It started with an old-fashioned idea. The optimism of the hippies met wit the activism of the more rebellious factions of society to create a powderkeg of activism and art in the late 1960s to create Woodstock. The fest could have been an unmitigated disaster that would have made Fyre festival look good. However, it would have a lasting cultural impact even the future decades rode on. With an eye on capturing that spirit again, and raking in a lot of money, the original founders of Woodstock create Woodstock `94: 2 More Days of Peace and Music, but officially it was three days.
The festival was enormous, taking place in Saugerties, New York, about 70 miles southeast of where the original festival was held in 1969, Bethel, NY. Only 164,000 tickets were sold, but estimates of the festival at its biggest were 550,000 people! There wasn’t much of a perimeter so by the morning of the second day, people were just showing up. Overall it was a lot safer and more unified than Woodstock 99 turned out to be.
People came from all over the world and the lineup was predominately culled mostly rock Rock and Metal, but also Folk, Punk, Hip-Hop, Dance Music, and some Pop Stars. with equal parts new bands from the early 1990s, and some holdovers from the original fest. There were also some acts on the bill that “felt” generally like they belonged at a Woodstock, which was cool. The music bill was something for everyone. Similar to stories about Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, and The Doors not performing at the original festival, there is still some shock over four of the most notable stars of 1994, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden who were not there. Alice In Chains was invited by dropped out, which was a bummer. We’re still curious as to why the others weren’t there. Yet, other bands of the Lollapoloza era like Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and Tool were just not big enough by then or were uninterested apparently.
Notable Friday acts included Jackyl (in one of the most talked-about performances of the weekend), Huffamoose, Blues Traveler, Live, Kings X, Sheryl Crow, Violent Femmes, Candlebox, and Collective Soul. There was also an all-night rave called Ravestock that took place featuring Aphex Twin, Dee-Lite, DJ Spooky, The Orb, Orbital, and Frankie Bones.
Saturday was the big day of the weekend and saw amazing performances from Joe Cocker, Cypress Hill, Rollins Band, Melissa Etheridge, Crosby, Stills, and Nash featuring John Sebastian, The Cranberries, Primus featuring Jerry Cantrell of AIC, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and Aerosmith. The last three bands that closed out Saturday might still be the best five hours of music in a row we’ve ever seen. Nine Inch Nails in the mud, Metallica dominating on their way to being one of the biggest bands ever, and Aerosmith, some of whom attended back in 69 as fans, cementing their legend statuses forever with a two-hour performance in the driving rain.
Sunday closed it down with a more subdued by no less talented bunch of bands: Bob Dylan, Traffic, Peter Gabriel, Country Joe McDonald, The Allman Brothers Band, Spin Doctors, Porno For Pyros Gil Scott-Heron, Green Day, Paul Rogers of Bad Company with Rock and Blues Revue featuring Slash, Neal Schon, Andy Fraser, and Jason Bonham, Neville Brothers, Santana ft. Eric Gales, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, in their infamous giant lightbulb costumes with Flea, naked the entire show otherwise.
In the pre-internet age (hell almost pre-email age!) the fest was a pay-per-view round-the-clock televised event and eventually made into a 2 CD compilation album we all bought from Columbia House for a penny. Perfect. Woodstock 94 was a hot mess of awesome and crazy that shouldn’t have worked so well. It did at times feel like the coming of age party for Gen-X and it was a lot truer to the original event. It also serves as a reminder as to why future attempts to hold another event, have had diminishing returns.
Check out my recollection of Woodstock 1994 as an attendee: