Last month, all the talk about Woodstock’s 50th anniversary this summer concentrated on the surreal and the idea of déjà vu. Producer Michael Lang was winning and losing lawsuits, the festival lost its financial backing and then its on-site producers and its home. But it also gained new financial consultants in the form of an old-school Wall Street firm, seemed to hold on to its stable of diverse top-shelf musical acts, and just this week land at a new concert venue in Central New York.
Now all the talk around Woodstock 50 is increasingly incredulous that Lang’s persistence may be paying off the way it did in 1969…or 25 and 30 years later.
According to the managing member of American Racing and Entertainment, which owns Vernon Downs racetrack and casino in Oneida County (between Utica and Syracuse), Lang and Woodstock 50 were set to sign a letter of intent for use of the venue August 15-18 and start seeking necessary permits.
Town of Vernon Supervisor Randy Watson went one further by stating last week that Woodstock 50 has already begun that permit process…for a festival set to top out at 65,000 attendees instead of the original 150,000 they’d aimed for at their first choice for a venue, Watkins Glen International raceway, let alone the 500,000, 400,000 and 350,000 figures previous connotations of Woodstock have drawn.
Meanwhile, the trade magazine Billboard has reported that Jason Felts, CEO of Virgin Produced — the entertainment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which produces the popular KAABOO festival in Southern California and has expanded to Texas and the Cayman Islands in recent years — is in talks with Lang and his partner co-owners about helping resurrect and stage the troubled anniversary festival at a yet-to-be-named site in upstate New York.
Acts booked and purportedly paid for who will be playing at the festival include Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons, Dead & Co., and a host of older “legacy” bands from the original festival. Questions whether the new venue, which includes a racino and racetrack but has no camping, will include several stages and other festival areas have not yet been answered.
Repeated calls and emails to Lang et al have yet to be answered…this week.