Tale of two Woodstock docs - Netflix’s Trainwreck vs. HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

Tale of two Woodstock docs - Netflix’s Trainwreck vs. HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

I watched two documentaries on Woodstock 99, and surprisingly one is far better than the other, though both are equally disturbing and worth watching.


I recently watched the Woodstock 99 documentary “Trainwreck” on Netflix and found myself hooked (and horrified) from start to finish. I, like many people my age in their late 20s and early 30s, were aware of Woodstock 99 largely in terms of the musical acts that performed. Korn, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so on.

What was less known was how terribly handled it was and the nightmarish things that happened during what can only be described as a 3-day festival from Hell. So, while I wasn’t aware of the horrors of Woodstock 99 beforehand, I’m certainly aware of them now because not only did I watch the Trainwreck doc on Netflix, I was also made aware of a different documentary that came out before Trainwreck on HBO called Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

Curious how the two stack up to one another, and whether there was any additional information that might have been overlooked, I watched it and can safely say that yes, HBO’s documentary is better and yes, it does contain a lot more information than Netflix’s Trainwreck. With that being said, I wouldn’t say that Trainwreck is a bad documentary by any means, even if it does feel at times like an abbreviated copy of Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage. 

Tale of two Woodstock docs - Netflix’s Trainwreck vs. HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

For those wondering as to why I think HBO’s documentary is better, it largely comes down to the sources pulled to speak about the event both from attendee and staff perspectives, and from artists who performed at Woodstock 99. Netflix’s documentary didn’t have as many interviews with the artists that performed, while the HBO doc not only had the same artists the Netflix doc did (Jonathan Davis of Korn for example) it also had more varied perspectives and insight on offer. 

In having more artists speak, the HBO doc is able to show more of the performances and lineup of Woodstock 99, rather than focusing hard on Korn and Limp Bizkit and pointing fingers at aggressive music as being the cause for some of the mayhem at Woodstock 99 like Netflix’s Trainwreck doc does. 

It also, in my opinion, handled the darker, more disturbing subject matter a lot more delicately and respectfully. For example, some of the attendees/staff in the Netflix documentary express, after recounting the horrors of Woodstock 99, that they don’t regret attending and that if given the choice, would do it again.

I honestly can’t wrap my head around why a documentary would want to include anything that suggests the event wasn’t as bad as it was after spending 3 full episodes outlining the horrors of the event including overflowing outhouses (don't watch the doc while eating, you'll regret it), rampant heat stroke including one death, and the drinking and bathing water being contaminated with sh*t, among many other issues that I’ll touch on in a moment.

If I had to sum it up, I'd say the Netflix documentary put most of its focus on shock value and the ineptitude of the event organizers, and I mean yeah, there’s plenty of that to be found in the HBO doc as well. The HBO doc, however, also manages to dig even deeper into why Woodstock 99 was such a disaster not only due to the event organizers being greedy boneheads, for lack of a nicer term, but also because of the culture at the time, and the demographics of those in attendance.  

While you can’t blame the attendees for rioting, ripping the place apart, and setting it on fire given how terribly they were treated, you absolutely can blame the attendees for things like the rampant reports of sexual assaults and rapes that occurred, including one of a 15-year-old girl. Speaking of which, be warned that regardless of whether you watch Trainwreck or Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, there’s a lot of infuriating and disturbing content that will make your stomach churn. 

Something in particular that really grossed me out while watching the HBO documentary is how one of the main event organizers directly blames the women for what happened to them at Woodstock 99 and compares the size of the crowd to the rapes that were reported, passing it off as “well, it was only this many” rather than acknowledging that even one is one too many like any normal, empathetic human being would do. 

Make no mistake, a woman walking around naked, with many doing so due to the 100+ degree heat, is not an excuse to sexually assault and violate her. Furthermore, a woman who wants to crowd surf should not be subjected to being groped at and, in some of the accounts that were reported, having her clothes ripped off.

The HBO documentary digs deeper into this and the culture of the late 90s, and serves as a good reminder that while we may be nostalgic for the 90s and early 00s given everything happening in the world today, that time period had its own equally serious problems. 

Woodstock 99 is a shining beacon of an example of everything wrong with the 90s/00s, and whether you’re watching the Netflix or HBO doc, it’s definitely worth brushing up on how awful the event really was if you have the time. That said, if I had to recommend one, HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage is hands down the better pick of the two. 

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