There’s clearly something going in the Kool Aid when it comes to arranging music festivals these days, as no sooner has the whole Fyre Festival hullabaloo died down that Woodstock 50 has seemingly swooped in to take its place amidst the crazy.
To quickly bring you up to speed on the Fyre fallout, well, Billy McFarland is doing six in Otisville prison while simultaneously writing a book to tell his side of the story and hoping to organise Fyre 2.0 – the guy’s got around $23m to pay in restitution, what are you gona’ do? Meanwhile, Ja Rule is also trying to organise another festival, although, “You didn’t hear that from him”.
We felt like we were on more solid ground with Woodstock 50. At least to begin with. The 50th anniversary of the most iconic celebration of music of all-time, original Woodstock founder Michael Lang and his team had seemingly created (another) three days of peace and music, with more than 80 acts confirmed, including Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, The Killers, Chance The Rapper, Janelle Monae and more, along with original Woodstock veterans such as David Crosby.
Then recently, some bumps in the road. The Black Keys pulled out of a headline slot while, very much in the original tradition of Woodstock, there were capacity issues raised by local authorities. Tickets that were meant to going on sale on April 22 had a status change to: coming soon.
Then on April 29, not so much a bump as the road opening up like in a disaster movie and swallowing the festival whole. A statement from major financial backer Dentsu Aegis that closed with the lines: “we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees. As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”
It was news to Michael Lang. And now, well, nobody really knows what’s going on.
In truth, things aren’t looking too good. The potential for another Fyre Festival disaster looms large, while industry insiders feel it could just be too big an ask to make up the shortfall in certain areas. Livestyle CEO, Randy Phillips, feels that if there are financial and permit issues, then it’s simply going to be too late to turn this around. “These festivals take a year in planning,” says Phillips. “We started planning the next Coachella the day after the previous one. Jazz Fest, the same thing. So, if you’ve got targets and milestones you’re not hitting, then you’re in trouble.”
Not that any of this has deterred Lang, of course, responding by stating that Dentsu Aegis had no authority to cancel in the first place. He’s evoking the spirit of ’69 on this one.
“It seems in a way that history is repeating itself,” he said in a public letter, “In July of 1969 we lost our site in Walkill and with only a month to go we managed to move to Bethel. Woodstock was going to happen no matter what!
“Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it. Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will. We don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!”