In the summer of 1994 I had just left my first software developer job after two years as the company was sold. Burned out by 80 hour weeks of working on tax software and nursing a case of carpal tunnel, I took advantage of a deal to stay on and write a data exporter for the new company and walked away with some nice compensation, most of which I sunk into Digital Exchange, a used CD store in Springfield, VA. It had been started the previous year by three of my fraternity brothers from Sigma Phi Epsilon at Randolph Macon College. John (aka Rusty) wanted to get back to the corporate world full time, so I bought him out.
I was a long time fan of music, but I hadn’t gone to a lot of concerts yet. My first show was in 1984, but I’d only seen a couple of shows a year after that. I started getting more into it in 1993, but with my exit from the 9 to 5 world, came a new goal: I would see 100 bands in 1994. I was making good progress by summer, especially going to my first two festivals: HFStival and Lollapalooza. But the announcement of Woodstock ’94 had me salivating: amazing lineups and the connection with the legendary original. By that time I was at the store full time, and my buddy Eric was interested in going as well, so we bought tickets when they went on sale in June. We convinced John to come back that weekend in August and help out Steve, and got on the road Friday morning August the 12th (after seeing Nine Inch Nails at the Patriot Center the night before).
With 250,000 people expected, the festival organizers had us drive to a parking lot to take a shuttle bus to the festival. While things had gone well for us, this is where the problems started as we had at least a four hour wait for an orange bus (and I had my one and only experience with Goldschlager). By the time we actually got to Woodstock ’94, it was dark and Sheryl Crow was playing. We caught some of her set, but it was late and we needed to set up camp. We could see tents all around, so we kept going past the North Stage where she was playing, then the South Stage, still not finding any empty space. We ended up setting up our tent on a hillside past there.
We were woken Saturday morning to light rain starting to fall, but our tent was partly shielded by the trees. We got food and walked over to the North Stage where Joe Cocker kicked things off. He was followed by Blind Melon, Cypress Hill and Rollins Band before we took a break (and missed Melissa Etheridge covering Janis Joplin as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash).
We were back at the South Stage in time to see The Band featuring Hot Tuna, Bruce Hornsby, Roger McGuinn, Rob Wasserman, and Bob Weir (and that turned out to be the one and only time I saw them) as well as Primus before the main event. Sure, we’d seen Nine Inch Nails two days earlier, but they embraced the mud to put on a legendary performance.
Metallica was up next and took on the challenge. As the only act there with pyrotechnics, they had an added fuel to their ferocious show.
Aerosmith was more than willing to top that at their show, which started after midnight. It was epic, and ended with a fireworks display at 3:30am (and one of our neighbors offering me a hit from a Coke Can bong was the perfect last time I had any).
Saturday was epic, but it was a festival that was later nicknamed Mudstock for a reason. It got harder and harder to walk around, the porta potties couldn’t get serviced, and they started to run out of food. Knowing that the later we waited the harder it would be to get back to the car, we only caught Traffic that day before heading for the buses and home (I loved the two bootleg t-shirts I got there to death). Oh, and I hit my goal: 127 bands just in 1994.