Woodstock promoter Michael Lang passes, aged 77
Michael Lang, the promoter behind the iconic 1969 Woodstock music festival, has passed away.
The 77-year-old had non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer and died on Saturday (8 January) in New York City, according to a spokesperson for Lang’s family.
Brooklyn-born Lang launched his career as a promoter in the 1960s following a move to Miami. In 1968, Lang (along with Marshall Brevetz) produced the Miami Pop Festival which featured Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Brown, and Blue Cheer.
The following year, 24-year-old Lang, alongside businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and music industry promoter Artie Kornfeld, created Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
We are deeply saddened by the death of our partner Michael Lang. He was a producer, father, environmentalist, friend, husband and most of all, one-of-a-kind dreamer whose mark on the world is undeniable. He will be missed pic.twitter.com/ZvNJkEOzxl
— WOODSTOCK (@woodstockfest) January 9, 2022
The festival drew more than 400,000 attendees to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, for performances from Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Billed as “three days of peace and music,” Woodstock arrived at a time of great social upheaval in the United States, which was still engulfed in an unpopular war in Vietnam. The festival is said to have been a ‘haven’ for the hippie movement.
“[Woodstock ’69] was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history”
“Woodstock offered an environment for people to express their better selves, if you will,” Lang told Pollstar in 2019. “It was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history. That was because of expectations and what people wanted to create there.”
Lang also produced Woodstock ’94 (which featured the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Woodstock ’99 (with Limp Bizkit, Metallica and Rage Against The Machine). In contrast to the previous Woodstock festivals Lang organised, Woodstock ’99 proved to be chaotic and violent.
Lang was also involved in the planning of Woodstock 50, which was set to take place in August 2019 and feature performances from the likes of Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, The Killers and Halsey.
Michael Lang was one of the nicest people. All my encounters with him were always upbeat and positive, he was great.
📸 Henry Diltz pic.twitter.com/DqKfPkxB5L
— Cʜʀɪs Sᴛᴇɪɴ (@chrissteinplays) January 9, 2022
However, after losing its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its entire line-up, the organisers pulled the plug on the troubled anniversary festival before a single ticket went on sale.
During his music industry career, Lang also managed artists like Rickie Lee Jones and Joe Cocker, created Just Sunshine Records and in 2015, opened a music school for college-aged students in the town of Woodstock.
Lang is survived by his wife Tamara, two sons, Harry, and Laszlo and three daughters, Shala, Molly and LariAnn.
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.
Hearing loss rife among Woodstock gen music lovers
Almost 50% of festivalgoers belonging to the original Woodstock 1969 generation now suffer from hearing loss, a new survey reveals.
The survey, conducted by the Harris Poll and commissioned by Danish hearing aid specialist Oticon, questioned over 1,000 US adults between the age of 65 to 80 who had reported listening to “loud or very loud music in their youth”.
Fifty years on from Woodstock, 36% of a self-proclaimed music-loving crowd – 71% of respondees reported music was a major part of their lives when they were young – now state that hearing difficulties negatively impacts their ability to listen to music to some extent.
Among those with hearing loss, 47% say they no longer enjoy music as much as they used to and 70% wish they could experience music as they did in the past.
The results suggest that, even if Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 anniversary event had gone ahead as planned, it is unlikely that the original fans would have enjoyed themselves as much the second time around.
“We [now] know the long-term effects of noise on hearing health and the importance of protecting hearing to maintain the ability to enjoy music”
“The survey results demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of loud music listening on hearing health,” says Oticon president Gary Rosenblum.
“That’s an important message for young people today. We [now] know the long-term effects of noise on hearing health and the importance of protecting hearing to maintain the ability to enjoy music and conversation.”
Rosenblum urges those of the “Woodstock Generation” to address their hearing loss. 70% of those surveyed had never seen a health care professional about their hearing, and only 12% had ever used a hearing aid.
Exposure to loud noise also produces negative effects on music industry professionals, damaging their ability to sleep and sometimes provoking mental health risks.
Help Musicians UK is one charity safeguarding the hearing of those working in live, providing moulded hearing protection for 10,000 music professionals through the Hearing Health Scheme.
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.
All change for free-to-attend Woodstock 50
Woodstock 50 has been subject to more upheaval over the past few days, moving out of New York state, reportedly releasing all scheduled artists from contracts and making tickets free.
Eighteen days out from the anniversary event, organisers of struggling Woodstock 50 have announced a new venue, 275 miles south of the original site at Watkins Glen.
The festival is now to take place at the 32,000-capacity Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland state, having lost its first venue at Watkins Glen racetrack and later failing to secure a permit for replacement site, Vernon Downs racecourse.
Following the new venue announcement, artists were reportedly released from festival contracts, as the distance from the original site allegedly constituted a contractual breach.
All artist names and line-up information has since been removed from the Woodstock 50 website.
Acts scheduled to perform at Woodstock 50 included Jay-Z, Dead and Company, John Fogerty, the Killers, Miley Cyrus and Santana.
“We’re still waiting to hear who is playing, but [..] they [Woodstock] do still have a venue if they have a show”
“We’re still waiting to hear who is playing, but that’s not our job,” says Seth Hurtwitz, chairman and co-founder of venue operator IMP. “They do still have a venue if they have a show.”
It has also been announced that the event will now be free-to-attend, although remaining ticketed.
“Tickets are for a single day and will be distributed through HeadCount, participating artists’ foundations and local charitable partnerships in DC and Baltimore,” a Woodstock 50 spokesperson told Washington-based publication, WTOP.
Festival organiser Michael Lang has faced difficulties since the event’s primary financier, Amplifi Live, pulled out in April. The event has since lost production partners Superfly and replacement CID Entertainment, as well as its two previous venues.
Woodstock 50 is still scheduled to take place on the original dates from 16 to 18 August, with tickets yet to be distributed.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is to host concerts by Morrisey, the Smashing Pumpkins and Vampire Weekend over the coming weeks. In addition to Merriweather, IMP also operates Washington venues Anthem (6,000-cap.), 9:30 (1,200-cap.) and Lincoln Theatre (1,225-cap.).
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.
Woodstock 50 secures new financial partner
The organisers of Woodstock 50 have announced that the festival has found a new financial advisor, in the form of New York-based investment bank and financial services firm Oppenheimer and Co.
The future of Michael Lang’s Woodstock anniversary festival has been shrouded in doubt since Lang lost the event’s original financial partner, Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live, and its production partner, Superfly. Upon its withdrawal, Dentsu representatives announced the cancellation of the festival.
Event organisers say Oppenheimer will act as a “financial advisor to complete financing for the festival”. It is unclear whether the help from Oppenheimer constitutes the investment of capital or is limited to a purely advisory role.
Oppenheimer’s head of debt capital markets and syndication, John Tonelli, says the firm is “thrilled to be onboard for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement.”
“We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration”
“We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration in the green fields of Watkins Glen this August with all of the artists on the remarkable lineup,” states Tonelli.
Lang has previously stated that an investment totalling “approximately $35m” would be necessary if the festival were to go ahead.
“We look forward to putting on an incredible festival,” says Lang, who co-founded the original Woodstock in 1969. “Words cannot express how appreciative Woodstock 50, the artists, the fans and the community are to Oppenheimer for joining with us to make W50 a reality.”
Lang states that the ticket on-sale, first scheduled for 22 April, will be announced very soon. However, reports suggest that Lang is yet to have secured a mass-gathering permit for the event from the New York State Department of Health.
A court case, in which Woodstock 50 organisers demanded Dentsu return $17.8m to the festival bank account, concluded last week. A judge ruled against the returning of funds, but also rejected the investor’s right to cancel the event.
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.
“[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.
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…
Updated: Lang denies Woodstock 50 cancellation
Michael Lang, Woodstock 1969 co-founder and the organiser of the Woodstock 50 anniversary event, has said the event will not “be derailed by shortsighted partners”, after its investor announced it was withdrawing support and cancelling the event, as reported by IQ yesterday.
The investor, an arm of Japanese advertising giant Dentsu, released the statement yesterday (Monday 29 April), stating it was cancelling the event.
However, Lang has a different story to tell. The Woodstock 50 organiser says the announcement came as a surprise and states that the investor does “not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival.”
Lang released a detailed statement in which he parallels present difficulties with those experienced when organising the original Woodstock in 1969.
“It seems in a way that history is repeating itself,” writes Lang. “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!
“This time around, Woodstock’s new hometown, Dix & Watkins Glen, NY and New York State have been really wonderful. The venue, Watkins Glen International, have been totally supportive and professional.
“Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public.
“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 have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us.
“Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability are too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners. We continue our work with NYS, Schuyler County and various parties to keep things on track.
“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!
Lang’s statement follows a shorter declaration released by the Woodstock 50 team hours after Dentsu’s announcement, confirming their commitment to holding the festival and their intention to find a new financial partner.
“Although our financial partner is withdrawing, we will of course be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend to bring on new partners.
“The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast,” said the Woodstock team.
“The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast”
Lang also states that all Woodstock 50 acts have already been paid in full, making the event viable if another financial backer is found.
The original Woodstock 50 partner, Dentsu Aegis Network, issued the statement expressing concerns over the viability of the event yesterday (Monday 29 April).
“Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, 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.
“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,” reads the statement.
The statement came after delays to the event’s on sale, scheduled for Monday 22 April, and speculations that organisers had failed to obtain a mass-gathering permit from the New York State Department of Health.
The festival is scheduled to take from August 16 to 18, over the original Woodstock 1969 weekend. The line-up includes Santana, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Jay-Z. The Black Keys recently pulled out of the festival, following “unforeseen scheduling conflicts”.