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Second Guessing, Second Look

The promoters of Woodstock '99 should have anticipated problems when the festival's more aggressive lineup played before such a big crowd, according to a musician who headlined one all-night rave.

The most popular musicians at the event - Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and Rage Against the Machine - specialize in a particularly combative mixture of hard rock and rap, said the techno artist Moby.

"You don't have a rock festival based on peace and love and invite Kid Rock and Insane Clown Posse," he said. "It's just foolishness. Look at the people who go to their shows regularly - macho idiots. So, of course those same macho idiots are going to show up at your rock festival and cause trouble."

Woodstock '99 ended in an ugly orgy of violence, with tractor-trailers set ablaze, vendor stands overrun and authorities pelted with bottles. At least six victims of rape and sexual assault have come forward, and more are anticipated.

Meanwhile, the New York State Police have posted photos on the Internet, hoping to catch vandals and thieves at Woodstock '99. The troopers are seeking identification and additional photos.

One of the photos at the NYS Police website.
"People came from all over the country and are scattered to the four corners," Capt. John Wood, head of the investigation, told USA Today.

There's some controversy about the use of the photos, however. Several are credited to the Associated Press. An AP spokesman says it did not authorize their use and will demand their removal.

Organizers say detractors shouldn't forget that many fans enjoyed themselves, and that the riot happened after most had left. But they're second-guessing everything from security arrangements to the music lineup to figure out what went wrong.

"If we can't figure out a way to deal with the things that went wrong, then I don't think there could be another one," said John Scher, a promoter of last weekend's three-day music festival that drew 225,000 people to Rome, N.Y.

Woodstock needed a wide cross-section of artists to draw such a large crowd, Scher said. In retrospect, however, he's second-guessing his decision to have Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and the heavy metal band Metallica play in succession Saturday night.

"I didn't take into account what a frenzy the audience could have been in by putting these three acts together," he said. At one point, the crowd was so edgy that Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst needed to calm things down - but a panicked engineer had cut off the public address system, he said.

State Police Superintendent James McMahon said police did not move i faster because reinforcements were needed to replace the officers who were outside the festival directing traffic.

"We didn't initially see that there was any physical danger to concertgoers inside," McMahon said. "When you are going in to a violent situation, you want to go in with sufficient numbers to ensure everyone's safety."

Scher would not comment on whether a quicker response could have prevented trouble. "Certainly, it was nearing getting out of control while they were mobilizing, but I don't know what you could have done about it," he said.

Woodstock's internal, unarmed, security force of 1,250 people was not trained to deal with situations this serious, Scher said. Promoters were reluctant to have a large police presence on the grounds during the show.

"There unquestionably was an element of the audience, a very small element, that was impossible or nearly impossible to control ... by traditional musical security means," he said. "No one wants to be doing rock 'n' roll shows in an armed camp."

Woodstock promoters plan to look back to see what could have been done better, including providing for mosh pit safety. Scher said videotapes of the performance will be turned over to police investigating rape charges. Organizers also have the names and addresses of about 80 percent of the audience on file and will give them to police.

Wood expects the Internet photos to lead to arrests. He cites success by East Lansing, Mich., police after a riot at a March 27 Michigan State University basketball game.

Scher noted that the original Woodstock in 1969 was considered chaotic in its immediate aftermath, but time has softened the memories.

He hopes the good moments of Woodstock '99 aren't forgotten.

"In society right now there are some bad people, no question about it," he said. "And some of them were at Woodstock. But there were some good kids there, too."

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