Dusting 'Em Off
Revisiting an album, a film, or an event on its anniversary

Dusting ‘Em Off: Woodstock 1999 – Volumes I & II

on December 25, 2010, 8:00am

We’ve all heard the stories. We know what happened with the rowdy and careless crowds at Woodstock ’99. A few bad seeds overshadowed the sounds and tarnished the Woodstock name forever.

Let us move on; this is about the music. I love live albums, no matter who the artist is. To me, seeing a band live or listening to their live album is hearing music how it was meant to be heard– it’s real. There are no over-dubs; the vocals are raw. It’s just the band playing and nothing else. The 1999 version of Woodstock had a great line up when you consider that Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock were some of the biggest acts at the time. They all panned out really well.

Volume I of the Woodstock disc consists of the harder rock, as opposed to Volume II which highlights some of the lighter acts that also played the festival. Volume I opens with the head banging “Blind” from Korn. I remember watching this from home on MTV and Pay-Per-View and watching the crowd just turn into a sea of chaos when Korn opened with this track.  I was very happy I was watching at home at that point and not in the middle of that mess (although I may or may not have started a mini mosh pit of my own in my living room).

My favorite track on Volume I is “Four” by Lit, from their debut A Place in the Sun. It is actually one of my favorite Lit songs, and to hear this live version, played with a little more tempo than the original, is a highlight for me. In fact, I only listen to the live version now. I always considered Lit a little underrated, and I was ecstatic when I heard they were going to play Woodstock. Ever since I heard the opening riff to that song, I was hooked.

Sometimes when I hear a live track, it can make me appreciate a song more than I might have before. This happened with “Lit Up Again” by Buckcherry. The guitar solo at the end of the song gets me about as jacked up as the high Buckcherry speaks of in the song. He certainly does enjoy his cocaine. I really could care less for Buckcherry on a normal basis, but when it comes to compilation albums like this, a single song can stick out above the rest. Although the vocals leave something to be desired, it really is a great party song.

“Bawitdaba” from Kid Rock and “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine really sound great live. You can feel the energy that the crowd was experiencing during these bands. Say what you will about Kid Rock or Zack De La Rocha; they are incredible entertainers. They are oozing with talent and purify what being a frontman is all about. Charisma, poise, and presence are all qualities that are expressed on stage from both acts. To not be entertained by either is damn near impossible. Throw in the fact that guitar God Tom Morello is shredding next to De La Rocha, and try to keep your head and feet still during a performance (just go get a beer when Kid Rock starts playing “Picture”).

Closing out the first disc is Red Hot Chili Peppers version of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis claims they did not perform this song because of the rampant fires that were torching the festivals grounds, but because of a request from Hendrix’s daughter. You can hear Kiedis at the beginning of the song say “Do you wanna do it?” Flea replies, “Fuck yeah.” I can only imagine being the band, looking out into the blaze and for a split second thinking “Maybe we shouldn’t do this.” It proves to be a true rock moment, no matter the reason the song was played, and a great tribute to a Hendrix, a Woodstock legend.

Volume II shows the softer side of the festival with the opening track “Tripping Billies” by Dave Matthews Band. Eleven years in the future, Matthews and his band turned out to be one of most successful acts featured at the festival. If you enjoy violin, you can hear it loud and clear on this track. As one of the more eclectic acts on the bill back in 1999, I didn’t really see a reason for them to be performing at this show. I didn’t see them as “Woodstock Material”. Actually, I felt this way about many of the bands on the second disc back then; today I can see their relevance. This was a celebration of music, not just the top acts of yesteryear. Woodstock’s past had a lot of chiller, more acoustic-based acts. That is where Jewel, G. Love & The Special Sauce, Alanis Morrisette, and others came in. Time has opened both my eyes and my ears.

A very intimate version of “Alison” by Elvis Costello is my favorite part on the album. It was another track I wasn’t as familiar with, and it instantly became a favorite. The crowd sounds sparse during the performance, possibly due to being too young to know who Costello was, but you can hear those who were paying attention screaming Alison’s name.

Things do spice back up with a must-hear version of “Adrenaline” by The Roots from their dominating set on the West Stage. The Roots have completely mastered their craft if you look at them today. They can play just about any type of genre they choose, and they do it with ease. This track is raw hip-hop from back before they began getting the recognition they’ve earned. It’s fun to look back at a band coming up and see how far they’ve come.

It’s great to pop in these discs and look back at the positives of Woodstock ’99 and not focus on the negatives. Many of the bands and artists from then are still making music today, although many were in their primes around this time. When you listen to it top to bottom, you can relive the end of the century and see where rock music was at that point. You should never let Woodstock 1999 collect too much dust.

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