Woodstock 50 gets the axe

The event has been canned by Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang two weeks before it was due to start.

Michael Lang Woodstock 50
Image: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Woodstock 50, the massive festival with a star-studded line-up in celebration of the original 1969 event, has officially been cancelled, announced organiser Michael Lang. This follows a slew of financial and logistical setbacks, including a court battle with main investor Dentsu Aegis, venue changes and artist dropouts.

Timeline of events

Originally announced in January, Woodstock 50 was planned as a half-century celebration of the iconic 1969 festival which featured the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and more.

The three-day fest was supposed to take place in Watkins Glen, New York from 16 to 18 August – the same weekend as the original – with a line-up featuring Jay-Z, the Black Keys, Halsey, Miley Cyrus, among dozens of other prominent acts.

However, the first signs of trouble emerged when tickets did not go on sale as announced on 22 April. Things went further downhill a week later, when the festival’s main investor Dentsu Aegis announced that Woodstock 50 had been cancelled. But Lang, also a co-creator of the original 1969 festival, rebutted this announcement in an open letter, saying it wasn’t up to Dentsu Aegis to cancel the festival. He also alleged that the financier had “illegally swept” nearly $18 million out of a festival bank account.

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A legal battle then ensued, with the festival filing paperwork in New York’s Supreme Court in a bid to get Dentsu Aegis to cooperate. At the end of this saga, the judge ruled that Dentsu Aegis could not legally cancel the event, but it could keep its money. Lang’s team then struck a deal with new financial partner Oppenheimer & Co., and said the show would go on.

But things took another turn for the worst when Watkins Glen International announced the cancellation of their contract, forcing organisers to look for another venue. A month later, Vernon Downs Casino And Hotel was revealed as a possible alternative, but this was met with resistance from the locals of Vernon, New York. Woodstock 50’s permit applications to hold the festival there were repeatedly denied.

Without a venue but still determined to see the festival through, organisers last week looked out of state – to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland – as a Hail Mary. By Tuesday, they had yet to file the necessary permits with Maryland officials, and many of the show’s headliners had pulled out, including Dead and Co., John Fogerty, and the Raconteurs.

Early on Wednesday, Lang and his team decided it was time to pull the plug on the event. “I’m disappointed,” Lang told Rolling Stone hours after the announcement. “But I’ve been sort of prepared.”

He spoke at length about the entire ordeal, and when asked about takeaways, he brought up relationships with investors: “The major one, frankly, is if you have an investor that’s just going to be an investor and stay out of your way, then fine. But if not, you really should be in business with some people who are of the business.”

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