Movies | July 23, 2021 12:42 pm

In a New Documentary, A Festival Organizer for Woodstock ’99 Blames Women for Their Assaults

"I am critical of the hundreds of women that were walking around with no clothes on, and expecting not to be touched," said John Scher

An image of burning stage or lighting rig from Woodstock 99, as shown on a new HBO documentary
The end result of Woodstock '99? Fires, assaults and a lot of finger pointing in the wrong directions.
Photograph courtesy of HBO

I wasn’t at Woodstock ’99, but I saw some of the destruction on TV. It was a shit show — fires, unbearable heat, waves of toxic masculinity — which unfortunately overshadowed some pretty good performances (yes, even by Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Seriously. YouTube ’em).

But there were also sexual assaults at the 1999 event, which took place, for some reason, on an asphalt Air Force base in the middle of summer and was musically populated by bro-centric hard rock and nu-metal groups who certainly didn’t reflect the peace and love of the original concert, or even the playful antics (see: Green Day) of the ’94 version.

In Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, a new documentary on HBO, festival producer John Scher offers an absolutely awful on-camera assessment of the assaults that took place at the show, as noted by Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone.

Woodstock creator and promoter Michael Lang and John Scher are shown on stage at Woodstock 99 in Rome, New York on July 24, 1999.
Woodstock creator and promoter Michael Lang (center) and John Scher (right) on stage at Woodstock 99 in Rome, New York on July 24, 1999.
Getty Images/John Atashian

“There’s no question that a few incidents took place,” says Scher. “But if you go back in the records of the police and state police and stuff, we’re not talking about 100. Or even 50. We’re talking about 10. I am critical of the hundreds of women that were walking around with no clothes on, and expecting not to be touched. They shouldn’t have been touched, and I condemn it. But you know, I think that women that were running around naked, you know, are at least partially to blame for that.”

So, to sum up Scher’s argument, his poorly organized music fest — where there was no shade and water was four dollars a bottle — was inundated with reports of sexual assault, but it’s the fault of women and their wardrobe choices. He also blames MTV’s coverage for “setting the tone.”

Oof. Sheffield, who covered the fest as it happened in 1999, sums up the nightmare experience more accurately (and even acquits Fred Durst along the way).

“The doc has way too much tired finger-pointing from media folks, on a festival none of them actually attended, discussing music none of them seem to care about,” he writes. “It’s far more effective interviewing real fans and witnesses, especially a candid EMT who recalls, ‘I worked Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and Hurricane Sandy. But whenever people ask me about Woodstock ’99, I always say it was the greatest disaster I ever went to.’ Woodstock ’99, Humanity 0.”

Or as one ’99 fest-goer aptly put it (as seen in the doc’s trailer): “There are a lot stupid humans around here.”