In theory, it makes perfect sense. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the 1969 music festival that took place in a dairy farm outside New York City and revolutionized the concert-going experience forever. It paved the way for annual concert extravaganzas like Coachella and Warped Tour, to only name a couple, and its legacy is celebrated and fondly remembered by many people around the world.
Why not celebrate that legacy? Why not create a music festival of that scope and magnitude for a new generation of music lovers? Well, as many festival runners have learned the hard way, it takes a lot of work to make even a subpar music festival-- let alone a great one. And you most certainly don't make an epic music festival like Woodstock overnight.
Sure enough, nobody wants to be the next Fyre Festival, the antonym to Woodstock's synonym. In the age of social media, if you mess up your festival, you'll have hell to pay. Rather than suffer the humiliation and consequences of a mediocre (or worse) music festival, Woodstock 50 is pulling the brakes on its plans altogether. Today, Woodstock 50 has been officially cancelled.
In a statement published earlier today (via Consequence of Sound), Dentsu Aegis Network, Woodstock 50's primary investor, confirmed the cancellation. They also offered a brief explanation for their swift shutdown. According to Woodstock 50's planners, the forthcoming music festival was not shaping up to be "worthy of the Woodstock brand" and its legacy wouldn't be honored accordingly. Additionally, there were health and safety concerns that would be unsatisfactory —or potentially even dangerous — to ticket-holding concertgoers if they weren't fully accounted for.
While this news may sound surprising to many people, there were apparently rumors suggesting that the writing was on the wall — even from the very beginning. According to inside sources, the festival was reportedly facing financial troubles. The talent on the bill wasn't properly paid, according to their representatives, and the ticket sales were getting postponed.
There were also claims that the festival runners were having trouble securing the proper permits for the land. It definitely sounds like there were many issues in place, and while the festival runners did all they could to get the festival up-and-running, it failed to come together properly. In a last-ditch effort, the folks behind the flailing Woodstock 50 allegedly reached out for multi-million investments from Live Nation and AEG. Both of them declined.
While it's never fun to put the axe on your festival plans, when it comes to major music festivals such as Woodstock 50, you need to play it safe. There would be thousands of people in attendance, and if the talent wasn't completely confirmed and the regulations weren't in place, there are some very serious dangers that could result.
Woodstock '99, for instance, tried to live up to the impact of the first Woodstock and it failed spectacularly. That end-of-the-millennium festival is only remembered for its failures. Nobody remarks upon its successes. Sure enough, especially with two streaming documentaries about the Fyre Festival renewing people's fascination in that monumental blunder of an event, there is even more pressure put upon festival planners to live up to the promise they set forth. Or else they might face not only the ire of the public eye, but legal hassles out the wazoo.
Previously scheduled to take place between August 16th-18th, i.e. exactly 50 years after the inaugural Woodstock, Woodstock 50 was set to feature a multitude of popular artists, including JAY-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and Imagine Dragons, as well as Robert Plant, Santana, David Crosby, John Fogerty and Dead and Company, an offshoot of The Grateful Dead. The much-anticipated event was the brain-child of Michael Lang, one of the original founders of Woodstock 1969. Excitement was clearly high. Alas, if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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