On Saturday, during a typically exhausting performance by the Rollins Band at Woodstock ‘94, I realized I was hot and grimy. So I marked my space with a Tostitos bag and went to take a shower. Upstairs. In my bathroom.
Thanks to the wonders of pay per view, anyone could have the Woodstock experience beamed right into his or her home. So starting on Friday, when MTV ran some preliminary footage, I plopped down on a couch for the projected 43 hours of peace (and quiet) and music. With amenities only a hallway away, I caught a zippy set by Arrested Development, a typically numbing (but at least concise) one by Metallica, a brash and lively Vegas rap revue from Salt ‘N’ Pepa, vivid classic-rock rehashes by the Allman Brothers Band and the re- formed Traffic, and a demonic clown mime during Porno for Pyros, whose performance grew more squalid, sexual, and intoxicating with each song. I heard Crosby, Stills & Nash’s ragged ”Woodstock” from the dinner table on Saturday, and had a yummy bowl of cereal as the Sisters of Glory (an ad hoc group that included Mavis Staples and Phoebe Snow) serenaded me with gospel on Sunday.
For such a marathon of music, the number of dud performances was surprisingly low. And when one of them popped up-the Spin Doctors butchering ”Woodstock,” Bob Weir overstaying his welcome, or, worst of all, the astoundingly inept Blind Melon demonstrating that they’re an alternative only to good music-I was glad I could take a quick bike ride.
Because of the two stages, TV viewers could see only one act at a time- meaning fans of younger acts like the Cranberries and Primus lost out to long sets by boomer faves Joe Cocker and CSN, respectively. (PPV did rerun the missing segments later-if you didn’t mind staying up until 4 a.m.) Then again, you don’t watch something like this purely for the music. Thanks to TV close- ups, I saw ”Support Arrested Development” on the back of Speech’s T-shirt, sign-of-the-times earplugs in the orifices of everyone from the Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron to Gregg Allman, the mud-caked guitar strings of Green Day’s Billie Joe, and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor venting his rage against the mechanization of humanity by daring to hurl a bottle of spring water across the stage. What a rebel.
In solidarity with the crowd, I didn’t shower on Sunday; when Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon asked everyone to say ”God bless you” to the two who had died at the festival, I mumbled along. For an appropriately dark mood, I left only one light on during Nine Inch Nails, who looked and sounded like futuristic assembly-line workers run amok. And when B-Real sang ”Do you wanna get high/So high?” during Cypress Hill’s rollicking set-one of the best of the event, capturing the communal vibe in all its reefer-madness solidarity-I got so excited I spilled some yogurt on my chair.
By the end, I was probably as exhausted as the live audience, if drier and better fed. Every so often, I wished I were there. Then I’d see footage of soggy fans ankle-deep in muck, or hear an announcer recommending mosquito netting, and I was glad I had phoned in Woodstock ‘94. I settled for going outside and kicking a patch of dirt, although I refrained from hurling my soda can across the porch. *