It’s just another festival. Albeit with a legendary brand name, which has been tarnished by two previous anniversary iterations.
The festival business has changed. Everything doesn’t sell out. Some crater completely, like Pemberton in British Columbia. If you build it, there’s a good chance they will not come. Even if they’ve come before, they might not again.
Like Bonnaroo. Started as a jam band festival, it expanded its brand to the point of near-extinction. Phish is returning this year, and some of the Phishheads unable to fathom missing a performance will attend, but Bonnaroo peaked years ago and is one bad year away from going away.
Because it’s a lousy experience. In Tennessee in the near-summer with camping. It takes a special breed of person to want to do that, and there aren’t that many of them. People want to be pampered, and it’s about the audience, not the performers. That’s why the Fyre Festival was so successful, people bought tickets because they wanted to hang with movers and shakers, up their cred, make connections. The fact that it ended up a fraud is secondary.
Coachella continues. Because it’s the granddaddy and the first event of the festival season, taking place in April. But this is the year they switched formulas, from classic to contemporary. This may or may not work for them. Coachella may be Glastonbury, act-proof, but maybe not.
But the other mega-festivals in the U.S…
Are all located in cities. Lollapalooza in Chicago, ACL in Austin and Outside Lands in San Francisco. You’ve got to locate your festival in a metropolis, with infrastructure, people don’t want to only hear music and they don’t want to camp. This works for not only the three festivals stated above, but for JazzFest and Life Is Beautiful. Life is not beautiful sitting in the mud.
And speaking of mud, that’s always an issue with east coast festivals, the weather. Seems every year a New York City festival has to cancel a day for weather, wreaking havoc with the economics.
And it used to be festivals were a one time only experience. Now, the headliners appear at multiple events, in your region, there’s no need to travel, and if you don’t go to the festival, you can see them at your local venue.
The original Woodstock was such a legendary event because no one thought it would be so. The mainstream press did not participate in the buildup, unlike today, where the announcement of the bill is all over the web.
The original Woodstock was a cultural event, but we did not know this until after the show was over. When we saw the power of youth. All going, all being safe, all enjoying classic music.
But shortly thereafter, Meredith Hunter was killed at Altamont. And the wannabe events promoted were canceled, like Powder Ridge. And then there was the original Watkins Glen concert, with three legendary acts. The Dead and the Allmans built their careers on their live shows, the records paled in comparison, you had to be there to experience it. I was, it was not so great, the best I can say is I was there. We slept in the car and it rained and I would not want to repeat the performance.
No baby boomer would.
And millennials are all about creature comforts, lifestyle. Why would they want to camp?
Certainly, the music is not enough.
In all the grosses and live experience hogwash, no one admits the music does not have the power it used to. When the Killers are headlining you yawn. Their hits are behind them and they’re not superstars to begin with.
As for Dead & Company… They play EVERYWHERE!
And Jay Z? He doesn’t go clean. We can argue whether it’s high ticket prices or demand…
The only act that seems to be somewhat about the music is Dead & Company. Didn’t Jay Z say he was a brand, man? Maybe that was someone else, but that’s everybody’s goal these days. The musicians are not aspirational for their music, but their ability to leverage that fame in other ways to make money. It’s hollow.
The acts of yore wrote their own material. Today’s acts perform “songs” written by committee, or someone else entirely, it’s not straight from the heart, but straight from the cash register.
Furthermore, in 1969, the music was exploring and exploding. It drove the culture. Jimi Hendrix played “The Star Spangled Banner” to close Woodstock. The innovation is limited today, we’re not in a heyday.
But you might argue with me.
But I’ll tell you it’s just business. Promoters don’t put up shows on a wing and a prayer, they look at the numbers, they make educated guesses, too many losses and they’re out of business. If anything, give Michael Lang credit for snookering Dentsu to pay for this. And I’m sure he told them about sponsorships, movies, the penumbra… They all came after the original Woodstock, which initially was all about the music and nothing but the music.
No one is looking at the Woodstock 50 bill and saying…WHOA, I HAVE TO BE THERE!
That was Desert Trip, with truly legendary acts in a one time only show.
The only attractive thing is the brand name. And people believe in Apple, Netflix, and Instagram more than they do in Woodstock these days.
If anything, all the innovation is happening on the fringes, in the small shows, the bubbling under stuff. We’re hoping some of it blows up and inspires others thinking out of the box.
But Woodstock 50 is like a remake of “American Idol.” Or bringing back a sixties or seventies TV show because the networks are out of ideas.
I’m yearning for some disruption.
And even those not on the cutting edge don’t want to drive to nowhere to camp and see acts that won’t change their lives.
If Michael Lang really wanted to have a modern festival it would focus on the attendees, not those on stage.
But that’s a baby boomer, always locked in the past.
P.S. Jay Z said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” That’s all you need to know about today’s music scene.
Michael Lang and Bob’s readers respond.
You may have little interest in the social impact of the Woodstock legacy, but anyone who was there will tell you it was about way more than just the music.
W50 is not music by the numbers and we are not Live Nation or AEG looking to own the Festival world. This one-time event will not be back next year. We are independent and happy to be so.
You can look at our lineup and dismiss the headliners because they are headliners and have been for some time, and that’s because they make great music. Many of our acts are heavily committed to Social Change.
You can fail to look to the rich fabric of the undercard and you dismiss the incredible diversity and talent there as not worth a mention, But for you to ignore the power of music to once again move people to action is truly disappointing.
I think we are reliving some of the same issues we, (maybe not you), were passionate about back then. Civil rights, women’s rights, equal opportunity for all, ending a war we felt unjust, and awareness of the fact that our planet needed care. We gained a voice and we made a difference. Through music and community, we hope to help engage young people in these and other challenges once again affecting all of our lives, to encourage them to step up and make their voices heard.
We have a growing list of NGO partners like HeadCount and Conservation International as well as NGO’s coming from the likes of Miley Cyrus- Happy Hippies, JZ -REFORM, and Chance The Rapper’s Social Works.
And btw the Dentsu guys sold me! They wanted in. They saw this event as an opportunity with a payoff of doing some real good in the world.
Where will we be if we don’t all step up now?
Ya know I was going to stay silent.
I went to Woodstock ’99 and yeah I was statistic of rape. I never filed. I made peace with it. I was drunk. Passed out. and 18.
However along with the negligence of security it was also High way robbery. It was the hottest weekend I have ever experienced in any music festival. Water was $4 a bottle and food was expensive. On top of that the security wouldn’t let us bring in alot of the food and liquid we had brought. Don’t remember now why. The port a potties that were gross and also probably a health hazard.
Then there were the riots and the fires. and so on…
I have been to many music fests then.. ACL, Boston Calling, and Floyd Fest (which A friend of mine runs) . All never experienced the same horrid problems that I faced at good Old Woodstock 99.
So Lang. Your full of shit. Your Lineup is uninspiring and your 1969 hippie-dom turned those same exact Hippies to Yuppies. So “your power of music ” crap is more “power of the mighty dollar”
Your in it for the buck too. Hold the righteous crap. Your zealot and looking for your last major buck . Cause Jay-Z is a businessman…Not hating on him …but wha?t ..he’s doin this at the kindness of his heart. Get the F out of here. I live in Queens. And I (nor my friends) will be forking over your new snake oil that is just upstate.
That era is gone Lang. and Bob pointed it out. You were a disappointment then Lang and still are, cause you are soppin’ up your last nasty ass cold pea soup with years stale old bread. And it won’t be me (or my friends) that sponsor it. Save it.
Thanks for all you Do Bob. Lang ..kiss my ass
Good response. Lefsetz is, and always has been, a cynic. Reminds me of a movie critic who wishes he was a director.
Michael is right on.
I just love hearing JayZ and Miley preaching about an unfair society and telling me how to live MY life. Can’t wait to go……Lol.
Please. WTF is he talking about? God bless with your endeavor, but c’mon with this dithering.
The “legacy” of Woodstock from the guy that in 1999 charged $4 for a bottle of water in 100 degree heat then couldn’t believe it when the kids burned it down. I was covering it for Rolling Stone and the tension was thick FRIDAY night before that clown Fred Durst really fucked it up on Saturday. I’ll never forget Lang’s blasé attitude when I tracked him down the next morning standing next to a mountain of garbage.
And as far as the Watkins Glen site, did he bother to talk to Richard Glasgow and the Phish camp about the Curveball disaster last summer? They can run a 50K camping festival in their sleep but not even Coran can control Mother Nature and the NY state permit goons.
The Superfly team are pros for sure, but 95% of patrons will have to camp/RV because there is NOTHING around there. In the most volatile time of year for weather, on a site that could potentially flood. No thanks.
Remind me, why does Lang get another shot to fuck it up again?
This is a one off that’s for sure does anyone care. Could anyone guess the event from the list of bands? Woodstock NY has less infrastructure than a 3rd world country, population 6000. Having an event there begs the question why. A 1 lane road in a town of 6000 it’s not 1969. How many people could get hurt, miles away from decent care, hotels, food, water. A disaster waiting to happen with 2 previous disasters on record.
Yeah, Michael Lang got you big time. A lot of modern music out there doesn’t speak to me, nor do I think the music is that inspirational, motivating, or stimulating for that matter. But, Mr. Lang’s message of spreading the word on climate, equal everything, civil rights, etc., is most definitely worthy of building a festival around, and I’m backin it. If I lived in New York, or wherever it’s happening, I would seriously consider going. But let’s bring it back down to my level for a second. When I go out to a bar, club, or music venue, for live music, a dj, or just drinks at some dive, there is only one ingredient I could give a fuck about. Are there girls there. I am happy to sit through a really bad band if there are girls in the bar and/or dancing, because that’s where the good energy comes from. Period. Good music and/or good times typically attract cute ladies. And that’s where I want to be.
I’m with you, Bob. And, your comments about this. He’s living in the wrong world. Things have changed.
W50 or WD-40?
Michael Lang ..WORD!
This is a marketing response, approved his corporate overlords and not from the heart.
If he wanted this to be about more than just headliners, he wouldn’t have just dropped a lineup card like everyone else…except Fyre that is…they may have been crooks with no idea on how to execute a festival, but they sure knew how to market one. VIDEO VIDEO VIDEO… if you want to cut through, you need a well-shared story that explains why you exist and gives potential fans a reason to believe in you.
Sure…Live Nation makes highlight video “trailers” for their EDM extravaganzas that all look the same with no discernible beginning or end, but FYRE has still done the best job to date of differentiating themselves from the competition with an aspirational video that fulfilled the unmet desires of our youth. Too bad the same brains that made the Fyre team great marketers also made them too cocky to listen to the logistical experts that told them to just host the festival on a ship…
Lang’s self-serving response reminds me of that album by Swamp Dogg called “I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In!”
Bravo Michael Lang!
“Many of our acts are heavily committed to Social Change (expanding their wallets).”
Me thinks he read you wrong.
Ps I was there.
I was there until I left for Asbury Park on Saturday afternoon to see Led Zep open
up for Joe Cocker.
“…the rich fabric of the undercard” ? Looks like polyester to me. But I guess I’m not their audience. Not sure who is.
The poster with the artists has been published but the door seems closed, again. No ticket info other than in one month, April 22nd on sale date? No media contact. No info to volunteer, etc. The poster implies more acts to be announced. Can you comment on all this. Or do we have to wait another month.
I said to Bob.I want to see Woodstock 50 succeed. But the lack of information is hurting the cause.
Just re-read Lang’s letter, is it just me or is there really no there,
there? “Many of our acts are heavily committed to Social Change.” Why
not list a few with an examples of their commitments?
I was at Woodstock, it was very important experience in my life, but I
never thought about Michael Lang as someone who “made a difference.”
Very well said, and true…
This is a one off that’s for sure does anyone care. Could anyone guess the event from the list of bands? Woodstock NY has less infrastructure than a 3rd world country, population 6000. Having an event there begs the question why. A 1 lane road in a town of 6000 it’s not 1969. How many people could get hurt, miles away from decent care, hotels, food, water. A disaster waiting to happen with 2 previous disasters on record.
Kudos to Michael for having the stones to respond, and it’s clear his heart and purpose are in the right place. If not us who? If not now when? Indeed.
Doesn’t change the fact that this fest’s musical lineup looks like all the rest.
And you’re right about the most important aspect: Watkins Glen is a gorgeous facility in a beautiful locale – a beautiful locale that’s at least 5 or 6 hours away from any major metropolis. And it’s out in the middle of the forest, with few lodging options besides camping.
You should read the Comments where Brooklyn Vegan posted the lineup announcement on Facebook. Its target demo is scoffing at the lineup, while Rolling Stone’s is dreading the experience.
The youngsters wont go, and the oldsters won’t camp. Who’s left?
We’ll see. On social media, of course. I ain’t goin’ all the way up there.
Ha! I thought the poster was lame AF and if they are a festival about “way more than music” then where are the stamps/stickers/logos of Black Lives Matter, Youth Climate Strike, Washington is Broken, Trillion Dollar Bloody Wars are bad for all, corporations are evil, Surveillance Capitalism is unfair, why is our generation priced out of the American Dream” Nope none of this on the original flyer?
Let’s keep it real! It’s a cash grab!! They want to cash in on the 50th anniversary gig the same way that every artist does on their album anniversaries.
I’m disappointed that Jay Z, the most powerful artist in the world, allowed his name to be added into the blurry print here along with talented but not politically powerful entertainers of today.
I’m disappointed they missed the opportunity here to be radically political in today’s issue from the initial announcement because they don’t stand a chance from this inch until day of!
No this is not Woodstock. It’s not the march on Washington. It’s not the million man march. It’s not the women’s march. Nor is it Coachella in its prime, bonarroo in its prime, or AfroPunk in its prime.
No this is not a cultural event marking a place in history or moment in time. Sadly it will end up being a bunch of mid grade college kids and young professionals vaping and on Instagram just like the annual regional fests Gov Ball, Boston Calling, Made in America, etc
Way to fail and blow the game at your first move Pawn to King 4.
Michael Lang gives Bob L what for.
That was a pretty weak reply to you, Bob. Next.
Hi Bob, I agree with you on many subjects but I will say this, it’s pretty easy to stand back and judge. So many seem unhappy with the line up with many feeling Miley Cyrus and JayZ don’t belong but the fact is this event is about everyone who wants to make a difference and many who want to have some fun. Is it that hard to all come in for the big win?
Sean D. Gilday
Blue Raven entertainment
This is a brief response to Michael Lang’s response to you expressing your opinion on his Woodstock 50 Festival. Social causes & campaigns are fine and have their place but the music should come 1st in my humble opinion. Michael sounded a little testy & I might be, too, if this was my baby and, more importantly, I was where the buck stops as far as the success of the show goes. It seems like he’s preparing a defense for a possible failure of the festival by his playing of an ” oh, your not for social justice?” card which is a slightly chicken shit way of a pre-CYA strategy. Dare ye not express an alternate opinion on this stuff!
Scott from San Antonio
It’s a noble crusade but will anyone who doesn’t go be talking about it afterwards? Does anyone talk about the 25 year show? As you rightfully pointed out, Coachella is a bigger cultural event at this point. Nothing is big enough anymore to penetrate all of society.
You may prove to be right
However, I am not a big fan of pre reviewing an event before it happens
For me both the
Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival
& Monterey Pop
were the Blueprints
And it seemed to take a long time to sortall that out
If Woodstock was going to be a regular thing like Coachella
I think what you’re saying would definitely ring true
but just doing one more
One off event
I think it’s going to do extremely well
Because a lot of people who may not be superfans
of most of the acts
Want to Spinal tap into that muddy history
One More Time
We’ll soon see
It’d probably do you some good to think a little younger and use your experience to look a little farther down the road. And maybe go to Woodstock50.
I’m with Michael…..
Bob, you do keep it interesting…!
Michael’s response is insightful. Let’s just hope the audience has the same sentiment and the marauding mob scene from the past celebrations is absent this time around.
LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS BOB…
BUT – MICHAEL’S RIGHT ON THIS ONE. THANKS FOR POSTING HIS RESPONSE 🙂
LONG LIVE INSPIRING MUSIC WHEREVER IT IS !!
A little crow eating ? Just a smidgen, not a lot.
Bravo Michael .. .. Bob, please don’t be the jaded critic. Somewhere in you is a light that still burns for the power of music…
I think it is an awesome feat to pull this off in the social media age full of internet trolls living in their parents basements trashing everything and anything…
Your lineup is incredibly eclectic with the appropriate reverence to the original festival and many acts are the real music scene that essential to music becoming a force for change again..
I will go back to the Garden in Bethel to see the concert film played on the original field and then also to Watkins Glen to take in the entire scene.
I was 12when the first one happened. While I couldn’t go, I got to watch the profound social changes that occurred with the lightening in a bottle that you caught.
I can’t think of a better time for the music artists to ignite a social movement once again.
Congratulations for keeping the bird of peace flying!!
And special thanks for;
Gary Clarke Jr
And so many others !! How you will fit 25-30 performances each day seems daunting! Bring back your motorcycle.. Peace
The first sentence in Michael Lang’s note is precise and powerful.
For many of us who attended the original it was truly a life changer in many ways….for many days, years and decades!
How does one define a retired Hippie?
Anyway i am unimpressed with the wanna be’s in the lineup at Watkins Glen. I counted 13 acts of interest but the balance might be good or just conflict with my musical time bubble.
However, the simpler downstate venue has promise and a bit more direct focus capability plus many acts are likely to perform in greater NY venues so the summer will likely offer lots of reminiscent opportunities.
Good beginnings for better memories, but quite uphill to make this rock a better place however, many remember how to stop a war, impeach a crook and cease nuke plants so….we can combine age and wisdom with youth and skill for RESULTS!
Always enjoy your stuff but felt compelled to pen this.
Talk is cheap. When it’s over, we’ll all probably know if it was a success or not. The rest is just noise to me. Sorta like politics.
Simply my opinion.
OMG, Thank Goodness he responded. It at least had the effect of lowering my blood pressure after reading your cynical, jaded and yes PRIVILEGED
view of this upcoming event.
Also, and it has to be said, WTAF are you expecting?
At the very least, Michael Lang has ALL the credibility here and that’s just from jump.
Stop, this time Bob, please STOP.
MORE WOODSTOCK 50
I think the real question is why Watkins Glen? Beautiful city but the infrastructure to handle a festival is so small, the nearest airport ( Ithica ) has a few flights and they go to DCA and PHL, the nearest airports are 2 hours away. Hotel’s up there are few and far between, so this means lots of traffic coming in to the show daily, unless you camp, but the artists are not going to camp, lol. So once they take all the hotels, guess what.
I am on another tour that has a show in Boston and need to fly there for one of my other artists and I am going to have to drive instead of fly because none of the 7 flights in and out will work time wise, also they are $1000 each way!
Please don’t print my name if you use this. Thanks !!
For the record, Robbie Robertson has said that The Band were at their best at Watkins Glen. I have three friends who will never stop talking about that weekend as long as we are above ground.
Thomas Wolfe told us in 1940: You Can’t Go Home Again.
The magic only worked once.
This email you sent out about the Woodstock Festival is probably one of the best ones you’ve put out there for a while in my opinion because it addresses truly the modern-day way of the music business. When everybody went to the original Woodstock nobody knew what was going to happen from one minute to the next. It’s what made it an incredible event during incredible times that the world will never see again…I wish them luck pulling this together and the one thing that I would say to the attendees is bring your credit card
Peace and Love Jason Miles
Damn, Powder Ridge!!! My first kiss on the Middlefield Lift just after you cross over the top of the Bunny Slope and into the darkness. MJ’s Rock With You was playing. I’m sure the kiss, much like Power Ridge wasn’t nearly as great as I remember them both. To me though…
I hear you on the comfort factor, we’re probably about same though judging from dates you’ve posted in the past you’re probably a little older than me (most folks I know are).
But if you want a full immersion experience where creature comforts are the rigor than you should go on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise ! It sells out before acts are announced because it’s the experience that counts. And the cheapest rooms are something like $1,500 double occupancy.
It’s a weeklong floating festival with five stages, interrupted with stops on islands or coastal towns. Some folks don’t even bother going ashore!
And there’s everything you could want on board. Nice rooms you can go back and unwind, private parties in some of the larger suites, and did I mention first rate acts.
Oh, these might not be mega-stars, but it’s always a line-up of a mixture of veterans and the best of the new stuff.
Another small festival, and there are hundreds around North America every summer, that I love is the Great Hudson River Revival. Founded by the late Pete Seeger, this year’s event in June will celebrate Pete’s 100th birthday (May 3rd) and the 50th anniversary of the launching of the organization’s flagship sloop, The Clearwater.
There’s great stuff out there, and it doesn’t require being in monstrous sized crowds. You just gotta seek it out.
The Coachella cruise (SS Coachella) was the greatest festival ever. Few attended (otherwise it would’ve had a repeat). But to travel on a boat with James Murphy, Grimes, and Pulps last shows ever? Incredible.
Bob, you nailed it!
This lineup might as well be Bonnaroo 2016. We’ve all seen this before. There is nothing unique or exciting to this lineup.
The promoters are just playing on emotions and trying to sell tickets by using the name Woodstock and the number 50 next to each other.
They are already selling shot glasses on their website. It’s so corny https://store.woodstock.com/product/X3AMWO141/50th-anniversary-logo-shot-glass?cp=84224_104437
There is zero creativity here. It’s gonna be a huge bust!
i was at woodstock. it wasn’t about the music. but you’re right, the music aspired to expand the way we thought about not only music, but life. woodstock was about change. most everyone there was part of a movement. it wasn’t a party, it was a convention. the mud and rain was not a disaster, it was a test. a test of our optimism. a test we passed. nothing was planned, because nothing needed to be planned. whatever happened was fine with us. we were just there to be amongst the believers, and trees. nothing like it can ever happen again, and today, 50 years later, not too many even get it anymore. woodstock 50 has nothing to do with woodstock.
Sooooo right on – cannot even add anything !!!! Carol Ross
You nailed this!
Agree with you 1000%
This is either A) A joke (and a bad one at that) or B) an endurance contest that will get turned into a really awful TV show like TEMPTATION ISLAND or CHOPPED. “Oh, what a shame – you only made it as far as Maggie Rogers.” And Miley Cyrus? She’s what, The Bobby Sherman of of this one? And sorry, but having Country Joe, John Sebabstyian, Canned Heat & Melanie play for this crowd (if there is anything approaching a “crowd”), is likely to go over like showing off your Dad’s “Pong” at the intro for iPhone 12 or something.
Barry Lyons / Rent A Label
Woodstock ‘99 was a mess but I had a blast at ‘94. Great mix of current and past musicians at the time. I’m just talking as a concert goer but one of the best events of my life considering the friends I went with and the environment and fun attitude everybody had there. I still have the tickets and a bunch of other junk from it lol
I really wanted to support the idea of another Woodstock. When I saw a major promoter wasn’t involved, caution set in. Jan. 8th, the festival was announced. Then radio silence. That allowed speculation and rumors to take over. I’ve heard that the delay was due to bands and managers wanting full payment. So, it turns out they are all about the dollar, not the celebration? You are right that they did not get one act that caused us to say “I have to be there.”
It’s a heavy festival season. We have decisions to make with our time and money. Who’s idea was it to make us wait another month to find out about ticket prices? And what bands are the “and more…”? Who is handling PR?
In the mean time, Lolapalooza announces. There is Life is Beautiful. I hope Woodstock is listening and responds to what is being said. In spite of the shortfalls, I really want to see it succeed. I’m keeping my reservation to see what developes. Then I will decide.
I saw some fledgling acts that are on the bill posting on their social about this. I was like “what there’s a 50th” followed by my second thought of, “who’s dumb enough to buy a ticket for this?”
“Jimi Hendrix played “The Star Spangled Banner” to close Woodstock.”
I think he closed his main set with “Villanova Junction” and then played an encore of “Hey Joe.” The national anthem was a few songs from the end of the set.
the “I hate millennials” festival sounds like a must-go event to me.
Coachella is 20 years old. JazzFest is 50 years old.
As a musical experience and as an economic enterprise, JazzFest not only survived Hurricane Katrina, it has grown every year since.
I just don’t understand why you always describe Coachella as the “granddaddy” of music festivals given that JazzFest was already 30 years old when Coachella was born.
What am I missing?
I was at Woodstock. I was a musician but also worked for WABC radio, so I had an all access backstage pass. This allowed me to stay dryer (not totally dry) than most and to hang out in the pavilion with all sorts of legends. I used to do gigs with Arlo Guthrie and he was there. I stood on the scaffolding drinking champagne alongside Grace Slick (water was scare). Of course, she had no idea who I was. I helped hand out stew with Wavy Gravy and stood outside the tent where my (childhood sweetheart) Joan Baez was warming up.
I left the festival tired from lack of sleep and very grungy. But it was one of the high points of my life, especially where music is concerned.
WOODSTOCK WAS EVERYTHING LEGEND MAKES IT OUT TO HAVE BEEN.
Man, I miss the 60s!!!
It would be worth your while to check out hardly strictly bluegrass in San Francisco. 5 or 6 stages and upwards of 80 acts in Golden Gate Park. Totally free to attend so ticked sales to the masses isn’t the driving force behind the booking, the music rides in the front seat.
It’s Warren Helman’s love letter to San Francisco, and probably the only festival of its kind in the US. The only one not marred by corporate sponsorships and VIP levels of access separating haves from have nots. Backstage there is a real vibe of artistic camaraderie and nobody, no matter who you are, gets more than a 10×10 for a quick change and maybe a bottle or two off your rider. Every artist hangs together in the common hospo area back of house, and the feeling of musical family is palpable.
Newport Folk also continues to buck the system. Being limited by their 10k capacity and with a guaranteed sell out every year, they also give the music a front seat and what they’re doing to give back to the music community, and the way they engage the artists and bring them into the folk family fold is unrivaled.
It’s not all bad news out there in festival world.
JazzFest can suffer from extremely hot, humid weather. A friend went and it was so rainy she was unable to see Stevie Wonder.
Hi Bob – I was at the 94’ (second) Woodstock. And by like the 2nd band the johnnies on the spot were overflowing, the food had gotten scarce, the rains came and the this new breed of concert grower was born- mud people.
I was there for the Chili Peppers and Bob Dylan.
Thanks for talking me out the stupid idea of attending. I prefer music cruises now
Music festivals can be even more nefarious. Many of them have radius clauses in their contracts. Bands are not allowed to play within a certain radius of the festival for a certain period of time. So if you love a band and you want to see them in your town, there’s a good chance you’ll either have to brave the mud and crowds and the blitzed imbeciles, or catch them the next time they tour.
Festivals are awesome for people who like festivals. They suck for people who like music.
I could not agree more..I attended and worked building the stage and working in the crew at the first one.Spending most of the festival moving gear on and off the stage the experience of seeing the fantastic musicians captivate an audience as far as the eye could see was overwhelming.The music continued all day and night..The musicians backstage were amazed at the sprawling crowd and walked around in total disbelief at the quality of music they were experiencing all in one place at the same time.Musicians bonding with other musicians.Impromtu backstage jams.Things that will never be able to be replicated because we have become so used to these things that they are not unique anymore..The spirit of Woodstock is what will be missing.I will watch the Directors cut and remember the feeling I had when I heard Janis warning up before her performance and watching Alvin Lee come off the stage pouring sweat.
Bob, the disruption you yearn for has been in full bloom since the 1970s, and is still expanding. It’s rap.
Rap doesn’t fit any previous definition of music. Singing, playing, melody, chords, dynamics etc. are either secondary or absent altogether. BUT…
When a conventional rock or R&B band invites a good rapper up to the stage for a mid-set guest shot, the energy level in the venue suddenly spikes. The audience goes wild, the place blows up.
Traditional rock, soul, or blues performers and songwriters continue to offer up highly entertaining shows and recordings. But these performers and writers simply have no new turf to explore, because by 1980. American pop music boundaries had been thoroughly demolished. Meanwhile, after nearly 50 years of development, rap is still a hotbed of innovation.
You are such an old pessimistic sad sack.
glad you said IT!!!!!
Watkins Glen, not so great? Totally unforgettable for this kid, Bob. Going to Woodstock at 12 was out of the question, but summer of ‘73 I live down the road in Ithaca, and my girlfriend Rachel and I buy our $10 Summer Jam tickets early. She gets sick and bails that Friday, so my buddy Hank and I hitch over to the racetrack, walk the last five miles through an ocean of parked cars, and find our way all the way up to the front. Friday night’s sound checks are brilliant, the Dead play two sets with Bill Graham pacing the stage. Yeah, it rains on Saturday, it rains hard, but the sets are killer, the mud friendly, and right in the middle of The Band’s dangerously wet set? Rachel shows up, like a mermaid. 600,000 people, and I’m still trying to figure out how she found us. Years later I heard Shelly and Jim cooked up Summer Jam after Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley and Jai Johansen played with Jerry and the boys at Dillon Stadium a year earlier. It was Dickey’s first time playing in the band, and it was this lucky kid’s first Dead show…
Didnt they learn anything from the chaos of wood$tock 99? Run The Jewels is the saving grace of hip hop and the future. Let them headline all three nights.
Nail meet head.
Nailed it, Bob. Nothing here, there (Woodstock).
As a newly turned 46 year old I had a good laugh at your “old man yells at a cloud” email about Woodstock.
For the last four years I’ve been travelling the world to go to festivals.
I’ve been to one amazing festival already this year (Golden Plains, Meredith, Australia) and I’m attending three festivals (Shindig Weekender in Somerset UK, Primavera Sound in Barcelona Spain, and Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig) over three weeks in Europe this summer… And, providing I can arrange it, I’ll be at more festivals in Australia and the UK for the next 12 months.
Sure, America is a fetid backwater, full of the worst kinds of humans imaginable, but don’t think for a minute the Great American Failure of a Capitalist Dream has infected everywhere. Most people I’ve met at these festivals are fucking loving them, loving live, loving music, and show no signs of stopping attending.
That’s why music cruises are taking off. I’ve been to all 5 Moody Blues cruises and one
Flower Power. You have a nice room, all the food you can eat, all the drinks you want,
most shows are indoors so if it rains, that’s fine and as far as I’m concerned, if I was
paying $100 a concert and I get to go to 3-4 a day for 5 days, the cruise is free. And
you get to run into the bands in the cafeteria or just walking on the ship or getting on
an elevator. It is the perfect way to get that feeling of belonging and yet you can jump
in the hot tub or go back to your room if you get tired. After the first cruise I said it was
like Woodstock if Woodstock had showers, comfy beds and all the food you could eat!
I’ve seen great bands – including Roger Daltry, The Zombies, the Moodies and the
last cruise had Todd Rundgren who I really like.
While I agree with your general just, it feels odd hearing Jay-Z described as being part of “today’s music scene”.
No teenagers are talking about anything he has put out in the last 10 years unless Kanye or his wife were involved.
Tidal has done damage to his legacy on the ground, it will be used as a case study for years to come. The number of people REALLY discovering his music has likely nosedived.
I live in Reading (UK), home of the festival. In the years I went nothing can top the iconic appearance of Nirvana. Standing in the mud and rain all day, wondering if the biggest band in the world would appear, after some well publicised difficulties. It felt special then , little did any one who was there realise just how important and iconic that performance would be. Then I went home to bed [ sod sitting in a tent when I lived less than a mile away with a warm bed and shower waitng!].
Thanks for your post.
Love this article, so dead on! I have not wanted to sleep on the ground since I was a kid, even then it was overrated!
Yes. Best two lines, “Woodstock 50, oh I have to be there” and Jay Z, “”I’m a business, man!”
It’s not just Southern California influencers shelling out the big bucks to sleep in overpriced cabins with lavish and excess who still enjoy festivals.
Agreed that it’s more about the experience that the acts alone, but there’s a thriving festival scene all over the US where the majority of folks still camp out and keep it rustic.
Miley Cyrus at Woodstock? – What a louse. Dead & Company, Santana, Cros, etc. can’t bandaid stuff like that.
Great article. You wrote exactly what I was thinking. Thanks. Jeff Booth
They are defiantly not going back to the garden . . .
“You may have little interest in the social impact of the Woodstock legacy, but anyone who was there will tell you it was about way more than just the music.”
Look me in the face and tell me it was WAY more than just the music in 1999. Was it the $4 water, the lack of security or the nu metal acts that caused the riots that occured.
Fuck right off with that shit.
Where’s Billie Eilish? Where’s Kpop? Where’s Tool, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Coldplay, RHCP?? Where THE FUCK IS EDM?!?!?!?
Fuck this shit. Woodstock is supposed to be a bookmarked celebration of a generation’s music. I’ve seen Spotify playlists from teenagers better than this lineup.
I hope this festival ends in flames like the last one. It’s a fucking dumpster fire.
I grew up there near Watkins Glen NY, and my dad’s best pal ran a liquor & beer store in the little downtown. When he heard about the potential size of the 1973 Summer Jam concert, he stocked up 4x everything, including a couple of shotguns. I was 15, and we all camped out in sleeping bags in his store those nasty rainy nights to keep “the hippies” from stealing merchandise. I think they were all too soaked & miserable (& stoned) to bother, nothing happened.
We were told — local lore maybe, or not — that Summer Jam turned out to the largest congregation of human beings ever anywhere up til then. 500,000 kids, most without tickets, showed up & tore down the fences. They had planned for 10,000 or so, including port-a-potties. It wasn’t just mud they were rolling in up on that hill.
Our next door neighbor, a med student resident, volunteered at the Summer Jam first aid tent. He still talks about treating dozens of drunks, overdoses & broken bones. And the one DOA guy who tried to arrive so grandly by parachute but was carrying a lit flare that caught his strings on fire… ooops.
Some events are better not repeated!
The elephant in the room when it comes to your garden variety music festival, is TICKET PRICE and TEARED TICKETING.
People just want to easily buy one ticket at a reasonable price and get the service anyone would expect at a regular concert.
“you want VIP parking…that’s extra…you want hot showers…that’s extra….you want to camp beside your car…that’s extra….oh you only want a single day ticket….call back 30 days before the show for prices…you want gourmet food with your ticket…that’s extra”
It’s become so costly and complicated to plan a show with friends, I’d rather just go to a tailgate at a sporting game or regular concert.
Case in point. Lange makes a big announcement about Woodstock50 …and doesn’t even release information on the COST of the tickets!!!…..WHAT!!! (insert head shake here)…that’s the second thing people want to know…. (next to the info on the “lineup”)
You gotta get deep into the weeds to buy a festival ticket these days and there are only so many dollars in the pocket of most broke millennials.
Chris Dragon from Toronto
Yes, it was not really about the specific performers, it was being immersed in the music and the culture around the music. And to be clear, that was not pop culture. Most attendees did not look camera ready at all, but then it was before the age of selfies.
I met Michael Lang, and I understand this new one in the usual way. He wanted to stage a Broadway musical, and that would probably work so perhaps this is a warmup but then many of the original acts are long gone.
Are these festivals today even about the music, or what it is trying to say? There was protest and a message in much of the music back during Woodstock time, but in general that has faded with the quest for even more money.
You keep pointing out great and good music abounds, and that is clearly true. It may not be at these events, and if attendees have a good experience so much the better, but it certainly is not that “feeling” we had.
While the big festivals like Cochella chug along, there IS a disruption in the festival circuit and it’s been gathering steam for years now: niche, smaller festivals. There are lots of these happening all over the US- Pickathon, Desert Stars, and many more. Small(er) crowds, varied accommodation options and tastefully curated lineups that include acts you know now, and ones you haven’t heard yet but may soon become personal faves.
Kind of like the Spotify experience in a “manageable” live event.
Oh, hell, I’ll never get through to you; but, I do enjoy reading most of your blog.
We’re too tiny for you at 10,000; but, bet we have more grammy awards represented on our stage in a weekend than coachella has had last three combined.
After our 45th year, we’re just competing with ourselves. It’s amusing, though, to watch the big festivals make such GROUNDBREAKING revelations like using compostable straws. WOW. That’s news? We’ve been doing that for over a decade.
And, we offset all travel to and from, best we can estimate from pretty thorough ticket sales evaluation; after a decade, still the only actually carbon neutral festival, though others make the claim.
And, we’ve sure put in our 10,000 hours.
Craig Ferguson (Telluride Bluegrass Festival)
Well done Bob.
I’ve been a fan for years, and I want to thank you for your emails.
Your completely right about festivals.
Last year my company TickPick sponsored Firefly as the official ticket marketplace.
I loved that there was a hotel to stay at; this made it possible for me to convince my wife to go (we are in our mid 30s with two young kids, so if we are going away, specially to a festival, there needs to be a hotel or an Airbnb).
As a sponsor, I got a Staff VIP wristband, which more or less let’s you go anywhere. My wife got a “family band”, which was the equivalent of their $2,500 Super VIP band. I met Ryan the CEO of Red Frog and Firefly, before AEG bought Firefly.
Ryan was awesome, he took us on stage (which was a first for me) and then drove us in his personal golf cart through their backroads to the next stage to see Marian Hill. After we split up from Ryan, I was later escorted out of the VIP area by security. Security was only doing their job.
Luckily afterwards, I was given a family band / Super VIP band.
For the first time ever (in an environment like this) I truly felt Super VIP. The coolest part was access to a system of golf carts that acted in the background.
The next day from the hotel, instead of walking 1.5 miles in 90+ degree heat, we got a golf cart ride. That night when the Killers were on the main stage, we got a quick ride two stages over where Portugal the Man was playing. Thirty minutes later we got a ride back to the main stage to see Eminem.
The entire experience was somewhat magical.
As a business man, I thought about how the $2,500 Super VIP customer and experience was so much more costly and challenging to execute on, compared to selling 8 GA tickets, or even 4 VIP tickets.
Nonetheless, if someone can figure out a way to give your general audience a taste of Super VIP, they will be incredibly successful.
The closest thing I’ve seen to this was at the Country Music Fan Festival. They have an ally, like a catwalk for fans in front of the first row on the floor. You can choose one artist and you are able to be in front of the stage for a couple songs (not sure if they still do this).
As you said it’s about the experience and how it makes you feel.
I hope one day to get a chance to meet.
I, too went to the original. That was home turf for me. My parents had a summer bungalow in White Lake.
2 miles from Max’s farm.It’s where we bought our dairy stuff and I played with cows. Max and my Dad would sometimes go fishing on Saturdays at Hunter Lake.
From 1953-1969. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we were there. Dad came up on weekends.
I could walk to the site thru the woods in 15 minutes. Slept in a bed. Ate Mom’s food. I was 16.
If they say there were 400,000 on site, I say there was another 1/2 million stuck in the arteries(Route 17B, 42, 55) Arlo was wrong. They never closed the Thruway, Just Exit 16, leading to the site.
Like you, I worshipped at the Fillmore Altar, so I had seen 90% of the acts on the bill.
I was desperate to see one: Stephen Stills and Neil Young. Never saw the Springfield(Nor the Beatles).
3 weeks prior to that weekend I went into the city and saw Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin and Sly Stone. In a row.
I hated the 1st night(rain) and didn’t care for some of the acts(Havens, Baez, etc..), so I left.
But the Who, Sly, killed it, the next night. Alvin Lee was great and so was Mountain. But the Band, while good was lethargic for that crowd.
Zep, and Blind Faith were on tour(?), Jeff Beck cancelled and Dylan never showed(rumor).
By the time Hendrix played(already seen him, Janis others 2X), we were tired.
I hitchhiked back to B’klyn on Tuesday and came back again on Friday with my Dad.
He was angry with me. Thought I was on drugs the whole time(yes, pot, LSD and uppers to stay awake).
I took him to the site to talk to the people left, and the Hog Farm was still cleaning up and the Dead were still there jamming for them.
It changed profoundly his attitude towards me. Best 2 weeks of our life together.
It was then I knew music was my future, so 3 years later I drove to LA, looking for Stephen, Neil and Laurel Cyn. I found Mo Ostin who changed my life.
Yes the music was so important, but it was all about the “hang”. I’ve been told I hung with Laura Nyro all weekend. Don’t remember.
I couldn’t fathom under any circumstances doing that again.
Sorry for the length.
I read your emails almost religiously. Most of the time I appreciate the hardcore music aficionado attitude. I like that there are people (like you) out there who still give a shit.
But, I can’t agree with this Woodstock 50 post. First, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I have nothing to do with W50. That said, I wish I did. I really like what they are trying to do. I know a little something about music and the business that drives it. I was Publisher of SPIN (twice), helped launch the music pub BLENDER and now, on the cusp of turning 60 years old, I work on Rolling Stone. I’ve gone to more festivals than I want to admit. I’ve helped sponsor them and have watched many crash and burn. Most importantly, I still love going to them, and I suggest you get off the sofa and join us stomping around in the mud. It’s fun.
You could not be more wrong about Bonnaroo. It is the musical cousin of Burning Man. It is as much a celebration of the best of humanity as it is great music. To the point, unless I’ve been too stoned, it sure looks like Superfly doesn’t have an attendance problem. It always seems packed to me. And, I think you are short sheeting the millennials. The ones I meet at the festivals like Lockn, Fire Fly and Mountain Jam revel in the freedom of living outside.
As for Woodstock 50, I can’t wait. The promoters have done a good job of sprinkling the infield with an eclectic mix of bands and artists. There’s a little something there for everyone. But, judging it by the lineup still misses the point. At an event as epic as Woodstock 50, it’s about the people and the continuation of a collective aspiration … that as a society we need a good kick in the pants to remind us of what’s important – the welfare of our brethren and the health of Mother Earth. I think Woodstock 50 is at least is trying.
I hope I see you there.
I was 15. Living in Norfolk, Virginia. My best buddies had a hotel room for the Atlantic City Pop Festival, (two weeks before Woodstock). My single mom was not about to let me go to Atlantic City, unsupervised, in a hotel room, no less.
The next week, she came home from work telling me that a girl in her office was going with her boyfriend to a “small festival in Upstate New York. And that if I could earn the money for my own ticket, I could ride up with them as my “chaperones”. I went over to this dude’s house and he had a copy of Rampart’s with this little ad about an exposition in Walkill. A cool lineup, too. If I remember correctly, the Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin were on the bill. But…it’s been a lot of years.
Sold my album collection to a 13 year old that paid me with his father’s 1880s-era silver dollar collection.
So, pockets laden with silver and a small quantity of low-grade marijuana, I rode up with this couple, both at least 18. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we encountered other freaks on the way and traded some ragweed for a couple of hits of blotter acid. The driver and I immediately dropped and it wasn’t long before we we immersed an a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. Not just a traffic jam, but freaks EVERYWHERE. Walking. Panhandling for ticket money. Selling various wares to a captive audience in their automobiles.
That’s when WE knew it was a cultural event. Before it even started.
We eventually parked, the dude, (tripping his ass off) and his lady headed off, arm in arm, in one direction and I took off in another.
Walked down this country road amazed at what I was seeing and experiencing. The road opened up on the top edge of the natural amphitheater and I was dumbstruck. More people than I’d ever seen in one place and they were still coming. Nary a fence. No ticket booth. I was in. Waded into the crowd, found a small piece of real estate and plopped down. Shortly thereafter, an announcement that it’s a “free concert” emanated from the tiny, distant stage. Spent the day and afternoon soaking up the sun, listening to music, partaking in slugs of acid-dosed wine from bottles that endlessly circulated.
Went back to the car on Friday night, as it started drizzling and I was fried, checked in and went back to hear Arlo Guthrie. Came back to the car and crashed
The next morning, chaperones in one direction, me in another.
That was the last I ever saw of them. EVER. When I went to the car Saturday night, it wasn’t there. I went back to the festival site and spent the weekend unencumbered and unmolested by anything or anybody. 15 years old and freer than I’ve ever been.
And I was taken care of. Fed. Body and mind. Sheltered when it rained, by strangers with tarps or sheets of plastic. I ran into a handful of people I knew from home and one, Russell Scarborough, took me under his 17 year-old wing. (Back home, I found out a bunch of friends had gone including our mutual friend Tom Cartwright.) We eventually hitched home together on Monday. Woke up in the mud to the weirdness that was She Na Na. The crowd around us had disappeared and the rest had moved closer to the stage. I thought switchblade-wielding Greasers had commandeered the stage, woke up Russell and suggested maybe we should leave. On the way out, maybe a mile or two away, we heard the sound of Hendrix’s guitar wafting over the countryside. Russell asked if I wanted to go back. I said, “Nah. We can see Hendrix anytime. He plays at all of the festivals.”
It, at the time, wasn’t about the folks on the stage. Shit…we had no idea who would BE on the stage. I missed CSNY, as I was passed out in the mud. Couldn’t wake up for Jefferson Airplane. Watched The Who at sunrise. Wondered at the spastic movements of this “Crocker” dude with the voice of a black man. Was impressed by CCR, (whom I regarded as an unhip Top 40 band). Had a drug-induced religious experience listening to the Band. Was too hip to engage in Sly Stone’s call and response…even after he called me out.
Blown away by Blood, Sweat & Tears. But…those were asides. The show was us. WE caused the traffic jams. WE took care of each other. WE entertained each other during the interminable waits between the musical acts. WE made history. The bands were just the catalyst. The spark. WE were the fire, (however briefly, given Altamont). But WE are the reason Mr. Lang can, again, try to capitalize on US.
I’m not interested in W50 or whatever the fuck they call it. I’ll likely be gigging. Doing a few of the songs that I heard on that weekend of freaks making history. Good luck to those who will attend, but don’t be fooled into thinking something will be replicated. There is no chance. The diversity of the potential audience is destined to include meth heads; the opiate addicted; the weirdies that are the Children of the Internet Corn; kids that don’t realize their modern music sucks and those who do; oldsters that succumbed to the evils of the Republican Party and Trumpism and, of course, ancient freaks that still believe in the Turn On, Tune in and Drop Out ethos that brought us all together on that kismet-laden weekend.
By the way, Powder Ridge wasn’t cancelled. It was a scam by crooks that ran off with the advance ticket monies and a shitload of kids ended up partying anyway.
The last “decent” festival I attended was Wozniak’s US Festival. Great music, but it wasn’t really us.
But…thanks to Mr. Lang for #1 and good luck to him on his his latest venture. Personally, I think he should provide reparations to those of US who made his famous and successful.