Let us put to rest – before we even begin – all debates and squabbles regarding the rightful heirs and owners of the Woodstock Festival tradition, as its 50th anniversary approaches. Brand wars, it seems to me, are not exactly in the spirit of the original event, and in this case, both of the major festivals scheduled for that weekend in August 2019 have a compelling claim. One has the very field itself; the other has Michael Lang.
The most charismatic and visible of the original Woodstock’s producers, and one of the real organic stars of the film, Lang is back at it with Woodstock 50: a festival with a focus on activism that will take place from August 16 to 18 in Watkins Glen, a place that has known a few other monster festivals in its day. To date, no talent roster has been announced.
Meanwhile, Max Yasgur’s hallowed ground, for a long time now the site of the elegant Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, is planning its own multifaceted celebration on the same weekend. The Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival is only one part of a busy year of remembering the original Woodstock, but perhaps the biggest part. Produced by Bethel Woods in conjunction with Live Nation and INVNT, the Bethel festival is described as a pan-generational music, culture and community event offering three days of live performances from prominent and emerging artists spanning multiple genres and decades, and TED-style talks from leading futurists and retro-tech experts.
Bethel’s plan has one distinct thing in common with Lang’s: No talent has been announced yet. This is going to get interesting. There’s no reason why bands can’t play both. Watch these pages for breaking news in the months ahead.