Less than a month from when it was supposed to kick-off, Woodstock 50 was officially canceled by event organizers

By Brianne Tracy
July 31, 2019 04:20 PM
Michael Kovac/Getty; Samir Hussein/Getty; Kevin Mazur/Getty

Woodstock 50 is officially canceled.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the beleaguered music and arts festival would no longer be happening after a series of troubles, including attempts by the festival’s former financier to cancel the event in court in May, set organizers back. The festival was originally scheduled to take place Aug. 16 through Aug. 18, and it was meant to serve as a tribute to the original event that took place in 1969.

“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,” Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang said in a statement.

According to Variety, the organizers had originally signed a contract with Amplifi to host the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in Watkins Glen, New York, from Aug. 16-18, but Amplifi’s parent company and concert financier, Dentsu Aegis Network, attempted to cancel Woodstock 50 in April after logistical issues began to arise. In a statement to Billboard, Dentsu shared fears that the site at Watkins Glen would not be ready to safely accommodate the 100,000 people expected to attend.

Woodstock 50

Judge Barry Ostrager found in May that Dentsu, an advertising and marketing agency based in Japan, and its subsidiary Amplifi, did have a “control option” to assume control over the music festival should the concert organizers fail to show an ability to actually put on the show. However, that control stopped short of “unilateral cancellation power,” meaning they could not cancel the festival entirely.

Though the concert was set to go on as planned in its new location at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, Judge Ostrager declined to order Dentsu to pay back the $17.8 million that Lang alleged had been “siphoned” from the festival’s bank accounts. With Dentsu/Amplifi not forced to return the $17.8 million to Woodstock concert organizers, cash flow issues seemed to pose a major issue for the festival.

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Merriweather Post Pavilion — which is just outside of Washington, D.C. — had agreed to host the festival if the bands came to play. Woodstock 50 was planning to create a free benefit concert to raise awareness and funding for get-out-the-vote non-profit HeadCount and select organizations that combat global warming.

“When we lost the Glen and then Vernon Downs [a venue in Vernon, New York] we looked for a way to do some good rather than just cancel,” Lang said in his statement. “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 D.C .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,” he continued. “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.”

Michael Lang; Woodstock 50 poster
Evan Agostini/REX

Artists originally slated to headline Woodstock 50 included Miley CyrusJAY-Z, the Killers, the Black Keys and Chance the Rapper, as well as Woodstock ’69 veterans Santana and Grateful Dead offshoot Dead & Company featuring John Mayer.

Greg Peck, principal of Woodstock 50, added in a statement: “The unfortunate dispute with our financial partner and the resulting legal proceedings set us off course at a critical juncture, throwing a wrench in our plans and forcing us to find an alternate venue to Watkins Glen. The timing meant we had few choices where our artists would be able to perform. We worked hard to find a way to produce a proper tribute — and some great artists came aboard over the last week to support Woodstock 50 — but time simply ran short. We are greatly disappointed and thank all of our supporters, including the team at Merriweather Post Pavilion and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. Woodstock’s values of peace and tolerance are more important today than ever for all of us to stand for and we look to the future for ways to honor and celebrate these ideals.”

RELATED: Woodstock 50: Everything to Know About the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Legendary Festival

Though they were able to eliminate the venue challenges Woodstock 50 faced “quickly,” Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. (which owns the Merriweather Post Pavilion), said they were “just too late to the game.”

“Hopefully, with plenty of time to prepare, Merriweather will become the site of a future festival that captures the original vibe,” he said. “A lot of people clearly wanted it to happen.”

Said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball: “I share in the disappointment of everyone who hoped to celebrate the anniversary of ‘Peace & Music’ with a festival this summer. While Woodstock 50 will not be coming to Howard County, we continue to offer tremendous cultural events at Merriweather Post Pavilion and beyond.”

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