Woodstock 1999. The festival that went one to be more infamous for stupidity and all the other crap that went on during those 3 days than most of the performances. The lineup featured the biggest bands in the world at the time like Metallica, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine, and so many more. This was definitely not the Woodstock of 1969. There are many bands performances that I could feature and I likely will one day but, I’d like to focus on one that never gets the acclaim it should. Before the band I’m about to discuss would take the stage, Korn was on before and they absolutely stole the night and show! I really do recommend you watching their Woodstock 99 set. It’s that damn good. The band I’m talking about though is Bush and their performance that closed out the night. Having to go on after Korn is never an easy task. To this day, that band brings it every single time. Plus whoever made the lineup for that day must not have been thinking right. It really made no sense to have Bush on after Korn but, the end result was definitely one of those that saved the day (to an extent).
Bush at the time of Woodstock 99 was one of the biggest bands in the US. Their first album Sixteen Stone had sold millions of copies and so many of the songs on there became radio staples, even to this very day. Their second album, Razorblade Suitcase had debuted at number one and saw the band go even higher into the stratosphere. Bush was also about to release their anticipated third album, The Science Of Things (which is actually a pretty good album and I often think it gets overlooked). So the idea of them headlining did make sense on paper. And when you watch and listen to Bush’s set, you get the feeling that one they had to really step up their game after what Korn just did and two, the band understood what the original idea of the festival was all about. Gavin’s stage banter even hints at it many times. Throughout Bush’s 90 minute set they blazed through the hits as well as some really good deep cuts and a couple covers. Now, Bush is not a metal band or even one of the heaviest bands on the bill but, they delivered a set that was straight up rocking and one that they could walk off the stage and look back on proudly. Bush have always been a solid live band and to this day they still are. In fact their last two albums, The Kingdom and The Art Of Survival are some of the best complete work they’ve done since Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase. Take a moment and watch and listen to this very memorable performance and one that essentially saved night 1 of Woodstock 99.
Bush- Live at Woodstock 1999 (note: whoever was doing sound for their set, messed up bad on the first song):
On the unsung masterpiece that is Razorblade Suitcase by Bush, there was one single released that had a video that was absolutely badass. The song and video I’m talking about is “Greedy Fly.” The song was the second single from the album and the accompanying video really inhabited the song. The video was directed by Marcus Nispel, who directed videos for bands like Faith No More and No Doubt. The video has this sort of Seven meets The Crow vibe. In fact the video was shot in one of the same buildings in Downtown Los Angeles as Seven was. The videos dark and eerie cinematography is the perfect mood setter for the song. Plus this song just rocks.
After the success of Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase, Bush started to mess around with their style. In late 1997, they released a remix album called Deconstructed. While it was a departure and it angered many fans, there were a few tracks on it that were pretty cool. One such was the reworking of “Mouth” which you might recognize from the movie An American Werewolf In Paris. The video for the song featured Julie Delpy who also appeared in the movie.
Bush- Mouth (The Stingray Mix) From Deconstructed:
This November will be twenty years since Bush released their very underrated and unsung masterpiece Razorblade Suitcase. I can actually remember getting this album. My mom and dad had bought it for me. I came home from school and in my room was a copy of Razorblade Suitcase along with a note that said do your homework, but listen and enjoy the album. I remember putting the album on and letting it play from start to finish and thinking to myself that this is absolutely great. It was different from Sixteen Stone in a good way. There was so much more to this album in regards of depth and feeling. The album title itself, I thought was a really cool name, meant to Gavin Rossdale as a way to describe emotional baggage. What a crazy yet interesting way to describe it. Also during this time the band kept getting knocked in the press for supposedly being too much like Nirvana. This is something that I’ve never thought was true. Sure they had an album recorded by Steve Albini, and played a similar style of loud guitars and booming drums, but Gavin and Kurt were completely on the opposite sides of things.
The album is one of my favorites of all time. From the beginning growl of Gavin’s dog on “Personal Holloway,” to the dissonance of closing song “Distant Voices” and everything in between, Razorblade Suitcase was the perfect way to follow up Sixteen Stone. Lead single “Swallowed” was impactful and gritty yet full of sweet melody. Other wonderful songs like “Greedy Fly,” “Insect Kin,” “Cold Contagious,” “Bone Driven,” and “History” were absolute stand outs. Other tracks like “A Tendency To Start Fires,” “Synapse,” “Mouth,” and “Straight No Chaser,” offered something for every type of fan of the band. From the heavier tracks to the more delicate.
While Bush isn’t the most original band in the world, they are still part of the legacy of the 90’s that shouldn’t be ignored. Put the Nirvana comparisons aside and just listen and you’ll come away with an album that is deep and vulnerable. The playing and songwriting on this record is exceptional as well. Taking away the the polish of Sixteen Stone, Steve Albini put Bush in their natural element to really get at the true nature of the band. Gavin’s voice really shines on this album too. Razorblade Suitcase is often overlooked by many, but it’s not one that should be. Twenty years later this album still holds up if not better than when it first came out.