Woodstock 50 joins 2019’s festival graveyard
To the surprise of very few, Woodstock 50 is officially no more (for real this time, unlike that fake cancellation in April). With 16 days to go – and after losing its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its entire line-up – organisers yesterday (31 July) finally pulled the plug on the troubled anniversary festival, which had yet to put a single ticket on sale.
“We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating,” Michael Lang, co-founder of the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair and lead producer of Woodstock 50.
Urging artists and agents, all of whom “have been fully paid”, to donate 10% of their fees to HeadCount, a nonprofit which works with musicians to promote voter registration and participation, Lang says his thoughts now “turn to Bethel” – where a rival event is being held at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA), on the original Woodstock site, on the same dates – “and its celebration of our 50th anniversary to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock.”
But Woodstock 50 is far from the first festival doomed to fail, and it won’t be the last; as the round-up below illustrates, it’s in good company alongside numerous other high-profile cancellations in 2019…
“A series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the festival we imagined”
Doctor Music Festival (12–14 July)
A planned comeback for Spain’s iconic Doctor Music Festival (DMF), three years in the making and following a 19-year hiatus, was abandoned as a result of last-minute venue change forced on organisers by the Catalan Water Agency (ACA).
Originally scheduled to take place in a mountain valley amid the Catalan Pyrenees, DMF was relocated to the Catalunya-Barcelona racing circuit in April after ACA warned warned that the event’s original site was at risk of flooding. After promoter Doctor Music offered ticketholders refunds, a “huge number” of fans took them up on the offer, leaving organisers unable “to offer the experience we were striving for” and forced to cancel.
Writing in IQ shortly after the cancellation, Doctor Music CEO Neo Sala described the axing of DMF as a victory for “grey” bureaucrats and their “eco-opportunist” allies over common sense. “The circumstances that brought about the cancellation of the event are surreal to say the least, and would appear more befitting of a Kafkaesque state than a Spanish administration that claims to be concerned with popular culture and the development of rural areas,” said Sala.
DMF organisers were unable “to offer the experience we were striving for”
Arcadia London (4–5 May)
Initially envisioned as a one-off event for Glastonbury Festival’s 2018 fallow year, Arcadia – creator of Glastonbury’s iconic fire-breathing Spider installation – announced plans to bring back its Arcadia London festival (formerly Arcadia Spectacular) for 2019, with a line-up that included DJs Helix, Jamie Jones, DJ EZ and Sub Focus.
Promoter LWE Events called time on the event in February, with Arcadia saying it would be unable to honour its commitments to Glastonbury alongside a standalone festival.
“After planning for last year’s Arcadia tenth-anniversary event to be a one-off celebration, we received such strong feedback that we hoped to creatively evolve the event for a second year with a host of innovative new performance elements,” read a statement.
“As we stand, we aren’t confident of hitting the targets that would allow us to develop that new experience and the pressures of a difficult market would risk serious knock on effects to Arcadia’s other commitments, especially Glastonbury. Taking these factors into consideration, it is with great regret that Arcadia London will not be going ahead in 2019.”
“The environment that forces us to depend on foreign content to cast artists leads to excessive competition”
Jisan Rock (26–28 July)
Jisan Rock festival, one of South Korea’s biggest, was called off with three days to go, with promoter D2 Global Company cryptically blaming its lack of perspective “reading the trend[s] of today” and failure to “communicate enough with the fans”.
According to the Korea Herald, D2 also said on 23 July it was “not possible to hold the concerts”, sparking “anger and confusion from fans”. The abrupt cancellation reportedly came as a shock to the industry, with one of the acts slating to perform quoted as saying: “I never expected anything like this to happen three days before the performance. I figure fans will be more shocked than we are.”
At the time of its cancellation, just one international artist, Australia’s King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard, had been added to Jisan Rock 2019’s line-up. The 2019 festival would have been the first under new ownership for the former Jisan Valley Rock Festival, held intermittently in Icheon since 2009.
In the same statement, organisers hinted at problems in recruiting artists for the festival, referring to the “many innate problems in the concert-producing business in Korea”. “Due to lack of communication between producers, the environment that forces us to depend on foreign content to cast artists leads to excessive competition,” they said. “This results in an even more hazardous environment for producing concerts.”
Roxodus “did not generate sufficient ticket sales to cover the expected costs, leaving MF Live Inc. insolvent”
Roxodus (11–14 July)
Canada’s Roxodus festival, which would have taken place for the first time in mid-July, fell at the first hurdle, with organisers blaming “tremendous rainy weather” for its cancellation with weeks to go.
Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nickelback, Billy Idol and Blondie were booked to perform at the rock-orientated event, produced by a company called MF Live, which later filed for bankruptcy after finding itself unable to pay its creditors. Liquidator Grant Thornton Ltd said Roxodus “did not generate sufficient ticket sales to cover the expected costs, leaving MF Live Inc. insolvent”.
Eventbrite refunded all ticketholders out of its own pocket while “aggressively pursu[ing] the return of funds from the festival’s creators”. Other parties owed money include security companies, production firms and other contractors and concession operators.
“The original footprint was affected by the presence of Great Lakes piping plover shorebirds”
Mamby on the Beach (23–24 August)
Bringing to mind the avian woes that plagued the final T in the Park, Chicago’s Mamby on the Beach was forced to pull its second edition with just over a month to go due to a number of “circumstances beyond” promoters’ control – including the presence of endangered birds on the festival site.
“Organisers for Mamby On The Beach are saddened to announce that the 2019 festival has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond their control,” promoters React Presents and Jam Productions said in a joint statement. “These unforeseen issues include significantly higher than average waters of Lake Michigan eliminating the beach portion of the festival’s intended site.
“Additionally, the original footprint was affected by the presence of Great Lakes piping plover shorebirds, a federally protected species.”
Acts due to perform at Mamby on the Beach 2019 included Flying Lotus, T-Pain, Troye Sivan, Brockhampton and Santigold.
“In the interests of the safety of our customers, we have taken the decision to cancel the event”
Rewind North (2–4 August)
The most recent cancellation on this list is Rewind North, the Cheshire leg of the popular UK retro music festival, which announced today (1 August) it would no longer go ahead due to “extreme weather”.
Due to kick off tomorrow, with performers including Bananarama, Gloria Gaynor and Level 42, Rewind North fell victim to the flooding affecting much of north-western England, with organisers pointing to “the prolonged extreme wet weather conditions experienced in Cheshire” as “caus[ing] significant disruption to the site at Rewind North.
“Although we have robust contingency plans in place and have made every effort to allow the festival to go ahead, in the interests of the safety of our customers, we have taken the decision to cancel the event,” read a statement from promoter Broadwick Live.
“Miracles based on marketing and myths don’t exist”
Vestiville (28–30 June)
By far the most controversial cancellation here, Vestiville, a Netherlands-born festival due to take place in Lommel, Belgium, at the end of the June, was called off at the last minute after Lommel’s mayor raised concerns about the security of festivalgoers.
Similar to the notorious Fyre Festival, Vestiville patrons – many of whom had come from abroad to see a largely American line-up that included hip-hop stars Cardi B, Future, Asap Rocky and Migos – reportedly arrived in Lommel to find an unfinished, under-staffed site a world away from the complete, professional-looking festival build trailed on social media in advance.
Videos shared on social media purported to show unrest after festivalgoers ordered by police to leave the site, while others described being stranded without food or water ahead its evacuation.
Speaking to IQ in the days following the cancellation – which ended up with organisers being detained by Belgian police – Herman Schuereman of Rock Werchter, which took place the same weekend, suggested Vestiville, an “imported festival from Holland”, failed because it tried to run before it could walk.
“It was a non-event, without roots, and it proves again that it is much wiser to start a festival small and let it grow every year,” he says. “It is like a tree: plant it in good soil, water it well, take care of it and it will grow every year. Miracles based on marketing and myths don’t exist…”
“[We are] finalising a long-term agreement for an exciting new successor festival to V and Rize”
In addition to outright cancellations, several events are taking hiatuses in 2019 ahead of expected returns next summer. They include:
Festival Republic opted not to stage its V Festival replacement, Rize, this year after the festival underperformed in its 2018 debut, which was headlined by Liam Gallagher and Stereophonics.
A festival is expected to return to the V/Rize site in Hylands Park in Chelmsford, UK, in some form next year. A successor to the northern leg of V Festival, in Staffordshire, has yet to materialise.
“The council has been made aware that Festival Republic is not proceeding with Rize in 2019,” a spokesperson for Chelmsford City Council told IQ in January. “However, the council and Festival Republic are currently finalising a long-term agreement for an exciting new successor festival to V and Rize to commence in 2020 and details of this will become available when contracts are in place.”
“We are giving ourselves the breathing room to redesign the festival and bring in the necessary changes”
Matchbox Live’s OppiKoppi, one of South Africa’s longest-running and best-loved music festivals, in April called off its 25th anniversary edition following a spate of violent crime at the 2018 event.
In a statement, organisers said: “For 24 years, OppiKoppi has been going great guns. Unfortunately, in 2018 we experienced the rampant crime currently impacting events and festivals across South Africa. For us to present the 2019 event with the increased security measures that are required to curb this crime to present a safe and enjoyable festival, the production costs also increase drastically.
“By taking a gap year, we are giving ourselves the breathing room to redesign the festival and bring in the necessary changes without impacting the festivalgoer by increasing ticket prices. We believe that in doing this, we will bring everyone a fresh new festival, ready to take music lovers forward for the next 25 years.”
OppiKoppi 2018, held near Northam, a small town in Limpopo (formerly Transvaal) in the north-east of the country, was targeted by roving gangs of thieves, with one festivalgoer allegedly having his entire tent taken. The festival is expected to return, possibly in a new location, in 2020.
“The team is relooking every single brick that builds a festival in South Africa,” the statement continues. “We are even investigating bringing the festival to a venue closer to a major city, to enable day tickets, less travelling and other options for the attendees. […] We realise that a festival like OppiKoppi has a significant role to play in the South African music scene, along with a critical social cohesion role that it has been playing for many years. We are 100% up for it – but we want to do it right.”
“We feel that we have achieved all that we can at this site”
After a stormy 2018, AEG’s Panorama, held since 2016 on New York’s Randalls Island, is similarly taking a gap year, after failing to secure an event permit for a new site in Queens.
In a statement, AEG says Panorama, booked partially by Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett, is on “hiatus in 2019 while we continue discussions with NYC Parks to bring the festival to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, where it was originally envisioned”.
“We had a fantastic experience with Paul Simon this past September at Flushing Meadows and look forward to returning in the future,” a spokesperson told Billboard in January. “We were disappointed in NYC Parks’ denial of our permit application, despite the long-term benefits this event would deliver to the community and the park. While we have enjoyed our time on Randall’s Island and its great facilities, we feel that we have achieved all that we can at this site.”
Janet Jackson, David Byrne and St Vincent were among those who played Panorama 2018.
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Belgian, SA promoters partner on Matchbox Live
Leading festival industry figures in Belgium and South Africa have partnered for the launch of Matchbox Live, a new live entertainment venture that aims to “grow the South African live music industry by producing unique events and festivals with potential for international growth”.
Pretoria-based Matchbox is the brainchild of Belgian festival Pukkelpop; Belgian communications agency Boondoggle, which has an office in South African capital Cape Town; Hilltop Live, the promoter behind Limpopo event OppiKoppi; and Sho Sho Communications, which co-owns Pretoria festival Hello Ambassador and Johannesburg venue Good Luck Bar.
It is led by CEO Theresho Selesho, the managing director of Sho Sho and director of business development at Boondoggle South Africa.
Selesho comments: “It’s an exciting time in our vibrant country and continent. The combination of existing events, strong experience and foreign investment is a powerful combination.”
There is a history of collaboration between Pukkelpop, Belgium’s second-biggest music festival, and the ~20,000-cap. OppiKoppi, which has grown to become South Africa’s most popular event, in the form of an exchange programme involving artists and crew. Pukkelpop promoter Chokri Mahassine says Matchbox Live will take the festivals’ partnership “to the next level”.
“It’s an exciting time in our vibrant country and continent”
“In the past 20 years we’ve had an excellent relationship with our South African friends,” says Mahassine, who spoke to IQ last month about the history of the event and the health of the Belgian festival market. “Now the time has come to take our partnership to the next level.
“Just as [with] Pukkelpop, OppiKoppi wants to keep track of new musical talent without losing sight of the big, established names. Through Matchbox Live we can help OppiKoppi to grow into one of the most influential festivals on the African continent.”
The 2017 edition of OppiKoppi, a Burning Man-like festival that takes place in the harsh South African bushveld, will be the first organised under the Matchbox Live banner. This will be followed by Drumbeat and Lekkerland, with new events to be announced “at a later stage”.
“The family behind OppiKoppi dropped into the live music business by accident in 1994,” comments Hilltop Live’s Carel Hoffman.“That is more than 23 years of gung-ho, rock’n’roll management. Along the way conversations with international counterparts started and have led to the stage where we can bring in strategic partners. We have built a team that can carry the flame forward, which is great news for music fans.”
A joint South African–Norwegian report revealed last year that the South African live biz will experience strong growth through 2021 – although without “enhanced investment” from government and big corporations it would continue to lag behind Western markets.
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