In the late hours of Thursday, July 22, David Derosia bid farewell to his mother, Lorelei Johnson. They embraced while his friends waited in the car. David, known for his responsibility, hard work, and dedication to caring for his mother while battling Lyme disease, left for a journey that would ultimately end in tragedy. This article explores the events surrounding the ill-fated Woodstock ‘99 festival, where David’s life took a tragic turn and the festival itself spiraled into chaos and controversy.
The year was 1999, and Woodstock ‘99 was set to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Woodstock Festival of 1969. Initially intended to be a peaceful and love-filled event, it transformed into a spectacle of rioting and violence that left a lasting impact on the festival’s legacy.
David documented his experiences in a journal, detailing the chaotic scenes of naked and intoxicated attendees, failed attempts at rest due to the constant noise, and the challenging conditions within the camping area. The festival site, located at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, was already in disarray due to high temperatures and humidity, reaching 38 degrees Celsius.
David’s journal entries express his excitement about upcoming performances, particularly Metallica. However, on the evening of July 24, while Metallica played on stage, David collapsed. Medical personnel struggled to provide adequate care due to his restless state. His heart rate soared to 180 beats per minute, and he was eventually airlifted to the University Hospital. Unfortunately, David succumbed to hyperthermia on Monday, July 26, 1999.
In the aftermath, Lorelei Johnson, David’s mother, filed a lawsuit against concert promoters and doctors, alleging negligence in providing adequate water and medical care. This legal battle continues to this day, leaving David’s mother devastated by the loss of her son. Unfortunately, David was not the only casualty of Woodstock ‘99. Tara Weaver died in a hit-and-run incident, and a 44-year-old man suffered a fatal heart attack at the campground.
Woodstock ‘99, intended as a commemoration, became a stark contrast to the peaceful and loving atmosphere of the original Woodstock. The festival faced numerous shortcomings, including a lack of shaded areas, poor water and sanitation facilities, and exorbitant prices for food and beverages. The aggressive and violent performances by some artists, combined with the rowdy behavior of attendees, led to a festival atmosphere that was far from the intended celebration of music and peace.
The breaking point occurred during Limp Bizkit’s performance on July 24. Fred Durst’s provocative behavior, combined with an unruly crowd, resulted in violence, destruction of property, and chaos. The situation worsened during the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ performance on July 25, culminating in a massive fire that destroyed stages and tents.
Woodstock ‘99 ended in turmoil, with attendees expressing their dissatisfaction with the uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions. The promised surprise at the end, a screening of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock ‘69 performance, further angered the already frustrated crowd. The ensuing riots and looting prompted a response from the state police, resulting in numerous arrests and injuries.
Woodstock ‘99 stands as a stark reminder of how a festival designed to celebrate music and unity can devolve into chaos and tragedy. David Derosia’s untimely death, along with the other unfortunate incidents, serves as a somber chapter in the history of music festivals, prompting reflections on the need for better organization, security, and respect for the original spirit of Woodstock.