Woodstock is one of music history’s most defining moments. There’s no denying that. For three days in August 1969, the event gathered over 400,000 people.
See, Woodstock wasn’t just about music. It had its cultural, political significance as well. You can’t talk about the 60s in America without highlighting how the festival was a counterculture haven.
Fifty years later, organizers began arranging the 50th-anniversary celebration of Woodstock. Sounds like a great time, right? Well, it got canceled — and that’s honestly a good thing.
An Attempt to Capture the Spirit of Woodstock 1969
What was so great about the original Woodstock anyway? First, it was an unexpected success. Not even the organizers such as Arthur Lawrence Kornfeld and Michael Lang could have predicted the turnout.
To be fair, the area was huge enough to accommodate many people. The farm location in Bethel, New York had 600 acres. But for 400,000 people to arrive and take part in the festivities? This was unprecedented.
Second, Woodstock ‘69 captured the early stages of rock and roll. You had Santana, Mountain, Grateful Dead, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane, among others.
And don’t forget the last act: Jimi Hendrix and his short-lived band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. Only around 200,000 stayed for this moment, but those who were there knew they were part of history.
A Lot of Promise — and Pressure for Woodstock 50
Many people had their hopes up for Woodstock 50 because Michael Lang was going to be part of the team. If someone knew how to recreate Woodstock ‘69, it had to be one of the original’s co-founders, right?
At first, Lang seemed like he had everything under control. Back in January, he said that Woodstock 50 will also take place for three days. It won’t happen at the original venue, but it will still be in New York.
Furthermore, he said that more than 60 artists would participate. It was billed as a fusion of rock, pop, hip-hop, and classic acts reminiscent of Woodstock ‘69.
Things were looking good at the start. The team expected to sell 100,000 tickets. Yet by February, the organizers still haven’t released the promised pre-sale tickets.
Woodstock 50: One Failure After Another
In March, rumors began appearing that Woodstock is having financial troubles. Lang dismissed this, but the truth soon came out — there were indeed problems with money.
The Woodstock 50 team supposedly sought the help of Live Nation and AEG, but neither offered financial assistance. Worse, Dentsu Aegis Network opted out of investing in the festival.
In July, pretty much all the major artists have backed out: JAY-Z, the Lumineers, Santana, Miley Cyrus, and The Raconteurs. On July 31st, Woodstock was officially canceled.
You might be saddened by the outcome, but it isn’t such a bad thing. Why? Woodstock 50 was lacking the cultural, political identity of the original event.
What message did it have to justify its creation? Or was it just about being another huge festival with popular acts? That won’t do in this age when festivals are popping up everywhere.
And lastly, we’re better off without Woodstock 50 because one thing was already clear: The organizers couldn’t fix what needed fixing.
Just imagine if they pushed through without ensuring the location, the artist lineup, and the safety of everyone in the festival. Thus, the cancelation of Woodstock 50 meant having averted a looming disaster.