Organizers of Woodstock 50 have decided to relocate the commemorative music festival from upstate New York to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, according to the office of Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. The move appears to be a last-minute effort to save the troubled festival, for which tickets have yet to go on sale.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure this historic show goes on,” Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Ball’s office, said Thursday afternoon.
Woodstock 50 was announced in January, when Michael Lang, one of the original festival’s organizers, shared his plans to put on a show Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York. He promised an eclectic lineup — from legacy acts to modern pop and hip-hop stars — and an emphasis on social activism, a hallmark of Woodstock. Organizers revealed two months later that Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus were among those set to perform, as well as a number of artists present in 1969: Dead and Company, Santana, John Fogerty and more.
Trouble broiled amid the excitement. Red flags popped up as early as March, when Billboard reported that Woodstock 50 organizers had been late in paying several artists. In mid-April, just days before tickets were supposed to be available, organizers delayed the on-sale date — triggering cancellation rumors that seemed to come true at the end of the month, when the festival’s financial backer issued a statement on April 29 saying so. It made sense, given several reports that organizers hadn’t yet secured permits for Watkins Glen or Vernon Downs, a second option east of Syracuse that would’ve allowed artists whose contracts were bound to the original location the right to refuse to perform.
But on April 30, Woodstock 50 organizers assured the public that everything would be all right: “The bottom line, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast,” a statement read.
Several questions remained, largely regarding the organizers’ ability to pay artists without money from the investors who had pulled out, as well as Woodstock 50’s ability to fulfill its mission of drawing a crowd of at least 100,000 people who would each pay hundreds of dollars to attend. An answer to the latter question seems to have arrived with news of the move to Merriweather, an outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate up to 32,500. The venue has hosted smaller music festivals in the past, including Sweetlife, M3 Rock Festival and the Summer Spirit Festival.
Seth Hurwitz, co-founder of I.M.P., which operates Merriweather, told Pollstar on Thursday that it’s up to the Woodstock 50 organizers to “work things out with whomever they want to play.”
“If they have a show,” he added, “we have a place for them to play.”