Michael Lang tossed in the towel on his Woodstock 50 dream on July 31 after a tumultuous week in which he was turned down for permits at Vernon Downs Racetrack & Casino in central New York, announced a move to the 52-year old Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C, then said the festival would be free, and finally saw most of the engaged artists pull out.
“We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the Festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating,” Lang said in a statement. “We thank the artists, fans and partners who stood by us even in the face of adversity. My thoughts turn to Bethel and its celebration of our 50th Anniversary to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity, and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock.”
Along the way, with just two more weeks until the August 16-19 dates they’d originally set for Watkins Glen Speedway, Lang and his cohorts released all their contracted, and reportedly paid-for concert artists, as they one by one announced they would not perform.
As he scrambled for a way save the Festival, Lang’s statement went on to note how his failure to secure a site for his commemorative festival in New York State led him to work towards doing “some good rather than just cancel.” He talked about the shift to Maryland as “a collaboration with HeadCount to do a smaller event” for fundraising purposes “to get out the vote and for certain NGOs involved in fighting climate change.”
Greg Peck, Lang’s chief partner in the 50th anniversary effort, put out a separate statement in which he noted how, “the unfortunate dispute with our financial partner and the resulting legal proceedings set us off course at a critical juncture, throwing a wrench in our plans and forcing us to find an alternate venue to Watkins Glen. We worked hard to find a way to produce a proper tribute — and some great artists came aboard over the last week to support Woodstock 50 — but time simply ran short.”
As Woodstock Times went to press, about half the elements on the Woodstock.com website were already down, with no new statements or graphics up to replace them. Wikipedia was already referring to the would-be festival in the past term.
Months of trouble began when Woodstock 50’s original funder Dentsu Aegis not only pulled out in late April, but declared the festival cancelled. That prompted the dropping of Lang’s original festival producing partner, Superfly, and a flurry of legal maneuverings led by top Manhattan attorney Marc Kasowitz, who Woodstock 50 had hired still fresh from his stint as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.
The next bad news came weeks later when Watkins Glen dropped out, also stating that Lang and cohorts were disorganized and dangerously behind on permitting applications and event planning. Woodstock 50 kept coming back with new financial and producing partners, and finally a new venue at Vernon Downs, noting all along that their talent was already paid for.
But then the talent started dropping in recent weeks from an original lineup that included the Killers, Miley Cyrus, Santana, Dead and Company, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z, and Imagine Dragons, among over 50 contemporary and “legacy” acts. Jay-Z said no, as did Dead & Company, Santana, Country Joe MacDonald, and even longtime Lang Woodstock friend John Sebastian.
“Woodstock’s values of peace and tolerance are more important today than ever for all of us to stand for,” said Peck. “We look to the future for ways to honor and celebrate these ideals.”
Woodstock Cannabis Company?
As for that other Woodstock-related news this week, a U.S. District Judge ruled last week that Lang and his fellow owners of the Woodstock music festival name can license it to create a marijuana brand marking the 50th anniversary of the famed gathering, rejecting a years-old claim that the deal would infringe on the name of another company, Woodstock Roots. Woodstock Ventures had argued recreational marijuana falls within its “natural zone of expansion” under federal trademark law.
In a press release on its design work for the new Woodstock Cannabis Company, the company Pentagram spoke about “a line of marijuana extracts that are very different from the comparably mild strains of pot the sixties counterculture — the hippies — were smoking to ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out,’” as well as their work with Lang on branding elements, including the promoter’s own youthful face.