For those watching the disastrous Fyre Festival earlier this year, it looked as though someone found a way to live-tweet from the seventh circle of hell. Looting, insufficient food, absent performers, and broken promises made the event into a dramatic reenactment of Lord of the Flies. But Fyrefest had nothing on its disastrous predecessor, Woodstock 1999.
The summer music festival was an attempt to improve on Woodstock 1994, where sanitation problems and contraband plagued attendees. Instead, it became an apocalyptic hellscape; imagine Mad Max: Fury Road with Darth Maul bongs and white dreadlocks. So what exactly made the festival so terrible?
Well, the weather conditions didn’t help. The heat hovered around 100 °F the whole weekend, which would have been bad enough on its own. The site was on an old airstrip, which had no trees and was covered in sun-absorbing tarmac, and the two main stages were 1.5 miles away from each other. Halfway through the weekend, almost a thousand people had already been treated for heat exhaustion. But it wasn’t just the weather. Woodstock 99 proved one of the main axioms of human nature: there’s no situation so bad that some idiot can’t make it worse.
First of all, the organizers failed to, well, organize. There weren’t enough showers, toilets, or drinking fountains, and the drainage was bad enough that most of the dirty water flooded people’s tents.
This was made even worse when attendees had the bright idea to destroy the water fountains to provide water to thirsty attendees. This might have been a good idea if there had been anywhere for the water to go. But, instead, it went into people’s tents. By the middle of the festival, there were mud pits throughout the grounds, making areas impassable.
Not only could people not bring outside food into the venue, the good inside was wildly overpriced, with a single slice of pizza going for $12 and water bottles priced at $4. The expense of food and water made the medical difficulties on site even worse.
The infrastructure inside of the site wasn’t the only problem. The surrounding towns weren’t meant to handle the 200,000 people who descended on the festival grounds. There was no hotel space for miles around, and the traffic was almost impassable. But all of this was minor compared to what happened later.
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