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Venue Issues, Scheduling Conflicts and More
With a few pretty glaring exceptions—Greta Van Fleet and Imagine Dragons, in particular—the Woodstock 50 lineup looked shockingly good when it was first announced earlier this year. Artists like The Raconteurs, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Run the Jewels, Jay-Z, Brandi Carlile, Janelle Monae, Earl Sweatshirt, Boygenius, and others were excellent picks to pay tribute to the original festival and its famed performances from Janis Joplin, The Who, Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. But, like any Imagine Dragons song, things got very bad very fast. And now, after months of difficulties, Woodstock 50 is officially dead, according to Variety.
Most recently, the festival was supposed to take place at Marriweather Post Pavilion outside of Baltimore, Maryland from August 16 to 18.
Michael Lang, co-founder of the original Woodstock and the defacto face of this iteration, first announced the anniversary event (then taking place in Watkins Glen, New York) in January via an interview with Rolling Stone. But they soon blew through the proposed date for a lineup announcement, and several weeks later, reports had surfaced that many of the artists they’d contracted with were still awaiting payment. The lineup finally came, but the good news barely lasted. Soon after a report came out that Lang had failed to file the proper paperwork for a mass-gathering permit. The Black Keys would drop out shortly after—in advance of love ticketing—citing scheduling conflicts.
What followed was a hunt for a new venue as more artists fled the floundering festival. Finally, the official cancellation came, with representatives saying in a statement, “a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on a festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating.”
Issues and all, Woodstock 50 could have been a worthy tribute to the original festival. After all, Woodstock ’69 was a beautiful disaster.
As Michael Lang, co-founder of Woodstock, said in a statement to Variety:
We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the Festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating. When we lost the Glen and then Vernon Downs we looked for a way to do some good rather than just cancel. We formed a collaboration with HeadCount to do a smaller event at the Merriweather Pavilion to raise funds for them to get out the vote and for certain NGOs involved in fighting climate change. We released all the talent so any involvement on their part would be voluntary. Due to conflicting radius issues in the DC area many acts were unable to participate and others passed for their own reasons. I would like to encourage artists and agents, who all have been fully paid, to donate 10% of their fees to HeadCount or causes of their choice in the spirit of peace. Woodstock remains committed to social change and will continue to be active in support of HeadCount’s critical mission to get out the vote before the next election. We thank the artists, fans and partners who stood by us even in the face of adversity. My thoughts turn to Bethel and its celebration of our 50th Anniversary to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity, and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock.
And, to be fair, something like Woodstock isn’t entirely possible in 2019. A massive, unorganized—yet legendary—mess isn’t feasible in our modern world. Maybe it’s for the best, anyway, that Woodstock remains a perfect moment in music history, never to be repeated again.
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.