Which original woodstock 1969 act had the biggest lasting impact? Was it Jimi Hendrix? Janis? The Who? Sly, you say? Nope – it’d have to be Country Joe McDonald, whose ”Fish Cheer” (”Give me an F…”) helped introduce a once-verboten four-letter word into the rock lexicon.
At least, that’s the impression left by ”Woodstock 99,” a two-CD souvenir of the 30th-anniversary gathering. There’s one amazingly profane stretch in which Buckcherry, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Sevendust, and DMX offer a nearly unbroken string of tunes where the F-word figures as either a cameo or the main linguistic attraction. Maybe it’s just as well organizers didn’t invite the ‘69 alumni back; I’m not sure how Joan Baez would’ve worked ”motherf—er” into ”Sweet Sir Galahad.”
That semantic single-mindedness isn’t a hallmark of both CDs. Epic Records has helpfully divvied 32 acts up by genre, segregating ”extreme” rock-rap and neo-metal acts onto a separate disc. That means there’s one CD for anyone who has a decal of a peeing Calvin on the back of their Mustang, and another for everybody else.
The ”red” disc, featuring the likes of Creed, Godsmack, and Megadeth, is a crunchingly immediate kiddie call to arms. The ”blue” disc, wherein Jewel, Jamiroquai, Dave Matthews, and other more mature sorts get their due, is more musical and more irrelevant. Taken together as color-coded yin and yang, the two CDs – alternately mean and mild – do effectively summarize the state of rock at the end of the century. For better or Durst.
The Offspring’s ”The Kids Aren’t Alright” provides just about the only joy amid the red disc, so you hope for tonic from its mellower counterpart. But most of those acts are past their prime: It feels like The Best of Woodstock 96. Brian Setzer compelling mud-swinging is a change of pace, and God bless Sheryl and Alanis for ignoring the catcalls and showing ‘em their hits. But the galvanizing moments we still secretly hope for from our Woodstocks are nowhere in earshot.
Though it’s tempting to – per Country Joe’s ancient instruction – ”give it an F!,” all this millennial mediocrity only merits an unprofane…