Woodstock 50 Is Canceled: ‘We Just Ran Out of Time’

The majority of the anniversary festival’s performers abandoned the event once its promoters tried to move it to Maryland.

ImageMichael Lang, left, with John Fogerty at an event announcing Woodstock 50 in March.
Michael Lang, left, with John Fogerty at an event announcing Woodstock 50 in March.CreditCreditEvan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press
Ben Sisario

Woodstock 50 is officially dead.

After months of uncertainty, which saw organizers battling a former investor in court, losing two potential venues in upstate New York, and attempting a last-ditch move to an amphitheater in Maryland, the planned 50th anniversary concert was finally called off on Wednesday.

“We just ran out of time,” Michael Lang, one of the partners behind Woodstock 50, as well as the promoter of the original festival in 1969, said in an interview. The event was to have been held Aug. 16-18, almost exactly 50 years after the original.

Once planned as a world-class outdoor concert for up to 150,000 people, featuring Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, the Killers, Dead and Company, Santana, John Fogerty and dozens of others, the festival met an ignominious end after the majority of its artists abandoned the event once Lang and his partners tried in recent days to move it to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md.

Merriweather, which could hold about 30,000 people for a festival, would have represented a drastically lower profile for the event, which had been planned for the grounds around a racetrack in Watkins Glen, N.Y. In addition, the new location may have had practical complications for many artists, through so-called radius clauses — a requirement in many touring contracts that restrict artists from appearing too close to other stops on their tour.

“It’s disappointing that those that could have come didn’t,” Lang said. “I understand that there are radius clauses, and that a lot of the potential artists were eliminated because of that.”

Artists booked for the festival were paid up front, some of them earning fees well into the seven figures; according to a court filing, Woodstock 50 paid $32 million to book its original lineup.

In a statement announcing the cancellation of Woodstock 50, Lang encouraged artists to donate 10 percent of their fees to HeadCount, a nonprofit group that registers voters, “or the causes of their choice in the spirit of peace.”

Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He joined The Times in 1998, and has contributed to Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Press and WFUV. He also wrote “Doolittle,” a book about the Pixies. @sisario