The tale of Woodstock 50 has gone from exciting to pathetic over the last few months. But for all the losses of financial backing and endless series of permit rejections, you have to give it to co-founder Michael Lang and his team for their blind belief that they can still make something happen. Amazingly, with barely three weeks left before the festival is supposed to take place, they’re making yet another last-ditch effort to hold some sort event: move it to Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.
According to The New York Times, Merriweather Post Pavilion has agreed in principle to hold Woodstock 50 on August 16th-18th. However, that’s all contingent on festival organizers actually being able to get artists willing to perform.
Not long after the news broke, Pollstar called up Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P., the concert promoter that operates the amphitheater. Hurwitz confirmed that there is a contract in place, but it will only go through “if they have a show to present along with a few details. If they have a real show than we have a real venue.”
Having “a real show” requires putting together a whole new lineup. Although the likes of Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Dead and Company, Chance the Rapper, John Fogerty, and more were part of the initial bill, none of them have been confirmed for this new version of the event. Artists’ contracts were for a concert at Watkins Glen, and while many have already been paid, they may not be required to perform at a different location. Woodstock spent a reported $32 million on its first lineup, and it’s unknown how much more they can afford.
What’s more, Merriweather already has a show scheduled for August 17th, with Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Boards set to bring their joint tour to the venue. “Yeah, we do have a show in there,” said Hurwitz, “and we need to talk to them about maybe being involved or maybe we wouldn’t do [the festival] on that day.”
Hurwitz added that the shape of Woodstock 50 could depend on “how many bands they have, maybe it will end up one day or maybe it will end up being three days, who knows? Let’s see who they tell me is playing. That’s what I’m waiting for at this point.”
If Woodstock 50 does end up going down at Merriweather, it will be a much different event than initially planned. Located 20 miles outside Baltimore, Merriweather Post Pavilion is considerably smaller than the first proposed site in Watkins Glen, New York. It can hold 32,500 concertgoers on Saturday and Sunday, but since it’s situated in a “functional town that people work and live in,” Friday numbers are typically reduced.
Still, holding Woodstock at the amphitheater has its perks. Merriweather has successfully hosted festivals like Virgin Free Fest and Sweet Life in the past, and two stages are already in place. Permanent parking, food service, and bathroom facilities that are present on site would go a long way to solving some logistical issues. Even better, since it’s a fully operating venue, organizers wouldn’t have to deal with securing permits.
News of the potential Merriweather move comes just three days after a secondary location, Vernon Downs in Vernon, NY, rejected Woodstock’s permit application for a fourth time. Plans to hold the fest at Watkins Glen International raceway fell apart in April, causing former investors Dentsu Aegis Network to pull out.
Three months of drama later and barely three weeks out from the event, it’s astonishing that Woodstock 50 could still be a real thing — albeit in a much different form than originally envisioned. Perhaps it’s serendipity; the 1969 Woodstock was forced from its intended location just four weeks before it began. Lang scrambled to secure a second venue, just as he’s done once more five decades later. Hopefully they can get the logistics in better order this time, if they even have a concert at all.