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Recommended: Clusterf**k: Woodstock '99 on Netflix

A visceral blow-by-blow of the infamous music festival justifies the redundancy of docs about the disaster.
  • Kid Rock performs at Woodstock '99. (Photo: Netflix)
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    Clusterf**k: Woodstock '99 | Netflix
    Three-Episode Music Docuseries | TV-MA

    Editor's Note: Although it was announced with the title Clusterf**k: Woodstock '99, upon its release this series was renamed Trainwreck: Woodstock '99.

    What's Clusterf**k: Woodstock '99 About?

    British filmmaker Jamie Crawford chronicles the nightmare of Woodstock '99, the now-infamous music festival that devolved into arson, violence, and sexual assault.

    Who's involved?

    • John Scher and the late Michael Lang, who co-produced the festival, give a fascinating series of interviews that walk a fine line between damage control and gaslighting.
    • Along with members of the crew and festival attendees, we hear from artists who performed in the melee, including Jewel, Fatboy Slim, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, and Korn singer Jonathan Davis.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    If you want to dive into the chaos of Woodstock '99 and you're not up for the four-hour podcast that The Ringer created about it a few years ago, you've now got two solid streaming options that run about half that long. The first is 2021's Woodstock: Peace, Love, and Rage, the film that kicked off HBO's Music Box collection of music documentaries. The other is this new docuseries from Netflix, which covers much of the same ground and features many of the same interviewees, but still finds a fresh way to describe how everything went so horribly wrong.

    Whereas the HBO film works hard to put this disaster in a larger historical context, interrogiating everything from the misleading legacy of the original Woodstock to the aggro male culture of the late 90s, the Netflix show delivers more of an hour-by-hour account of what it was like on the ground. An onscreen clock even appears to give us the exact moment that various horrors occurred, from concertgoers bathing in contaminated water to singer Fred Durst encouraging people to destroy the venue, to a mob of frenzied kids setting the place on fire.

    This approach works because director Jamie Crawford speaks to so many eyewitnesses, from MTV veejays and newspaper reporters to a pair of appealing doofuses who still laugh when they remember getting drunk the first night. But no matter how each remembers the beginning, all agree that the end was terrifying. It's especially striking to witness artists like Gavin Rossdale and Fatboy Slim, who play to massive crowds for a living, still looking shell-shocked as they remember what it was like there.

    One could argue that this approach overlooks some of the cultural forces that the HBO film explores, but for anyone who wants to vicariously experience the frenzy at a so-called festival of peace, this iteration is hard to top.

    Pairs well with

    • Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme's essential documentary about the Talking Heads, which captures a concert gone terribly right. (Stream on Kanopy or purchase on Apple TV)
    • Fyre and Fyre Fraud, the competing (and equally compelling) docs about another festival disaster. (Stream on Netflix and Hulu, respectively)
    • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Netflix's silly and satisfying spoof of Europe's beloved music contest.

  • Clusterf**k: Woodstock '99
    Premieres on Netflix August 3, 2022.
    Starring: Michael Lang, John Scher, Jonathan Davis, Jewel, Gavin Rossdale, and Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook.
    Directed by: Jamie Crawford.

    TOPICS: Trainwreck: Woodstock '99, Netflix, Gavin Rossdale, Jamie Crawford, Jewel, John Scher, Jonathan Davis, Michael Lang, Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook