The Chili Peppers Fiddle as Rome Burns

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Thirty years ago, America’s angry youth turned three days of "peace, love and music" into an eloquent statement against the Vietnam war. But historians may have a difficult time decoding the message of the rampaging climax to the 30th-anniversary celebration that drew 225,000 people to an old Air Force base at Rome, N.Y. Hundreds of riot police and firefighters battled for more than two hours to subdue an orgy of arson, looting and associated mayhem as Woodstock ’99 wailed to a finish late Sunday.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the concert with a cover version of Jimi Hendrix’s "Fire," hundreds of concertgoers used candles distributed by an anti-gun-violence group to torch a number of vendors’ trucks and set fires on and around the stage. Soon the hooligans in the crowd were looting concession stands and portable ATMs, and trashing speakers and other equipment in what some witnesses described as a reaction to the inflated prices the crowd had endured over three days of peaceful partying. In an action unthinkable back in ’69, organizers then called in the police to secure the area. The reaction of an older generation of Woodstock fans may have been epitomized by one 44-year-old Massachusetts man who died of a heart attack. Then again, they didn’t have to pay $4 for a pretzel back in ’69.