Peace, Love, and Martial Law

The latest reincarnation of the legendary Woodstock is being held at a military base, and the troops already have been called in to keep the peace. Have fun, kids.

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In 1969, the 500,000 folks who made their way down to Yasgur’s farm to crash Woodstock found a spontaneous community of fellow travelers who managed three days of harmony and joy free of serious violence, despite rotten weather, a crumbling stage, and some really nasty brown acid.

There will be none of that nonsense at Woodstock ’99.

The three-day concert, at which 40 bands will play for several hundred thousand fans paying $150 each, is being held at a former military base in Rome, New York. Manning the multiple fences and guard towers along the six-mile perimeter of the base will be hundreds New York state troopers, Department of Defense personnel, and North East Air Defense (NEAD) National Guardsmen.

Woodstock ’99 promoters picked the baddest security coordinators they could find, from the toughest American cities with the nastiest police departments. Ken Donohue, a former New York City police chief, and Dan Flynn, former Dade County (Miami) police chief, have been put in charge of maintaining order at the event. They will oversee a total security force of 3,100. Besides patrolling the perimeter, guards will be patrolling the site in search of miscreants in possession of illegal contraband.

The list of items the hundreds of thousands of concert goers (who will be camping, mind you) may not bring to the event includes:

  • Pots and pans, lanterns, stoves or grills
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Illegal drugs or paraphernalia
  • Weapons, firearms
  • Metal objects: knives, axes, hatchets, shovels or tent stakes
  • Glass or metal cans, bottles, containers
  • Fireworks or incendiary devices
  • Hazardous materials, including fuels of any kind
  • Video cameras
  • Tape recorders
  • Umbrellas
  • Air horns
  • Lawn furniture
  • Pets (except for seeing-eye dogs and the like)
  • (Bringing children is not officially illegal, but they are strongly discouraged.)

In hopes of preventing any frivolity before it gets started, event promoters have posted a tough-talking interview with security chief Donahue on their official Web site. Here is an excerpt:

Q: What’s the deal with all this talk about gatecrashing?

A: It’s not going to happen and anyone who thinks they can get into Woodstock without a ticket is in for a very rude awakening.”

Q: Well, a lot of people out there seem to think they’re going to get in without a ticket.

A: “Well, a lot of people are wrong.”

Q: You sound pretty confident.

A: “I am.”

Q: Why?

A: “People seem to think that this concert site is just some big field, but this is not ’94 or ’69. We’re talking about a former military base. This place was built to be defended against a full military attack. I think it can keep out a few attempts at gatecrashing.”

Q: O.K., what will happen if someone does try to jump the fences?

A: “Well, after I kick their ass … (laughs) actually, we’ll catch them and they’ll be arrested and charged with trespassing. We have a holding cell on site that can detain over 200 people and we’ll have district attorneys and judges on-site 24 hours a day to process any charges. Not to mention, parts of the site are federal property — which means you run the risk of federal prosecution if you try to sneak in. I don’t know about you, but $150.00 is a bargain to see over 40 bands — I can’t even imagine who would risk going to jail to save a few bucks.”

Was that a gauntlet I just heard drop? While Woodstock has somehow morphed from hippie love-fest into a prison-camp, perhaps the only thing that hasn’t changed in the past 30 years is that there are still a lot of young people out there willing to do just about anything to see a free concert.

Donahue concluded the interview with this touching insight: “We want to protect the ticket-holders and make sure they aren’t cheated out of their investment, and we want to make sure that everyone has the most fun possible.”


Stay tuned to the MoJo Wire for up-to-the minute news and strangeness from inside the razor-wire fences of Woodstock ’99 July 23-25.


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