In a statement released on Wednesday, Woodstock Music & Arts co-founder Michael Lang said:
“We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on a Festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating. When we lost the Glen and then Vernon Downs we looked for a way to do some good rather than just cancel. 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 DC 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. 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,” Lang added.
“The unfortunate dispute with our financial partner and the resulting legal proceedings set us off course for six weeks 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,” added Greg Peck, principal of Woodstock 50
Woodstock, which had originally been planned to take place as a major three-day music festival in Watkins Glen, New York from August 16-18, almost immediately faced obstacles, including a high profile legal battle with its primary financial partner Aegis Dentsu Live, after the Japanese marketing firm sought to cut ties with the fest.
As well, Woodstock faced permitting issues, after announcing its onsale date, an apparently fully booked artist lineup, and plans for ticket sales before securing mass gathering permits from the State of New York.
Organizers for Woodstock sued Dentsu after the company unilaterally announced that the festival had been canceled and withdrew more than $18m in financing from the festival’s account. While Woodstock organizers were able to successfully argue that the festival could proceed, they were unable to secure a return of Dentsu’s investment.
Woodstock also faced challenges in securing a venue. After its original location at Watkins Glen fell through, organizers attempted to relocate the festival to Vernon Downs, a harness race track in rural upstate New York, and in order to avoid the mass gathering permit from the state required for multi-day camping festivals, announced that the event would not offer camping.
Last week, festival organizers revealed their Hail Mary play for the festival with a relocation to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbus, Maryland. While the venue was much smaller than had been initially planned for the event, festival organizers appear to have been hoping to salvage something from the festival by staging a one-day free event that would benefit several social advocacy organizations.
“While we were able to quickly eliminate the venue portion of the challenge to present Woodstock, it was just too late in the game,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., owner of the 9:30 Club and The Anthem and operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Lincoln Theatre. “Hopefully, with plenty of time to prepare, Merriweather will become the site of a future festival that captures the original vibe. A lot of people clearly wanted it to happen.”