By any measure, Woodstock ’99 was a disaster. Held on a former Air Force base in Rome, New York, during a broiling-hot weekend in July, the festival forced fans to shell out $4.00 for bottles of water, with precious little shade for the 200,000 people that flocked to the event hoping to experience the magic of the 1969 original. There weren’t enough portable toilets, creating a sanitary fiasco that surely haunts the dreams of attendees to this day. On the last day, riots and massive fires broke out. By some miracle nobody died, but there were numerous reports of sexual assault and the promoters were pummeled with lawsuits in the aftermath.
Five years earlier, Woodstock ’94 had brought back many veterans of the original 1969 shows, including Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Country Joe McDonald, Santana and John Sebastian. Woodstock ’99 was more interested in bringing in contemporary acts like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Rage Against The Machine. A mere two performers from the 1969 festival were booked: Who bassist John Entwistle and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. In an inadvertently hilarious move, they put Entwistle’s band on the tiny “Emerging Artist Stage” in an aircraft hangar, playing just a few hours after Muse, then a largely-unknown group on their first American tour.
Entwistle faced the situation with great humor. “It means that I’m still alive,” he told future Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt, then working for the now-defunct website SonicNet. “Actually, it probably means we’re the only two who were stupid enough to come back . . . I didn’t think there’d be another one, actually.”
The Who bassist might not have drawn the sort of crowds that saw Megadeth, Creed and the Red Hot Chili Peppers that day, but he still brought an enormous sound system that pulverized the eardrums of the tiny crowd that came to see him. His brief set included “Heaven and Hell,” “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over,” all of which were in the Who’s original Woodstock set. Comically, some young fans literally ran away from the stage because it was too loud. Here’s video of Entwistle performing the Quadrophenia classic “The Real Me,” which features some of the most memorable bass parts in rock history. “My dad listens to the Who,” 22-year-old concertgoer Nate Halstead told Hiatt. “But this was definitely good.”