Arts District

Woodstock 50 Officially Cancelled Amid Merriweather Post Pavilion Speculation

Venue agreed to host with artists’ commitment, but organizers called off event Wednesday.

After a prolonged series of setbacks and artist pull-outs, the founders of the 50th anniversary Woodstock Music and Arts Festival announced Wednesday afternoon that the event has officially been cancelled.

In a press release, festival organizers cited multiple reasons for the cancellation—including struggles with the originally planned location of the Glen and Vernon Downs in upstate New York, as well as artist conflicts when a subsequent plan to hold a version of the festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, was floated but didn’t gain traction.

“Due to conflicting radius issues in the D.C. area, many acts were unable to participate and others passed for their own reasons,” said Woodstock 50 co-founder Michael Lang, who also encouraged artists and agents, who all had been fully paid, to donate 10 percent of their fees to causes of their choice in the spirit of peace. “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.”

Whether the festival would go on as planned has been an ongoing saga.

In its first iteration, the festival was to be held at the Watkins Glen racetrack in upstate New York in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock. The idea was for it to have the same energy of the past rock festivals that have long lived in infamy. But as the closer the calendar inched toward to the August 16 date, the more skeptical both concertgoers and artists became.

When the original plans fell through—legal battles withstanding—organizers scrambled to find another venue. Merriweather Post Pavilion had agreed to host the event as long as bands and artists signed on. But that proved too difficult to arrange in a short amount of time. This past week, an array of big-name artists, from John Fogerty to Jay-Z, backed out of their performances.

“Hopefully, with plenty of time to prepare, Merriweather will become the site of a future festival that captures the original vibe,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., which operates Merriweather Post Pavilion. “While we were able to quickly eliminate the venue portion of the challenge to present Woodstock, it was just too late in the game. A lot of people clearly wanted it to happen.”

In the end, it became clear to organizers that trying to put an event together at this point in time would not live up to the standards of what they had originally intended.

“We worked hard to find a way to produce a proper tribute,” said Greg Peck, principal of Woodstock 50. “Woodstock’s values of peace and tolerance are more important today than ever for all of us to stand for, and we look to the future for ways to honor and celebrate these ideals.”