Green Day's muddy set at Woodstock '94 is amazing

4 October 2022, 15:51

Green Day - Paper Lanterns - 8/14/1994 - Woodstock 94 (Official)

Who played Woodstock 94? And how did Green Day end up becoming the muddy heroes of the festival?

The infamous Woodstock '99 - now the subject of an eye-opening Netflix documentary - was not the first attempt to rekindle the spirit of the original festival. No, before that there was Woodstock '94.

The original Woodstock festival in 1969 was a coming together of the counterculture, the youth that demanded changes in civil rights and society at large. "Three Days Of Peace And Music" was the Woodstock motto: as the Vietnam War raged on and conflict spread around the globe, over 400,000 people in New York State proved there was another way.

The audience who were at Woodstock in 1969 grew up and had their own kids. And it was that generation that decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original event with their own celebration: Woodstock 94. Or as the publicity put it: "Two more days of Peace And Music".

But while the festival didn't quite become the defining event of a generation, it did give one band a wider audience and set them on the road to superstardom: Green Day.

The stage at Woodstock '94
The stage at Woodstock '94. Picture: Mark Reinstein / Alamy Stock Photo

Woodstock 94 actually ended up being a three day event: originally set to take place across the weekend of 13 and 14 August 1994, a third day on Friday the 12th was added later on. The festival was held at Winston Farm, west of Saugerties, New York, which over 50 miles away from the site of the original event.

And, because this was 1994, the vibe was less about peace and love and more about alternative rock and moshing. So, who turned up to play Woodstock 94?

  1. Friday 12 August 1994: James, Sheryl Crow, Orbital, The Orb, Violent Femmes, Dee-Lite, Aphex Twin.

    There was a strong British contingent out in force on the first day of Woodstock 94: Mancunians James played the North Stage, while over at the "Ravestock" area, The Orb, Orbital and Aphex Twin unleashed some big tunes. Aphex Twin's set was curtailed early when it was realised that Richard James had signed a fake name on his release form.

    The crowd at Woodstock 94
    The crowd at Woodstock 94. Picture: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

    The weather on the Friday of Woodstock 94 was dry, but this wasn't to last. Another problem was that an estimated 150,000 people showed up without tickets - which was an exact replay of what happened at the original Woodstock. "When you’ve got 100,000-plus people trying to get in, there’s no such thing as a fence," festival co-organiser John Scher told Louder Sound. Luckily, the infrastructure of the loction was strong enough to take the additional fans.

    The crowd at Woodstock 94, August 1994
    The crowd at Woodstock 94, August 1994. Picture: Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo
  2. Saturday 13 August 1994: Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Aerosmith, Cypress Hill, Blind Melon, Joe Cocker, Rollins Band, Salt N Pepa, The Cranberries.

    The Saturday of Woodstock 94 saw the heavens open: storms spread across the festival location by Saturday afternoon. The site quickly became a mud bath.

    Despite heavy rock titans Metallica unloading a mammoth two hour set, the headlines on the Saturday were stolen by Nine Inch Nails as the cameras captured frontman Trent Reznor covered in mud.

    Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole - 8/13/1994 - Woodstock 94 (Official)

    Reznor told MTV that he thought the event would be a "corporate nightmare" but hoped that the money earned from the festival slot would hopefully pay off the band's recent touring costs. As a nervous NIN waited to go on stage, keyboard player James Woolley flicked some mud at his bandmates - and there was a lot of mud to go round by this point. Drummer Chris Vrenna later explained: “It was like the beginning of a food fight. One thing led to another, and the next thing we knew, everyone was covered from head to toe and we were all laughing for the first time of the day.”

    Primus-My Name is Mud @ Woodstock

    Funk metal favourites Primus also found themselves at the receiving end of a mud fight. Unfortunately, one of their songs was title My Name Is Mud, prompting the crowd to chuck the stuff at the stage. "All of a sudden huge chunks of sod started flying my way and it was pretty frightening," vocalist Les Claypool told Billboard twenty years after the event. "I still have those [speaker] cabinets to this day, and those cabinets still have mud in them."

  3. Sunday 14 August 1994: Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Pappers, Peter Gabriel, Porno For Pyros, Spin Doctors, Traffic, Arrested Development, Green Day, Santana.

    Green Day performing at Woodstock 94 on 14 August 1994
    Green Day performing at Woodstock 94 on 14 August 1994. Picture: John Lynn Kirk/Redferns/Getty Images

    Like Nine Inch Nails, Green Day became heroes of Woodstock after the mud began to fly. There to plug their album Dookie, the set began with some good natured jibes at the corporate sponsorship of the event, before things turned messy - literally,

    Someone threw a handful of dirt at the stage, prompting bassist Mike Dirnt to announce with heavy sarcasm: "We suggest that you throw mud, that's fuuuuun." He also took theopportunity to plug Green Day's latest album: "Looks like Dookie from here." However, the barrage didn't let up and by the end of the band's set, the stage, performers and instruments were covered in filth.

    During the final song, Paper Lanterns, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong had put down his guitar and was throwing clods of mud back at the audience in vain. He began running back and forth across the stage, offering the crowd a moving target and then dropped his pants to moon the Woodstock 94 generation.

    Green Day's set ended with the camera crew cowering underneath a plastic sheet to keep their equipment clean, as filthy festival goers tried to invade the stage. A security guard tried to remove one such intruder, only to find he'd tried to throw bassist Dirnt off the platform and wound up bashing one of the musician's teeth out.

    Coverage of the set did wonders for Green Day's profile in the US and put them firmly on the map as one of the top rock bands of the 90s.

    RHCP - Give It Away (Woodstock '94)

    Also performing on Saturday were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, complete with guitarist Dave Navarro, who had recently replaced John Frusciante. The Chilis took the opportunity to play while wearing their infamous light bulb costumes - causing Navarro some embarrassment as he was making a high profile appearance with his new group in front of his old Jane's Addiction bandmate Perry Farrell, who was playing the same day with Porno For Pyros.

    Red Hot Chili Peppers at Woodstick 94, 14 August 1994
    Red Hot Chili Peppers at Woodstick 94, 14 August 1994. Picture: MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    “Perry’s one of the coolest frontmen in rock and he’s about to watch his old guitar player come out dressed like a f**kin’ lightbulb," Navarro later told Louder Sound. "But we only used the costumes for one song, then I got to run around for the rest of the show.”

Peter Gabroel closed the festival on Sunday with a headline set on the North Stage. Highlights from Woodstock 94 were issued later that year as a double album, and in 2019 Green Day reelased their entire, filth-covered set for Record Store Day - the 25th anniversary of the 25th anniversary of Woodstock!