RHCP's Anthony Kiedis Has a Very Different Account of What Happened at Woodstock '99
Netflix's documentary 'Trainwreck' is missing a key detail about why the band covered Jimi Hendrix's "Fire"
Published Aug 08, 2022Woodstock '99 is back in the news cycle thanks to Netflix's new docuseries Trainwreck, which chronicles how the infamous festival descended into rioting. One of the key scenes occurs in the third and final episode, when attendees light massive fires as Red Hot Chili Peppers perform their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire."
In the doc, festival organizers place at least some of the blame for the incident on the band — but their account is missing some crucial information, at least according to RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis's version of the story, which can be found in his 2004 autobiography Scar Tissue.
In Trainwreck, former mayor of Rome, NY, Joe Griffo, says, "I then have a conversation backstage with Anthony Kiedis. I said to him, 'We need you to be helpful, to quell the crowd.' But his response was, 'They're not going to listen to me. I don't have anything I can say to add to this.'" Griffo continues, "The first song he played on the encore was a tribute to Jimi Hendrix: 'Fire.'"
The Chili Peppers aren't quoted in the doc, which is missing an important detail from Kiedis's account: that the band played "Fire" on the specific request of Hendrix's sister, after plans for the festival's closing Hendrix tribute were scrapped. (Trainwreck makes no mention of a Hendrix tribute, although it addresses rumours of a secret finale to take place after Chili Peppers.)
Kiedis wrote in Scar Tissue:
Jimi Hendrix's sister came backstage and pleaded with us to do a song by her brother. It seemed that an all-star Hendrix tribute had fallen apart, and she was mortified that Woodstock would forget him. It had been a long time since we played a Hendrix song, so our first inclination was to say no. But she kept telling us how much it would mean to her, so ten minutes before we were to go onstage, we decided to do "Fire."
RHCP had played "Fire" before, and a version was even included on their 1989 album Mother's Milk.
In Scar Tissue, Kiedis added that they played "Fire," "not because there were fires raging, but as a palliative for poor Jimi's sister." He acknowledged that the band were widely criticized for playing "Fire," adding, "I guess it was irresponsible to just show up, play, and leave, without taking a closer look at some of the details surrounding the show." Kiedis makes no mention of Mayor Griffo speaking with him — although a still image from the doc (above) does appear to show the singer in conversion with Griffo.
In Trainwreck, many interview subjects condemn the capitalist greed of the promoters. These sentiments were echoed by Kiedis in Scar Tissue: "It was clear that this situation had nothing to do with Woodstock anymore. It wasn't symbolic of peace and love, but of greed and cashing in. The little dove with the flower in its mouth was saying, 'How much can we overcharge the kids for this T-shirt and get away with it?'"
Read our review of Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 here. The documentary is very similar to — although slightly better than — last year's HBO documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage.