After various months of rumors the classic and historic “Woodstock Festival” coming back this summer of 2019 to celebrate its 50th year. The co-creator Michael Lang has confirmed to Rolling Stone magazine that a three-day festival honoring the 50th anniversary of the original event is coming to Watkins Glen, New York on August 16th, 17th and 18th.
Mr. Lang also have said in february that over 40 performers have been booked already across three stages, including some big-name headliners. “It’ll be an eclectic bill. It’ll have hip-hop and rock and some pop and some of the legacy bands from the original festival”, said the co-creator to the famous american music magazine.
He wouldn’t delve into specifics, but he also say that some “newer bands” will stage “celebrations of artists from the original Woodstock” that will likely include tribute performances to 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, he said.
Unlike most festivals that exclusively target a young audience, the organizers hopes to bring in people of all ages. That may be a challenge given Watkins Glen’s far distance from hotels, but the organizers promises attendees will have options far superior to the original festival’s famously muddy field. Filthy, overflowing portable toilets were major problems at previous Woodstocks, and the organizers swears that they will find a solution for that too.
Sanitation was just one of many major problems at Woodstock ’99, a disastrous event held on a former Air Force Base in Rome, New York that culminated in fires and riots. It was held on a brutally hot weekend with few places to find shade. Water was sold at $4 a bottle. There was also a death resulting from a drug overdose and reports of sexual assaults in the mosh pits. Promoters dealt with a wave of lawsuits in the aftermath and for a while, it seemed like there would never be another Woodstock. Note: Lang’s original Woodstock co-promoter John Scher absorbed some of the blame for the fiasco. He is not involved with Woodstock 50.
“Woodstock ’99 was just a musical experience with no social significance,” Mr. Lang says, and complements “with this one, we’re going back to our roots and our original intent. And this time around, we’ll have control of everything.” They aren’t, however, going back to the site of the original Woodstock in Bethel, New York. The former farm was transformed into a 15,000-seat concert venue in 2006. That venue will host its own Woodstock 50th celebration there this summer, though bringing the actual event back there just wasn’t an option.
Finding a place that did fit their needs became a huge challenge. The co-creator had talked about Watkins Glen over the years and he decided on a whim to look at it since having it at a racetrack didn’t appeal to him. But when he looked, he knew it was the perfect facility for what they had in mind.
The festival site is no stranger to enormous concerts. In 1973, a reported crowd of 600,000 people flocked there to see a one-day event featuring the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead and the Band. The exact headcount has been disputed over the years, but it was almost certainly larger than even the original Woodstock four years earlier.
The organizers are still mapping out the site (Feb 2019) and haven’t settled on an exact capacity yet but it’ll likely be in the six figures. Bringing in that many people may seem like a big challenge, especially since this is the first Woodstock since Bonnaroo, Coachella and nearly every other major festival landed on the scene, but Lang hopes this one will stand out.
For sure we are in a new era and they are going to livestream the event online, bring in clowns and jugglers to roam the grounds, play movies on an enormous screen and, as Lang said, bring in various NGOs to tell attendees how to get involved in various political causes. So, we hope everything goes well and that we have an memorable Woodstock 50!