The Chatter

Woodstock 50 Festival Gets Moved to Merriweather, Probably.

Relocation from Upstate New York to Columbia seen as last chance to save troubled anniversary concert.

By Ron Cassie | July 26, 2019, 12:44 pm

The Chatter

Woodstock 50 Festival Gets Moved to Merriweather, Probably.

Relocation from Upstate New York to Columbia seen as last chance to save troubled anniversary concert.

By Ron Cassie | July 26, 2019, 12:44 pm

The troubled Woodstock 50 Festival now looks like it will be relocated to Merriweather Post Pavilion. Organizers of the anniversary concert—initially scheduled to be held on the 50th anniversary of the now legendary music festival at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York—recently lost a final bid to keep the event near its original location when the town of Vernon, New York rejected their application.

On Thursday, several national outlets including Bloomberg and the New York Times reported producers of the event—including Michael Lang, one of the organizers of the 1969 festival—were hoping to shift Woodstock 50 to the Columbia venue.

In an email to Baltimore magazine, I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club and The Anthem and operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion, said Woodstock 50 organizers had approached Merriweather about hosting the concert here in Columbia.

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

In March, Lang had announced that the lineup for Woodstock 50 would include John Fogerty, who performed at the original festival with Credence Clearwater Revival, and other period performers including David Crosby, Santana, Robert Plant, Canned Heat, Hot Tuna, Country Joe McDonald. The lineup also featured big names such as Jay-Z, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Chance the Rapper, and Miley Cyrus among others.

After the announcement of the switch to Columbia, Fogerty said he would perform at a smaller anniversary event not connected to Woodstock 50 near the festival’s original site at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York.

The Associated Press also reported that Jay-Z was pulling out of the concert. When the show was first announced, it was planned for the Watkins Glen racetrack in upstate New York, but when organizers failed to secure a mass gathering permit from the state Department of Health by June, the racetrack’s owners pulled out. By then, organizers were already feuding in court with former financial backer Dentsu Aegis.

“When we heard that there was an opportunity to save this festival and bring a piece of American history to our community this summer, we jumped at the chance,” Calvin Ball, the executive with Howard County, wrote in a note to Greg Peck, one of the organizers, according to reporting by Bloomberg. “Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia is a jewel of Howard County and one of the top music venues in the nation. It felt like such a natural fit to host a historic festival on our storied stage.”

Coinciding with the anniversary of Woodstock, a replica of the colorful VW touring bus of the 1960s' Baltimore band Light—which became known as the “Light Bus” after photos of the bus at Woodstock made newspapers and magazines around the country—will be launched August 12 from the American Visionary Art Museum.

Woodstock wasn’t the only music festival in summer of ’69, of course, just the biggest. In fact, a few weeks prior—just 11 miles from Merriweather—the Laurel Race Course hosted the two-day Laurel Pop Festival, which included epic 1960s bands Led Zeppelin, Sly and the Family Stone, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Johnny Winters, Jeff Beck, and the Guess Who.

Meet The Author

Ron Cassie is a senior editor for Baltimore, where he covers the environment, education, medicine, politics, and city life.

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