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Woodstock organisers blame permit rejection on “politics”

The organisers of the beleaguered Woodstock anniversary festival have blamed “certain political forces”, following the denial of a temporary event permit from the town of Vernon in New York State.

The small town rejected the festival’s request for a permit yesterday (10 July), on the basis that its application was late and incomplete.

In a statement released today, Woodstock organisers stated that “certain political forces may be working against the resurrection of the festival.”

The Woodstock 50 team also denied that they had submitted incomplete filing for the permit.

“Woodstock 50 officials were informed by the town of Vernon that most questions had been answered and asked only that Woodstock submit medical, safety/security and traffic plans by this past Sunday, which it did,” reads the statement.

“Certain political forces may be working against the resurrection of the festival”

Organisers indicated that they plan to file an appeal of the decision, saying they were “hopeful” that such a reapplication would “prevail without further political interference”.

The permit rejection followed a meeting in which officials raised concerns over the ability to ensure safety at the event, given the short timeframe available.

Woodstock 50 is scheduled to take place from August 16 to 18. Tickets are yet to go onsale.

The future of the 50th-anniversary celebration of Woodstock has been in doubt ever since its financial partner, Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live, pulled its support in April.

The event has since lost two production partners – Superfly and CID Entertainment – and its original venue, Watkins Glen International.

 


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Woodstock 50 appeal for funds return denied

Woodstock 50 organisers have little hope of receiving the remaining US$18.5 million in festival funds from the event’s former investor – Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live – after New York judges reject a court appeal.

The appellate court also ordered that the funds, held by the investor’s attorney during the appeal process, be released back to Dentsu.

The appeal followed a court ruling in which a judge rejected demands from the Woodstock 50 team that Amplifi Live redeposit the money in the festival account.

Legal proceedings first began in May, after Amplifi withdrew its support from the event. Upon withdrawal, the investor took the remains of its $49m investment – amounting to $18m – from the festival account, which festival organisers believe ought to be returned to them.

The appeal rejection means organisers will need to look elsewhere for funding. Woodstock 50 attorney Marc Kasowitz wrote in a letter to the court that “restoration of the monies taken by (Dentsu) is necessary for the production of the festival.”

“Woodstock 50 is proceeding with the planning of the festival and looks forward to holding the festival at another venue with its new partners”

The beleaguered anniversary festival has had its share of problems since Amplifi’s initial withdrawal in April.

Earlier this month, the event lost both its venue, the Watkins Glen racetrack in New York state, and its replacement production partner CID Entertainment. Superfly, which was originally supposed to produce the event, pulled out in May.

However, organisers remain optimistic. “Woodstock 50 is proceeding with the planning of the festival and looks forward to holding the festival at another venue with its new partners,” read a statement released by attorney Kasowitz on Friday (21 June).

Vernon Downs, a racing track, casino and entertainment facility in New York state, is one of a few sites being considered as a replacement venue, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Tickets for Woodstock 50, scheduled to take place from 16 to 18 August, are yet to go on sale.

Acts booked to perform include the Killers, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, Imagine Dragons and 1969 performers Santana and Dead and Company.

 


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Woodstock 50 clashes with former investor in court

The first day of legal proceedings between Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 and former financial partner Dentsu Aegis took place in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court yesterday (Monday 13 May), with a ruling yet to be reached.

Lang, who was not present in court, has hired former Donald Trump attorney Marc E. Kasowitz to put forward his case against Dentsu’s Marc Greenwald, as the former partners hit the courts.

Kasowitz is seeking an emergency injunction to force Dentsu to redeposit the US$18 million it withdrew from the festival account, arguing that the funds are imperative for the event to go ahead.

The sparring match between Woodstock organiser Lang and media conglomerate Dentsu has been ongoing since Denstu’s investment arm, Amplifi Live, pulled the plug on the event on 29 April, announcing its cancellation. Lang rejected the company’s authority to make such a decision and stated the event would go on.

Since then, Woodstock’s production partner Superfly has also pulled its support from the event.

“[Dentsu] secretly decided to abandon, and then sabotage the festival”

In paperwork filed prior to the court hearing, Kasowitz claims the investor “secretly decided to abandon, and then sabotage the festival.” The document states that $6 to $9 million is required if Woodstock 50 is to go ahead.

Although admitting that there remained “significant issues yet to be worked out”, the Woodstock 50 team stated all performers had been paid in full – amounting to $32 million – and the festival was “proceeding apace with planning and implementing key logistics” prior to Denstu’s departure.

Speaking in court, the former Trump attorney emphasised the iconic and unique nature of the anniversary event.

However, a memorandum of law filed by Dentsu that morning reportedly accused Lang of “misrepresentations, incompetence and contractual breaches”, stating that his failings had rendered the production of a high-quality and safe event impossible.

“The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient funding,” writes Greenwald.

Lang had previously declared he planned on securing new investors for the event.

“The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient funding”

“As much as the parties might wish it otherwise, the festival contemplated by their agreement cannot happen and allowing it to go forward would only put the public at risk,” states Greenwald.

Dentsu claims that Lang misrepresented the festival venue’s capacity, which was originally thought to be 150,000, and misled investors to believe that a mass-gathering permit would be secured by the end of 2018.

The media conglomerate states that these stipulations served as the basis for Amplifi Live to set its financial contributions of $49,141,000. Dentsu also claims that Amplifi Live “exclusively controlled” the festival’s financial account.

Such breaches, says Dentsu, allowed the company to terminate its agreement with Woodstock 50.

The court hearing continues today (Tuesday 14 May), to determine where contractual breaches for both parties may lie and decide the fate of Lang’s Woodstock 50.

 


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Woodstock 50: Can the show go on?

In a week that most festival organisers would want to forget, the problems faced by Woodstock 50 appear to be mounting. In addition to having lost its primary investor, the anniversary festival has now lost its production partner, and some reports suggest that artist contracts may be void.

After the event’s investor, Dentsu, withdrew its support on Monday and announced that it was cancelling the event, Woodstock founder Michael Lang voiced his commitment to going ahead with the festival, stating the event would not “be derailed by shortsighted partners” who “don’t have the right to cancel it.”

But according to Billboard, artists’ contracts for the festival were drawn up with Amplifi Live, the holding company controlled by Dentsu. Following Dentsu’s decision to withdraw its support from Woodstock, several agencies are now claiming that those contracts are void.

Yesterday, Woodstock’s production partner – events and marketing specialists Superfly which co-promotes Bonnaroo and Outside Lands – withdraw from the event.

“Following the decision of Dentsu to cancel the event, we [Superfly] will no longer be participating in ongoing related activities.”

“The producers of the Woodstock 50th anniversary festival hired Superfly to leverage our expertise as veteran event producers to manage festival operations, a role that aligned with our mission of creating shared experiences that build community,” says a Superfly spokesperson.

“Throughout our engagement our team provided counsel and recommendation on the necessary elements required to produce a safe and first-class experience. Following the decision of one of our clients, Dentsu, to cancel the event, we will no longer be participating in ongoing related activities.”

Amid the mounting speculation about Woodstock 50’s viability, Lang has now secured the services of trial lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz, who previously represented US president Donald Trump. But he remains officially upbeat about Woodstock still going ahead, telling Pollstar, “None of the artists have pulled out,” and “Everybody’s pulling for us, and it’s kind of inspiring.”

More to no doubt follow…

 


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