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Woodstock festivities kick off at Bethel Woods

Despite the well-publicised difficulties and eventual cancellation of the official Woodstock 50 anniversary event, the 1969 festival will receive its half-century commemoration this weekend, in the form of a four-day series of events at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA).

The events, set on the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival at Bethel Woods, kicked off yesterday (15 August), with Arlo Guthrie taking once again to the Woodstock stage for a free concert.

Originally announcing a full-scale anniversary festival – to have been produced by Live Nation and creative agency Invnt – BWCA later scaled back plans to create the multi-day music and arts programme.

The Bethel Woods site is not the only remnant from the 1969 festival. Woodstock veterans Carlos Santana and John Fogerty are performing over the four days, along with Ringo Starr.

The “pan-generational cultural event” will also feature TED-style talks and “special exhibits”.

“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history”

“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history,” reads a post on the Bethel Woods Twitter page.

It is expected that up to 100,000 visitors will access the area over the four days. Only ticketholders will be permitted on site and all attendees must present a travel pass on entry to avoid overcrowding.

“We’re trying to encourage people that are not interested in the concert-side of things, and just want to come and sort of breathe the air and feel the vibes… to come on other weekends,” Bethel Woods chief executive Darlene Fedun told the Associated Press.

Michael Lang, the organiser of the original ‘three days of peace and music’, had deemed the Bethel Wood site’s capacity too small for his eventually ill-fated anniversary event. Lang pulled the plug on his Woodstock 50 event with just two weeks to go, after the festival lost its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its whole line-up.

Around 400,000 people attended the 1969 festival. A recent report revealed that almost 50% of festivalgoers from the so-called ‘Woodstock Generation’ now suffer from hearing loss, with 70% saying they long to experience music as they did in the past.

 


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A week on, music returns to the City of Lights

One week on from the murder of 58 patrons of country music festival Route 91 Harvest, Las Vegas is returning to normality, with a string of emotionally charged performances by major artists helping the city to recover from the worst mass shooting in US history.

As expected, there were several cancellations in the wake of the attack – which saw gunman Stephen Paddock open fire on the open-air festival from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 people, including himself, in the early hours of Monday morning – with Jennifer Lopez, Blue Man Group and Jason Aldean, who was performing at the time of the shooting, among those to call off scheduled shows.

However, Celine Dion, who is midway through an eight-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (4,298-cap.), bucked the trend, returning to the stage on Tuesday night. Standing in front a screen reading “#VegasStrong”, the Canadian singer told the audience she had toyed with the idea of cancellation but ultimately decided to donate the proceeds of the concert to victims.

“On Sunday we lost too many beautiful, innocent souls, and so many are still suffering,” she said. “But tonight we’re going to let these families know that we are supporting them and that we will help them through their tragic loss.”

She continued: “We dedicate tonight’s show to all of the victims and their families, and to the first responders, and to the doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to save lives and to so many heroes who did whatever they could to help complete strangers in a time of desperate need.”

“Las Vegas returned almost immediately to its high-glitz version of normal … The shows go on”

Other performers opting to go ahead with planned shows included Billy Idol, who played the first night of his residency at House of Blues (1,800-cap.) on Wednesday, John Fogerty, who played the Encore Theatre (1,490-cap.) the same night, and Pete Yorn, who performed at the Beauty Bar (300-cap.) last Friday, additionally paying tribute to the late Tom Petty by opening with ‘I Won’t Back Down’.

Echoing the sentiments expressed after the Bataclan and Manchester Arena attacks, all emphasised the need for life to go on as normal and for live music to not be cowed be terrorism. “They can’t break me,” said Idol, “and they can’t break Las Vegas”, while Fogerty spoke of music having a “way of healing, and that is what we will do: come together and heal. We can’t let fear control our lives.”

Britney Spears, meanwhile, has confirmed she will continue her residency at the Axis at Planet Hollywood (7,000-cap.), saying she and the city will “get through this together”; Aldean, too, has returned to the site of the attack, meeting hospitalised survivors of the shooting after dedicating his performance Saturday Night Live the previous day to the city.

Figures from across the live music industry last week responded to the attack, with Route 91 Harvest promoter Live Nation, Canadian association Music Canada Live and Outside Lands organiser Superfly among those to have paid tribute to the victims.

“We are heartbroken”: Industry reacts to Route 91 tragedy

Revellers appear to have responded to performers’ faith in the city: According to local paper the Santa Fe New Mexican, Vegas has “returned almost immediately to its high-glitz version of normal after Sunday’s massacre of 58 people, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The shows go on. The roulette wheels spin, the dice fly and people carrying Coronas wander the strip alongside bubbly showgirls and a guy dressed as Chewbacca.”

But if the thrill-seekers of Las Vegas have already put Monday’s tragedy behind them, the nature of the attack – on an open-air festival, as opposed to the enclosed space of a venue or arena – is weighing more heavily on the minds of US festivalgoers. Raelene Wentz, who attended last weekend’s Desert Oasis festival in Indio, California, says had she not already bought tickets, she might have reconsidered attending – “We’re here and we already have the tickets,” she tells the Desert Sun. “[But] we’re definitely aware of where all the exits are” – while another, Rachel Livingstone, describes having “apprehension” about attending the event.

At Austin City Limits in Texas, meanwhile, “many fans and musicians acknowledged that the potential of a Las Vegas-style copycat had crossed their minds”, reports the The New York Times – although, at both festivals, the consensus seemed to be that to live in terror is to hand victory to terrorists. “I’m kind of the opinion things like that shouldn’t change your life,” says City Limits-goer Tyler Costolo. “At that point, you’re letting those kinds of things win.”

By number of concerts, Las Vegas is the sixth-biggest city in the US for live music, and the eighth in the world.

 


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