Woodstock is officially making a comeback in 2019, just in time for the 50-year anniversary of the infamous Catskill music and arts festival of 1969. This time around, it has been dubbed "Woodstock 50" in honor of the 50-year mark since the inaugural, original Woodstock. Known as a celebration of peace, love, unity and music, this festival was equally as infamous for the myriad of "things gone wrong" as it was for becoming a generational landmark of the power and unity possible through music. The folks behind Woodstock 50 state: "(this) will give generations of fans the opportunity to join together in the festival's foundational intent of harmony and compassion."
The original Woodstock was pitched as a 50,000-strong festival of peace, love, unity and incredible music in mid-August of 1969. Stretching the truth to get approvals and permits, they ended up pre-selling 180,000 tickets. But festival organizers ran out of time and money, so elected to scrap the idea of building ticket booths last-minute. Woodstock became a free festival, attracting 400,000 hippies and music lovers to a remote, slightly ill-prepared location. The festival ran out of food on the very first day, so the Air Force and locals had to help feed the starving masses. With costs skyrocketing and no onsite ticket sales or merchandise revenue, Woodstock ended up losing and estimated $1.2 million that first year. Regardless of the situation, the festival remained exceptionally peaceful. But terrible weather and rain delays impacted set times and forced headliners to play as late as the next morning. Infamously, Jimi Hendrix didn't start his set until 8:30am on Monday morning, to a significantly diminished crowd. The Who, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joan Baez (and a great many others) also played. Despite so many troubles, Woodstock is generally considered a pivotal moment in pop music history.
The 1999 30th anniversary Woodstock, which took place a distance away at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY, was an even bigger disaster. It's now often referred to as an "MTV stunt" or the "Anti-Woodstock." Held on an airstrip and disallowing any outside food or beverage, patrons quickly overheated as temperatures soared above 100 degrees. Dehydrated, hungry, disgruntled and a little too inebriated, crowd angst was fueled by songs like "Killing in The Name" by Rage Against the Machine and the situation escalated. Campgrounds and accommodations were so far away that a shuttle was required, so going back for food and drinks was next to impossible. Water fountains were so meager that lines for water quickly became ridiculous - riots broke out and people broke the water lines. Heavy, angry rock music added fuel to the fire, and the result?Festival-goers rioted and things got out of hand; tearing down concession booths, damaging property, vehicles and each other, and lighting large bonfires. Woodstock 99 became an angry crowd of 400,000 fueled by alcohol, suggestively violent music and discontent. Police and State Troopers needed riot lines to push the crowd back and regain control. Attendees likened the scene to something out of a war zone; fires burned, vehicles were destroyed, and women assaulted. Not a scene anyone would want to repeat.
“It’s time to put the speculation to rest and officially announce that Woodstock 50 is happening. The original festival in ’69 was a reaction by the youth of the time to the causes we felt compelled to fight for – civil rights, women’s rights, and the antiwar movement, and it gave way to our mission to share peace, love and music. Today, we’re experiencing similar disconnects in our country, and one thing we’ve learned is that music has the power to bring people together. So, it’s time to bring the Woodstock spirit back, get involved and make our voices heard.” - Michael Lang
"Woodstock 50" will be held at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York from August 16-18, 2019. No performers have been announced yet, but promoter Michael Lang claims that over 40 have already been booked; "it will be an eclectic bill." Slated to include big names and emerging talent in rock, hip hop, pop and country genres. He speaks of possible legacy bands from 1969, as well as collaborations, possible reunions and tributes to the original Woodstock. True to Woodstock legacy, they promise to pair music with purpose; sustainability and advocacy, with a big emphasis on nonprofits and cause-driven organizations. Sounds pretty groovy.
The beautiful 1,000-acre grounds (see photos below) are set to feature artists on three different stages, along with camping, RV and premium camping options. There will be art, curated 'neighborhoods,' film screenings and panels. Tickets will go on sale in February, but prices and exact sale dates have not been disclosed. Woodstock will be releasing special early tickets available to students aged 18-25 in January, no exact date has been announced yet. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook - we'll be sure to share any breaking news as soon as it is available.
There's a lot riding on this festival. Event organizers and promoters say they've learned from previous mistakes... so we're nothing but deathly curious to learn more. Will you attend Woodstock 50?
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