The Scene (#2): Woodstock '94 - The weekend that changed everything!
My first 15 years were all about baseball, but music had started creeping in during my sophomore year of high school. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nine Inch Nails were in heavy rotation at alternative radio and I was hooked. So, I jumped at the chance when some friends asked me to contribute $20 to get Woodstock 94 on pay-per-view.
I heard about the original Woodstock, but really didn’t know too much about it other than it was a gathering of “hippies” that shared in a weekend of peace, love, and music. Likewise, I didn’t know too much about Woodstock 94 other than a couple of the bands that were playing it: Metallica, Aerosmith, and the aforementioned Nine Inch Nails and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Surrounded by all the junk food and soda a teenager could ask for, we took in Friday night and were amazed by what we saw. This was before Warped Tour and weekend long festivals became a permanent fixture on the summer music scene. We had never seen anything like this before; 300,000 people gathered in one spot and having a great time together while they sang-a-long with “Shine” by Collective Soul” and “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes.
We waited with anticipation for each band to take the stage on Saturday: Blind Melon, Rollins Band, Primus, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Aerosmith, and more! There were many cool moments that happened throughout the day, but it wasn’t until the middle of the Rollins Band performance that the skies opened with rain and transformed the festival into what many would dub as “Mudstock.”
We were all exhausted by Sunday afternoon, but then Green Day marched onto the stage.
It’s hard to believe it now, but in August of 1994 the only song that people really knew by Green Day was “Longview.” But for the next 35 minutes, the trio would deliver the performance that took their career to new heights and changed my life’s path completely.
I was engrossed with their snotty attitude’s as they poked fun at the original Woodstock, frequently insulted the crowd, and even made light of the fact that no one really knew who they were when front man Billie Joe Armstrong stated, “this is off one of our record’s that no one has,” before playing “One of My Lies.” However, their on-stage energy and crowd interaction was something like no one, including myself, had seen from any of the other bands all weekend long and the crowd ate it up.
Armstrong asked them to do the wave – they did it.
Armstrong asked the crowd to chant with him – they did it.
The crowd bounced up and down and formed several circle pits when the trio played “Longview,” and continued to be an active part of the show as they pressed forward with “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around” – both were soon to be national radio hits.
It became a free-for-all as Armstrong strummed his guitar and sang the opening verse of “F.O.D.”. Excited concertgoers hopped up on the stage and alluded security as they danced alongside the band, mastered the fine art of stage diving, and one fan even took a moment to throw his arms around Billie Joe and momentarily pull him away from the microphone. And even though the crowd had been hurling mud at the stage throughout their entire performance, as they rolled into their closing song “Paper Lanterns,” the mud fight (the most infamous moment of Woodstock 94) was about to begin. Mud flew towards the band, and Armstrong was happy to hurl it back. This playful mud exchange between Armstrong and the crowd members continued for nearly 10 minutes before the final notes of their set was played.
“What just happened,” I thought to myself. Though I couldn’t comprehend the answer at the time, Green Day had just rocked the foundations of everything I thought I wanted for my life, and all I knew now was that I needed to know more about them, the punk rock scene, and where I could get more of it.
YOUR TURN: Do you have a specific moment that shaped your journey in the same way that Green Day’s Woodstock 94 performance did mine? Tell us about it below!