Promoter Michael Lang Announces ‘Woodstock 50’

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Famed Woodstock organizer Michael Lang has announced Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, New York on August 16th, 17th and 18th with a bill to feature over 40 acts. The festival’s lineup will be announced prior to tickets going on sale next month, but Lang promised to Rolling Stone, “It’ll be an eclectic bill. It’ll be hip-hop and rock and some pop and some of the legacy bands from the original festival.” When pressed as to whether the now estranged stars of the 1969 festival, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young will appear, Lang admitted, “I’ve talked to them all individually and it’s a mess.”

Lang has chosen to throw the festival at the legendary racetrack and spot of the July 28th, 1973 Summer Jam At Watkins Glen featuring the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, and the Band — along with a crowd of an estimated 600,000 people. He explained why the venue was chosen this time around: “I was desperate to keep it in New York. I looked everywhere because I needed 1,000 acres of clear land with access and infrastructure. Frankly, we weren’t finding it. We had talked about Watkins Glen over the years and I decided on a whim to look at it since having it at a racetrack didn’t appeal to me. But when I looked, I knew it was the perfect facility for what we had in mind. It was reminiscent to me of finding Max (Yasgur’s) field.”

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts will be throwing its own 50th anniversary celebration, and sits on the land where the 1969 festival was held. Lang explained why it was immediately deemed unsuitable for Woodstock 50’s needs: “They’re good stewards of the original site and they built a beautiful performing arts pavilion. But it’s a 15,000-seat shed. That’s not a Woodstock.”

Lang explained that he wants to incorporate the best of all three festivals, which were held in 1969, 1994, and 1999: “I want it to be multi-generational. Woodstock ’94 was a nice mix of young and old and that’s kind of what we’re going for here. . . Woodstock, in its original incarnation, was really about social change and activism. And that’s a model that we’re bringing back to this festival. It’s a gathering for fun and for excitement and for experiences and to create community, but it’s also about instilling kind of an energy back into young people to make their voices heard, make their votes heard.”

Lang said the entire event will be live-streamed with newer bands staging “celebrations of artists from the original Woodstock” that will probably include songs by such iconic ’69 performers as Janis Joplin, the Band, Jefferson Airplane, and Joe Cocker, among others: “Having contemporary artists interpret that music would be a really interesting and exciting idea. We’re also looking for unique collaborations, maybe some reunions and a lot of new and up-and-coming talent.”

Lang shed light on how the actual site will be far more comfortable this time around for fans attending the festivities: “There will be ‘glamping’ tents and stuff like that. There will be those types of experiences in various forms where there’s a real bed, and there’s a chair to sit in and a light bulb. There will also be easier access to portable toilets. There’s a new dimension in portable toilets now. They are clean and airy and sizable. They also don’t get pumped during the event, so you don’t have these wagons running around smelling everywhere. And then the end product is fertilizer.”

When asked about the issues that plagued Woodstock ’99, Lang took some responsibility, admitting, “I shouldn’t have left the booking to others. And the water situation was ridiculous. As soon as I saw that, I tried to get everyone to lower the prices and I couldn’t. I did order tractor-trailers of water and put them out for free. I do think a lot of people had a good time, but the fires at the end became the imagery of it. It was just about 200 kids who went on a rampage. They exploded some of the cooling systems in the tractor trailers and just wreaked havoc.”

He went on to say, “Woodstock ’99 was just a musical experience with no social significance. It was just a big party. With this one, we’re going back to our roots and our original intent. And this time around, we’ll have control of everything.”

Michael Lang told us that one of the hardest things about choosing a musical lineup for the venerable festival is the expectation about who should be part of it: “The pressure that you get from the world is if it’s Woodstock, it’s Joe Cocker and Santana and the Who. And when people looked at ’94, there was that bridge between the original and the one we did in ’94, though most the talent in ’94 was also contemporary. People sort of forget that in ’69, that was extremely cutting-edge music and that’s what Woodstock was about.”

Photo Courtesy of WEA

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