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Senior Year

Senior Year, 1999: Naked Bonfire Dances at Woodstock

Senior Year, 1999: Naked Bonfire Dances at Woodstock


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Some high school memories aren't so good.

Woodstock '99 was supposed to be a grand kiss-off to the 20th century, a golden opportunity for America's suburban youth to usher in a new era with four straight days of sweaty (and often naked) partying alongisde the biggest names in hip-hop and modern rock: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Roots, Creed, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Chemical Brothers, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Fatboy Slim, DMX, Bush and a whole lot more.

Sadly, what the festival ultimately turned out to be was one of the darkest and most violent moments in the history of American pop music. Taking place at the former Griffiss Air Force Base, a fortress-like Superfund site located in Rome, N.Y., the festival just so happened to coincide with a pernicious heat wave then hovering over the state's central region. Yet 100-degree temperatures fail to explain fully the brutality and violence that erupted between Thursday, July 22nd and Sunday the 25th. At one point, MTV used the phrase "Apocalypse Woodstock" to describe the rash of looting, arrests, mass dehydration, vandalism and arson. There were even multiple reports of rape and assault going down in the ultra-violent mosh pits. So yeah, we're talking seriously dark vibes.

Justifiably, a ton of blame made the rounds in the aftermath. Many pointed fingers at the bands, particularly the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who unleashed the Jimi Hendrix classic " Fire" while their fans set just about everything around them ablaze) and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, whose onstage persona has always been about bad-boy aggression and inciting mayhem. Far more onlookers, however, criticized promoters for poor planning and a disregard for providing the necessary medical and security support. Regardless of culpability, Woodstock '99 is an event the kids who were there will most surely never forget.