Caroline Groff, Staff Writer
The days of peace, love, and rock and roll seem numbered after news of the possible cancellation of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary festival. The images of overcrowded audiences piled with mud and music at the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 are replaced today with the present anniversary’s crisis at hand. Conflicting statements came out between April 28 and April 30, with event financers claiming the cancellation of the festival while the organizers claimed the event was still on.
The event was—and questionably still is—set to take place in Watkins Glen, New York, and was scheduled to match the original festival’s dates of Aug. 16 through the 18th. Set to be a musical experience invoking the sentiments and messages of the original phenomenon, the message has been muddled.
The situation began with a statement released Monday, April 29, from the festival’s investor Dentsu which said, “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.”
The days following this statement have been filled with confusion and more unclear claims. Michael Lang, the organizer of the anniversary festival and co-founder of the original Woodstock, has come out against their main investor’s claims. Lang explained that they have no right or ability to cancel the festivities. In Lang’s statement he said, “We will of course be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend to bring on new partners.”
While the message seems to be a positive one, there hasn’t been any clear solutions to the problem. The festival’s ticket sale day set for April 22 has been pushed back and remains unannounced. Following this undetermined sale date, reports of the festival’s inefficient capacity, grounds sanitation, and lack of required permits lead to more confusion of the event’s fate.
So, is any of this worth the trouble? With so many festivals already taking place, does this retro addition bring anything new? The nostalgic wave that has been so prevalent in recent years shows the possibility of success but doesn’t bring an emotional impact that matches its originator. There lays a thin line between celebrating and mimicking, and audiences can tell the difference.
The reaction to the event lineup seemed to showcase this conundrum. With acts ranging from Jay-Z and Imagine Dragons to Dead & Company and Robert Plant, opinions were mixed. Some fans felt the festival should have kept the lineup closer to the event’s folk and rock roots. Others celebrated the inclusion of new genres and artists. The mix of both old and new acts allows for a wider range of fans. While some may find it inclusive, it seems more like they are throwing out as many different genres as possible to get as many people as possible to buy tickets. Less of a creative inclusion and more a business tactic. The desire to create something that replicates the popularity of Woodstock has made the event lose the purpose and message entirely.
The event cannot be appreciated as a new triumph when it tries to artificially recreate the environment of the past’s success. The sentiment of nostalgia is not a negative one, but it can be destructive to the creativity of the present and future. Woodstock was a completely new and unprecedented event that illustrated the times they were in. We are in different times now and must find our own ways to express that. It is always necessary to remember the music and art of the past, but we must grow with it. Not revel in the mud with it.