It looked like it had such a bright future. It had nostalgic promise. It was the perpetual gift which kept on giving. It had the ability to set trends, move the masses, and rev up a local economy like no other. It had tethered ties with history, adorned with culture.
But yesterday it died a horrible death after suffering an extended illness. And worse the obituary is still being crafted; yet no one seems to know exactly what to say. It should be fitting for long eulogies and touching epitaphs. Somehow I think people would not want mourning to replace the joy and whimsy it brought to some people.
What in the world am I talking about? Of course I mean the day that Woodstock 50 died. I am sure the earth is still quaking across the country. Is that over dramatic, you think?
Nah, not really. In fact, it probably is not emotional enough for some who were so looking forward to, once again, pulling a rabbit from a hat and exceeding expectations with a flowing theme of the people. (or that is the way it would have been portrayed)
Instead, there was a note of bitterness in this death. That as much change as has happened over years, they just could not meet or exceed expectations set 50 years ago this August.
It all goes back to the original promoter, Michael Lang, who managed to pull off the original event and a few since. But this one was to be the big one remembered for more years to come, in a theme reminiscent of the original but with a defiant we can do it again purpose. And Michael Lang was again going to be the notable promoter who, against all odds, managed to pull it all together. Or so the narrative was written anyway.
It was to be a remembered time in Watkins Glen, NY at first. The downfall was a chain of events from permitting and financing troubles that plagued it almost from day one. Meanwhile, the ever-persistent Michael Lang kept promising that the show would still go on, hearkening comparisons back to the original garden venue.
Well the story line and events did not line up like a moon shot. The earth did not pause in slow motion gratuity to allow it to happen. Some things in the end were just not meant to happen. Turns out that replication of some events can be almost impossible.
At the last minute, they were moving it to a Maryland venue. Well, that seemed like it would solve its major location hurdles until even that fell through. Some pre-scheduled artists, who were also left hanging during all the failing plans, decided if it were in Maryland instead of NY, they were out.
But before this lonely death on July 31, 2019, it was a weekly roller coaster of ups and downs, ins and outs and cancellations. Also plagued by a cadre of nagging safety and security concerns. Maybe organizers were hoping that the long odds would come through? Maybe as much publicity stunt as actual event? To charity event and voter registration?
Timeline of the ladder to doom is here on Vulture. Interesting. Latest installment:
Wave the White Flag
July 31, 2019: Pour one out for what almost (never) was. Woodstock 50 officially accepts defeat, announcing in a statement the festival’s cancellation (for good this time). “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,” Michael Lang writes. He confirms that the new plan was to have the festival be a benefit concert for the voter-registration charity HeadCount, but that it all fell apart due to losing the lineup. He continues, “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.” Woodstock 50 is now asking all artists originally booked — who’ve also already been paid — to donate 10 percent of their fees to HeadCount or “causes of their choice in the spirit of peace.”
In an additional statement, festival principal Greg Peck blamed original investor Dentsu Aegis for “throwing a wrench in our plans.” He claims that “some great artists came aboard over the last week to support Woodstock 50 — but time simply ran short.” Merriweather Post Pavilion operator Seth Hurwitz also said, “While we were able to quickly eliminate the venue portion of the challenge to present Woodstock, it was just too late in the game.”
This post has been updated throughout. [More]
No word on the final arrangements.
Could a farewell tribute be some version of “see you in court” played in key of F?
In a related metaphor, was this also a final obituary for Michael Lang’s reputation? Will this lay rest to any future plans for him?
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