Rage in Honolulu
Saturday night was by far, the most anticipated evening of Woodstock '99. With a line-up including Limp Bizkit, Rage, and then Metallica, the people in the mosh pits were getting set for the long haul. After several people were injured during Limp, one of the concert promoters, feeling the tension in the air, begged everyone to "take care of each other" during Rage's set. You could feel the energy mount as thousands of people began pushing their way up front to get as close to Rage as possible. When one of the stage hands fastened a right-side-up American Flag to an amp, hundreds of people in the mosh pit, including myself, began chanting "Fix the Flag!, Fix the Flag!", demanding that the flag be upside down in order to reflect Rage's political views. The flag remained right-side-up. From the moment Zack took the stage, a feeling of energy and passion was unmistakable. Pausing to stare at the 250,000 people eagerly waiting the start of the set, Zack, saying nothing, suddenly breaks into "No Shelter". The crowd exploded like a can of soda under pressure. Mosh pits swirling. Crowd-surfing bodies flying. Fans, still trying to push and shove their way forward, screaming the lyrics. The end of "No Shelter" brought some recovery time for the people in the pit, but it would be short lived. After only a few short seconds of silence, the unmistakable opening notes of "People of the Sun" filled the air, and once again set a stampede of people off. From "No Shelter" to their grand finale, every song they played kept people moving. Even slower tempo songs such as "Ghost of Tom Joad", which let the crowd catch their breath a little, were insane. From Tom coming out with a double necked guitar to the delay on the P.A echoing Zack's scream of, "The highways alive tonight...." into the evening sky, "Tom Joad" sounded great. The end of the song abruptly exploded into the final phrase:
"Wherever somebody's struggling to be free, look in their eyes ma, YOU'LL SEE ME!! YOU'LL SEE ME !! "
You could actually hear thousands of voices, thousands of people just screaming "YOU'LL SEE ME " over and over at the top of their lungs, while Zack knelt down on one knee, whipped his dreads back and forth and did the same. Incredible.
However, everything which I've described up till now was considered tame compared to the performance of "Bulls on Parade." One word: Chaotic! The crowd surfing had become unmanagable at this point, and at one point there were so many bodies hovering over concert goer's hands that packs of three or four surfers actually collided. Bodies flying and spilling along all over the place.
Following Tom's patented "scatch" guitar solo, the final leg of "Bulls on Parade" was complete bedlam. Anarchy. As the guitars and bass pounded on their respective notes and Zack's screaming of "BULLS ON PARADE!!", people in the pit went absolutely nuts. Arms and legs flailing all over the place, some concert goers opted for the pseudo-kung-fu-hardcore-approach, windmilling and creepy-crawling everywhere. Then you had the frat boys that bench 350 lbs that just threw themselves into each other, causing a ripple effect that sent the pit swirling with bodies.
Another highlight was the performance of "Wake Up / Township "... "Wake Up" featured the chanting of "THINK I HEARD A SHOT...."THINK I HEARD A SHOT.." Right after the communal scream of "HOW LONG? NOT LONG..." at the end of Wake Up, Rage busted right into the transition piece of Township Rebellion, complete with a few thousand concert goers whispering, "Shackle the minds as their left on the cross.... When ignorance reigns, live is lost... " That tame whisper proceeded to get louder and louder untill the whole fucking place erupted with a scream of "lost.....*LOST!!!* "
Toward the end of the set, Zack, once again down on one knee, said the only spoken words that we would hear that evening.
"IT'S BEEN TWENTY YEARS!! "
"HE'S STILL IN JAIL!! " he screamed in a furious tone. Then, after a pause, even more angry,
"THERE'S NO PROOF!"
"LEONARD PELTIER IS IN JAIL FOR CRIMES HE DID NOT COMMIT!! "
"THIS SONG GOES OUT TO HIM, IT'S CALLED "FREEDOM!!"
Boom, right into the song. The crowd exploded. It was as if an atomic bomb had been dropped onto the stage area. People screaming the lyrics, dancing all over the place, people getting thrown 15 feet into the air by tarps.
Five seconds after finishing the "Freedom" Rage went into "Killing in the Name", which would serve as their last song and also their most controversial and talked about incident at Woodstock.
Toward the end of Killing in the Name. 225,000 people are chanting and yelling "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME" -- getting progessively louder each time.
It was simply unbelievable. You could physically hear thousands of voices screaming the last lines of the song, culminating to the final yell of "MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!" At this point, I had my back turned to the stage for a moment, and when I turned around, I saw that the American flag was on fire! As distortion and feedback pierced the night air, sparks and gusts of smoke flew from the flag before it dropped to the ground a smoldering piece of cloth. The whole ordeal took me completely by surprise.. I loved it. You talk about going out with a bang, I can't think of a finish that could have been more intense. Zack and the rest of band walked off stage, without saying a word. I guess DO actions speak louder than words. The Rage set left me battered and bruised. The whole thing took a physical toll on my 12 friends and I. No matter, seeing Rage live was an experience that I will surely never forget...
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