Michael Lang’s accessible one day, enigmatically absent the next. Those who’ve known him for years are saying that he’s caught in a maelstrom of déjà vu just now.
“Not tomorrow,” was the last we heard from the legendary impresario of the Woodstock Festival that’s trying to celebrate its 50th anniversary in a couple of months. “Trying to pivot, need a couple of days.”
That came after word started spreading that Watkins Glen Speedway had given up on hosting the festival, and the company hired to arrange travel packages and “enhanced camping” at the site, CID Entertainment, had also flown the coop.
Still, the determination to hold the event holds.
“We confirm that we will not be moving forward with Watkins Glen as a venue for Woodstock 50,” was the official release from Lang’s organizing partner at Woodstock 50, Gregory Peck, over the weekend. “We are in discussions with another venue to host Woodstock 50 on August 16th-18th and look forward to sharing the new location when tickets go on sale in the coming weeks.”
None of the statements mentioned the mass gathering permits that a festival such as Woodstock’s anniversary bash would need, from state and county officials.
Difficulties with such things are what forced the original Aquarian Festival to move from its namesake town of Woodstock 50 years ago, end up in the Orange County town of Wallkill twice, almost move to Saugerties, and then end up on a farm in the Sullivan County Town of Bethel without the right permits, but a massive crowd already on hand. Sound systems, stages, and everything else were basically improvised, with most contemporary press accounts calling it bedlam until parents started noting how impressed their kids were at the peacefulness of the event.
Elements from the original stage ended up at ad hoc commemorative events in Bethel in 1994. Lang went on to put on heavily-prepared, and financed, commemorative Woodstocks in Saugerties in 1994 and in Rome, N.Y. in 1999, while the farm site in Sullivan County would go on to become a museum and regional concert venue where other commemorative events have been held over the years.
The latest news regarding the latest Woodstock came after six weeks of mayhem that began when the festival’s original financing partner, Dentsu Aegis Network, not only pulled out of their support of the festival but announced its cancellation. Both actions pushed Woodstock 50 into court, where Lang hired attorney Marc Kasowitz, known for his work for Donald Trump in recent years, to take matters to court, where they linger in appeals to this day. A new financial partner, stalwart Wall Streeters Oppenheim & Co., came in to save the day, monetarily. And excepting the Black Keys, most of the lineup that Lang announced this past winter has stayed in place…and has reportedly been paid upfront already.
Where a massive music festival with the sort of notoriety could end up with 60 days of preparation is quite a thing to be pivoting to in these days of mighty legal and permitting needs. Sovereign lands on native reservations come to mind, or existing concert grounds. But able to deal with a potential half million crowd?