Why Was Woodstock 50 Canceled?

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Anyone who has paid attention to music news for the past few months has caught wind of the unending turbulence around the now-canceled Woodstock 50. The festival, which was intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival, encountered so many obstacles that news about the festival ran what felt like every day.

The volume of reporting on Woodstock 50 eventually grew so massive that it became difficult to keep track of just went wrong and why. Here’s a rundown on why Woodstock 50 was canceled.

When signs of trouble first began

Woodstock 50 co-founder Michael Lang first announced the event in early January. However, the artists playing the festival did not receive their payment until early March. Such a payment delay is uncommon, and usually quite foreboding, in music festival booking. Accompanying the news of the artists’ delayed payment were rumors that Woodstock 50, still over five months from taking place, was already suffering massive financial troubles.

More signs of trouble quickly followed

On March 19th, Woodstock 50 announced its lineup. However, the festival had promised a much earlier lineup announcement date, raising suspicions about its state of affairs. Alongside the announcement arrived news that Woodstock 50 tickets would go on sale April 22nd, but when this announcement arrived, the festival still had yet to secure any permits for its intended venue. A week before April 22nd, permits still had not yet been secured, and three days before April 22nd, Woodstock 50 delayed its ticket sale date.

Cancelation rumors quickly followed

On April 29th, a major Woodstock 50 investor pulled out of the event. In a statement explaining the decision, the investor implied that Woodstock 50 would inevitably be canceled. This investor’s decision to pull money from Woodstock 50 voided the contracts that the festival’s artists had signed, placing the event in dire straits. As news of this investor’s departure emerged, reports broke that two major live music production companies declined offers to invest in Woodstock 50. 

The festival site pulled out

For most of May, Michael Lang fought court battles to ensure that Woodstock 50 could keep the departed investor’s money. Even the ultimate result of this legal cycle – a new investor funding the festival – couldn’t predict the new setback that would soon follow. Watkins Glen, the New York village where Woodstock 50 was set to take place, announced on June 11th that it had canceled the festival’s site license, meaning that Woodstock 50 had no venue. When news broke that Wakins Glen made this decision because Woodstock 50 didn’t meet payment deadlines, cancelation rumors again intensified.

New venues were found – and then artists bailed

Following the Watkins Glen disaster, Woodstock 50 attempted to relocate to Vernon, NY, a move that would have cut the festival’s capacity to one-third the amount originally intended. The town of Vernon, however, denied Woodstock 50’s permit application. Eventually, Woodstock 50 claimed that it did find a new venue, but in an entirely different state – the famed Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Maryland would be Woodstock 50’s home.

However, Merriweather Post Pavillion had already scheduled a Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher show for August 17th, which would be the second of Woodstock 50’s three days. Furthermore, Woodstock 50 had yet to re-confirm its artist contracts. This scheduling conflict, combined with its lack of confirmed performers, catalyzed a wave of artist cancelations in late July. 21st-century headliners, such as Jay-Z, and artists who played the original Woodstock, such as John Fogerty, dropped off the festival in droves.

With artists pulling out left and right and venue details unclear, Woodstock 50 finally decided to cease operation on July 31st, just 16 days before the festival was set to begin. In a statement, a member of Merriweather Post Pavillion’s neatly summarized Woodstock 50’s eternal pitfall: It was “just too late in the game” to rescue the event from itself.

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