TV’s Most Surreal Music Performances – Blind Melon at Woodstock ’94
Billed as “Three More Days of Peace, Love + Music,” Woodstock ’94 took all the iconic hippie mythology of the original 1969 festival in upstate New York and wrapped it up in the cynical cultural vibes of Generation X, where commerce overtakes culture as the driving force behind things like, well, gigantic music festivals.
More than 350,000 people descended upon upstate New York over the weekend of Aug. 12-14, 1994, to catch a bill of more than 70 acts, with artists who played the original Woodstock like Joe Cocker, the Band, Santana and Crosby, Stills, and Nash returning to perform alongside contemporary biggies like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Porno for Pyros and more.
Woodstock ’94 certainly had no shortage of memorable moments — Green Day starting a mud fight with fans, Nine Inch Nails caking themselves in mud before going onstage, Primus getting pelted by mud during their performance of ‘My Name Is Mud.’ (Did we mention monsoon-like heavy rains turned the entire 840-acre farm into one large mud pit by day two?) But few sets came anywhere close to the unforgettably bizarre one turned in by Blind Melon and their singer Shannon Hoon in the early afternoon of the second day.
Blind Melon were at the height of their powers in ’94, having scored a massive crossover hit with ‘No Rain’ the year before, propelling their self-titled debut album into the Top 20 of the Billboard chart. The video for ‘No Rain’ and its “Bee Girl” become unavoidable on MTV, and was followed up by high-profile tours with Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses and the Rolling Stones. But Shannon Hoon had been fighting ongoing demons at the time, and rumor has it he left drug rehab just before the band’s Woodstock performance, casting doubt over the likelihood of their appearance at the festival until the last possible minute.
Rumor also has it that Hoon had ingested LSD before hitting the stage at Woodstock, which may help explain his strange appearance and actions during their set. Wearing a long, flowing white dress he borrowed from his girlfriend, with his hair pulled back in colorful barrettes and some mascara smudged around his eyes, Hoon spouted nonsensical stories between songs, had trouble staying in key at points (even when singing ‘No Rain’ in the above video) and even conducted a now-infamous backstage interview (watch below) that left little doubt about his inebriated state.
The original Woodstock was documented after the fact by the legendary ‘Woodstock’ movie, but this time around the revolution was televised, with millions of fans who couldn’t make it to Saugerties, N.Y., in 1994 tuning in at home — not via MTV, but by purchasing pay-per-view rights that started at $34.95 per day and included a $49.95 three-day package.
A bit pricey, sure, but when compared to the $4 bottled water, $11 pizzas and $130 face value for tickets per day, the PPV deal seemed pretty reasonable — especially considering that the colorful Blind Melon set was one of the band’s last. A little more than a year later, Hoon would be found dead on the band’s tour bus in New Orleans, another rock star the victim of a drug overdose well before his time.