

  3. WOW! That is an incredible "adventure" you were on... human nature the good the bad and the ugly never seize to amaze. Glad it all turned out ok.

    Thank you so much for visiting..as now I have discovered your blog and am a new follower , can't wait to read more. HHL

    P.S. loved the honesty in your "About Me" page...

    Falling Off A High Heeled Life

  4. i'm not sure if i'm just really old or what but the whole thing just sounds.... awful. LMAO. yeah, i think i'm old.

  5. I would not have survived that! You are so GANGSTA!!!!!!!!

  6. I remember watching that on TV and being horrified at what happened. I couldn't believe people just destroyed that place. Great post

  7. OMG - "It was the first time in my life that I had witnessed firsthand how disgusting we, as human beings, can really be – like locusts. In less than 3 days, the mob had managed to totally destroy the area – and all I could think of was: If this is was happened in 3 days... then what have we done to the earth?"

    Yep you said it - but awesome story and a great memory oxox


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