Official Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival Confirmed For August

– Woodstock50
The Bird Is Back

Late last month, Woodstock and Michael Lang, the seminal festival’s producer and co-creator, teased a 50th anniversary event for 2019. New reports today by Rolling Stone and The New York Times provide many more details about the now-confirmed festival, which is slated to take place from August 16 to 18 in Watkins Glen, New York.
First, location. Keen observers will note the original Woodstock was held from August 15 to 18, 1969 not in Watkins Glen, but in Bethel, New York, a town some 150 miles east of Watkins Glen (and that much closer to New York City).
That’s because, as Lang noted in a December 30 statement, “While the original site in Bethel remains close to our hearts, it no longer has the capacity to hold a real Woodstock Festival.” In fact, the 15,000-capacity Bethel Woods Center for the Arts now sits on the site of the original Woodstock — and Live Nation announced last month that it will hold a golden anniversary “pan-generational cultural event” with “live music, TED-style talks and special exhibits” on the same dates as Lang’s festival.
“I’m delighted that Bethel Woods is doing events in the coming year to celebrate what we brought to life in 1969,” said Lang in his December statement. But, as he told Rolling Stone, “that’s not a Woodstock.”
That said, Watkins Glen has plenty of music history itself. Summer Jam, a 1973 event featuring the Grateful Dead,  Allman Brothers, and the Band, pulled in an estimated 600,000 people. Phish hosted its Super Ball IX and Magnaball festivals there in 2011 and 2015, respectively, but were forced to cancel their planned 2018 Curveball festival a day before it kicked off after the New York State Department of Health declared the the local water supply unsafe.
“I was desperate to keep it in New York,” Lang told Rolling Stone. “I looked everywhere because I needed 1,000 acres of clear land with access and infrastructure. […] We had talked about Watkins Glen over the years and I decided on a whim to look at it.” Lang added that the “perfect facility” reminded him of Max Yasgur’s field, where the original Woodstock was held.
The resurrected Woodstock will put that space to good use, with three main stages and three smaller areas with additional food and programming that Lang described as “neighborhoods” to the Times.
That raises the next aspect: ticketing. Per the Times, the Woodstock team estimates they’ll sell around 100,000 three-day passes, although that remains an unconfirmed number. And while images of the original Woodstock’s muddy hippies are as ubiquitous a representation of the ’60s as any, Lang promised that camping options will be more luxurious this time around.
“There will be ‘glamping’ tents and stuff like that,” he told Rolling Stone. “There will be those types of experiences in various forms where there’s a real bed, and there’s a chair to sit in and a light bulb. There will also be easier access to portable toilets.”
As for programming, Lang is still keeping details close to his chest. But don’t expect a retread of Woodstock’s original lineup. “It’ll be an eclectic bill,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’ll be hip-hop and rock and some pop and some of the legacy bands from the original festival.”
Not too many, though. Lang said he has contacted the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young individually “and it’s a mess”; in a Billboard interview published earlier this week, The Who’s Roger Daltrey said, “August in America is too hot for me to work anymore.” Meanwhile, the second North American leg of Joan Baez’ farewell tour concludes May 5.
Two possibilities? Dead & Company or Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band. Both groups are offshoots of original Woodstock performers the Grateful Dead, will be on tour this summer, have yet to schedule any August dates and have headlined festivals. (Deadheads know that a Lesh reunion with Dead & Company’s Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart simultaneously would constitute a violation of the pledge by the Dead’s “Core Four” to never play together again after 2015’s lucrative Fare Thee Well shows.)
Santana, whose Woodstock gig remains legendary, is another possibility for a legacy booking from the original festival. His residency at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay currently extends through late May, though he’s performing sets elsewhere during that time, including at festivals such as Napa’s BottleRock.
Lang also sees an activist message as paramount. “Woodstock, in its original incarnation, was really about social change and activism,” he told Rolling Stone. “And that’s a model that we’re bringing back to this festival. It’s a gathering for fun and for excitement and for experiences and to create community, but it’s also about instilling kind of an energy back into young people to make their voices heard, make their votes heard.” To that end, this iteration of Woodstock will partner with groups like voter-registration outfit HeadCout.
Somewhat speciously, Lang cited Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as festivals that are “missing an opportunity to make a difference in the world” in his interview with the Times. From Bernie Sanders’ introduction of incendiary hip-hop duo Run the Jewels’ 2016 Coachella set to Bonnaroo’s long-running environmental sustainability efforts, many modern festivals have continued in Woodstock’s socially conscious lineage.
For more information about the 50th anniversary Woodstock event, read the reports in Rolling Stone and The New York Times and visit the official Woodstock website.