Fatboy Slim recalls Woodstock ’99 horror: “I did what I was told and ran”

The DJ reflects on the moment a van drove through the crowd during his set at the disastrous event

This story contains discussion and descriptions of sexual assault

Fatboy Slim has recalled the “terrifying” moment a van drove into the audience during his set at Woodstock 1999.

The DJ and producer looked back on the incident during an interview for the three-part Netflix documentary series Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99, which was released yesterday (August 3).

“Woodstock 1969 promised peace and music, but its ’99 revival delivered days of rage, riots and real harm. Why did it go so horribly wrong?” an official listing reads.

As Mixmag notes, the 30th anniversary edition of the event, which had an estimated attendance of 400,000, failed to provide basic facilities such as water, food, toilets or on-site security.

Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) was booked to headline the ‘rave hangar’ on the Saturday night but was unaware of the out-of-control crowd that was heading towards the venue.

“I’d been closeted in my dressing room all afternoon with people just going, ‘Oh it’s a bit chaotic out there’,” Cook remembered. “But no one had told me there’d been any damage – that there’d been any violence.”

The docuseries includes footage of Fatboy Slim taking to the stage and opening with ‘Fucking In Heaven’ before noticing something was wrong.

“I became aware of something that I thought was a kind of floating dance platform, like a podium with about 20-30 people on it, which turned out to be a van,” he continued.

The vehicle had been stolen by a gang and was travelling through the rave hangar crowd towards the stage. “Then I got the tap on the shoulder, and it’s like, ‘We gotta stop the music. The vans gotta go’,” Cook said. “[And I said]: ‘Aw, not tonight’. You know this is Woodstock. It was all going so well.”

Later, an archive clip from the night in question sees Fatboy Slim telling the audience it was “not my fault” that he had to shut down the show. He then recalled how some people began “throwing things” at him.

“That was literally the moment when everything started to look a little less fun,” Cook said.

Stage manager AJ Srybnik remembered how the driver of the van had “glazed” eyes and “really wasn’t present”. It turned out that he was armed with a “rusty machete” and was in the vehicle with “a girl that looked maybe 15 or 16 years old”.

Fatboy Slim
Fatboy Slim. CREDIT: Don Arnold/WireImage

Describing what he saw, Srybnik added: “[She] literally had her shirt over her breasts, and her pants were down her ankles. She was passed out. And there was a guy in the back with her who was putting his shorts back on. I was floored. It just took the life out of me.”

Fatboy Slim said: “That’s just hideous to think that in the midst of all those people having fun and me wanting to make everybody love each other… that that was going on literally under our noses.”

Cook explained that his touring crew were “properly rattled” by what happened: “I could see [it] in their eyes, they weren’t being overdramatic. Shit’s kicking off and it’s kind of not safe.”

The DJ recalled the “adrenaline” he felt after being advised to make a quick exit from the Woodstock site. “I did exactly what I was told and ran,” he said.

You can stream Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 on Netflix now.

Woodstock was set to hold a 50th anniversary festival back in 2019 but after months of controversy, venue changes and artist cancellations, the event was pulled altogether.

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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