It’s the 25th Anniversary of the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock!
An oral history of Woodstock ’94, the funnest Woodstock of all. (Read on if you don’t believe us, and also if you do.)
On the morning of the biggest concert of their career, Nine Inch Nails woke up on their tour bus backstage at Woodstock ’94 to the sounds of bullhorns and shouting firemen. “Don’t touch anything! Don’t open the doors!” A downed power line had landed on the bus. “They weren’t saying we would have gotten horribly electrocuted if we touched anything metal,” remembers drummer Chris Vrenna, “but they weren’t saying we wouldn’t either.” Groggy, and trying to make sense of the situation, Vrenna focused on three familiar faces rubbernecking outside his window. It was Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Eventually, the power was cut, the live wire was removed, and Nine Inch Nails played a mud-caked, star-making performance later that evening. The entire episode was emblematic of Woodstock ’94, a corporate-funded sequel to the mythic 1969 festival: It was messy, dangerous, and absurd, with weird celebrity cameos. Ultimately, though, Woodstock ’94 was a success despite deep skepticism and infrastructure problems — like downed power lines. There was also mud. Lots and lots of mud.
From August 12 to 14, anywhere from 200,000 to 550,000 people (more on that later) descended onto Winston Farm in Saugerties, New York, approximately 60 miles northeast of Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, where the original festival was held, for “Two More Days of Peace and Music” (a third day was added).
“It’s not like Woodstock,” a radio advertisement claimed. “It is Woodstock.” But it was a different Woodstock. Woodstock Ventures, the promoters of the ’69 festival headed by Michael Lang, had now partnered with the entertainment conglomerate PolyGram, resulting in a reported $30 million budget for the festival. Corporate sponsors flocked. Idealistic hippies groaned. A subset of anarchic fans known as the mud people took over.