Woodstock ’94 sometimes gets lost in pack. It obviously didn’t — and could never have — carried as much weight as the original, which in 1969 blazed a trail for modern music festivals and left us with a wealth of unforgettable performances. Nor did it digress into the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic hellhole that Woodstock ’99 did. In some ways, 20 years later, Woodstock ’94 — which took place on August 13th and 14th — seems like an afterthought. But, when you dig into it deeper, it hit the sweet spot between the classic-rockers/folk-revivalists/returning-veterans and the names that were then at the forefront of popular music. They even got Bob Dylan, who turned down a spot at Woodstock ’69, to perform. In honor of the middle brother Woodstock’s 20th birthday, we decided to remember five great performances that are worth revisiting/discovering, and are readily available in their entirety.
5. The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band has had a long, hard road — most notably due to its leader and one of the greatest guitarists of all time dying at the age of 24 in 1971 — but the band always seemed to be able to pick up the pieces and press on. Woodstock ’94 was five years after group decided to reunite. In ’89, it brought in guitar prodigy Warren Haynes to exchange lead licks with founding member Dickey Betts. By the time they got to Woodstock ’94 they were clicking at face-melting levels. And Greg Allman’s gritty growl and Betts’ urgent country croon still sounded unbreakable.
The self-titled “Black Album” is always going to be a touchy subject when talking about Metallica. It smoothed out the group’s sound and made it bigger than it had ever been, which pissed off longtime fans. It also marked Metallica’s fall from studio glory. Three years after the release of the “Black Album”, the band was still touring on it and one thing’s for sure: love or hate that record, it was still killing it live.
3. Joe Cocker
The guy’s voice just seems unstoppable. A veteran of the original 1969 Woodstock, Cocker’s vocals 25 years later were probably stronger than the performers half his age that played before and after him that weekend. The Band, Santana, Crosby, Stills and Nash — all of whom I actually like and listen to more than Cocker — were among the other musicians who played both the original and ’94, but the electricity of Cocker’s performance is so captivating that it trumps all the others.
2. Green Day
“What is this free-hippie-love shit? How are you doing, all you rich mother fuckers?” This statement, which he said right before his band started its set, earns Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt the award for most-clever smart ass. (And also the award for making me spit beer on my computer in laughter, since, prior to writing this, I forgot he said it.) Nineteen ninety-four was the year for Green Day. It released Dookie. It broke into the mainstream. It was in prime form live. And its members got into a literal mud-slinging competition with the crowd at Woodstock ’94.
1. Nine Inch Nails
“On the way to the stage there was a little accident”, Trent Reznor told MTV backstage after the show. “It turned into kind of a mud wrestling thing that escalated into a full-scale mud riot…I accidentally tripped Danny [Lohner] and pushed his face into the mud. And then he retaliated by body-slamming me.” Then, you know, they played for an hour and a half, covered in mud. It’s an adrenaline-fueled, barbaric, and somehow still brilliantly focused performance. It was perfect.