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If Woodstock 50 Happens, It Won't Be A Festival And It Won't Be In New York

Carlos Santana is still expected to perform at Woodstock 50 ... if it happens at all.
Greetsia Tent
Carlos Santana is still expected to perform at Woodstock 50 ... if it happens at all.

Woodstock 50, the music festival intended as a celebration of the era-defining 1969 concert, has instead spent months unravelling in public. Now, if it takes place at all, the festival won't take place in the same area of upstate New York as the original Woodstock. In fact, it won't take place in New York at all, or even an adjacent state.

Seth Hurwitz, chairman of the mid-Atlantic concert promotion company I.M.P., said Thursday that the organizers of Woodstock 50 have approached the Columbia, Md., venue Merriweather Post Pavilion about hosting the event.

"The Woodstock folks are working on securing the artists now," Hurwitz said. "If the bands come, we'll produce the show. We're looking forward to getting an update as soon as Woodstock 50 has one."

A representative for Woodstock 50 declined a request for comment on the move to Maryland, but Billboard reported Friday that festival organizers have released all artists from their performance contracts, meaning whatever form the event takes would require new agreements between producers and performers.

Prior to that announcement, at least two artists made it clear they would not be following the festival south.

A source has confirmed to NPR that Jay-Z, who was scheduled to be one of the festival's headlining performers, will not travel to Maryland for the event. The Associated Press first reported that the rapper would not attend.

Another slated performer at Woodstock 50, Creedence Clearwater Revival co-founder John Fogerty, made his plans for Aug. 16-18 clear in a Facebook post earlier today. He wrote that he "knows where he will be for the anniversary weekend of Woodstock. At only one site...At the original one — the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts." The post went on to quote a Creedence lyric: "NO MORE CONFUSION ON THE GROUND."

Earlier this month, veteran artist David Crosby, also scheduled to play, told Good Morning America that the festival is "dead," "not happening" and that a person involved in the event's planning "is a scammer" who "scammed this," referring to Woodstock 50.

It's the latest twist in what has at times seemed like a game of snakes and ladders.

First, in late April, the event was announced as "canceled" by finance partner Dentsu Aegis. But that cancellation was itself canceled after a judge ruled that the company did not have the contractual standing to unilaterally stop the festival from going ahead. Instead, the company pulled $17 million of its funding from the company.

Then the original site for the event, Watkins Glen International racetrack, said it would not be hosting the festival.

The proposed replacement site, in the town of Vernon, N.Y., rejected no less than four times the producers' proposal to hold the event there. Producers responded by saying they were disappointed that town officials had rejected their "robust and thoughtful proposal." City officials later contradicted that characterization, saying that the organizers' final proposal was "worthless," as it contained a proviso that none of the information in the proposal, such as its safety planning, was guaranteed to be accurate.

Even now, the confirmed cancellations by Jay-Z and Fogerty does not, strictly speaking, spell the end of the road for Woodstock 50. There are still more than 60 artists scheduled to perform. But if it does take place at Merriweather Post Pavilion, that venue's capacity of just under 20,000 will pale in comparison to the original festival's estimated attendance of 400,000 fans. Tickets are not yet on sale.

Additional reporting by Anastasia Tsioulcas.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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