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Woodstock 50 moves to Maryland, artists drop out, event could be free (if it happens)

Posted by on July 29, 2019

Woodstock 50 may have found a new venue, and it’s not in New York. The event is now in talks to be held at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, one hour outside of Washington, D.C.

On Thursday (25th), Variety reported that Woodstock organizer Michael Lang was in talks with Seth Hurwitz, owner of Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club and who’s I.M.P. operates Merriweather Post Pavilion, to hold the show there.

In a note to Woodstock 50 organizer Greg Peck, obtained by Bloomberg, Howard County executive Calvin Ball said:

“When we heard that there was an opportunity to save this festival and bring a piece of American history to our community this summer, we jumped at the chance. Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia is a jewel of Howard County and one of the top music venues in the nation. It felt like such a natural fit to host a historic festival on our storied stage.”

Woodstock 50 has been in search of a new venue since losing their original spot at Watkins Glen International in June due to a missed payment and lack of New York State permits. Organizers then tried to bring the festival to Vernon Downs, filing three separate permits for the venue, only to have each one, and a slew of appeals, shot down.

If Merriweather Post Pavilion pulls through, Woodstock 50 would be a very different event than the previously announced festival. Renamed to Woodstock 50 Washington, the event will likely be turned into a benefit show. Proceeds from ticket sales would go to non-profits in the voter turnout space, such as HeadCount, and climate change, with passes speculated to range between $129 and $595.

The new event will be much smaller as the venue only seats a maximum of approximately 32,000 people. That’s far lower than the originally proposed 75,000-150,000 they were aiming for at Watkins Glen International, or even the attempted transition to Vernon Downs.

Said Hurwitz in a statement to Rolling Stone:

“The Woodstock folks are working on securing the artists now. If the bands come, we’ll produce the show. We’re looking forward to getting an update as soon as Woodstock 50 has one.”

It looks like the line-up will be the next big hurdle in Woodstock 50’s harrowing saga. Right now it is hard to know how many of the artists initially recruited for the festival will stick with the more streamlined event. In a letter sent to talent agents on Friday, Lang released all artists from their contracts, saying that though they are still invited to perform, they will not be legally obligated to do so. Artists had already been paid prior the event, and with the festival now more than 350 miles away from the intended Upstate New York venues, Woodstock 50 would in breach of the artists contracts if they made them play.

Artists have already been dropping out. Following the venue announcement Thursday, John Fogerty became the first artist to bail. A statement made by his team said that the singer, who was an original Woodstock performer with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival:

“Knows where he will be for the anniversary weekend of Woodstock. At only one site… at the original one – the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.”

This referenced the upcoming anniversary shows happening at the original grounds of Woodstock he has been signed up to perform at for months. Rapper Jay-Z followed suit Friday (26th), followed by another Woodstock original, Dead & Company (then the Grateful Dead).

As this story continues to change on an apparent daily basis, Rolling Stone has reported that if the three-day-even does happen, it would make “tens of thousands of tickets complimentary.” 

However, if it continues as planned, Woodstock 50 will take place on August 16-18. The original Woodstock 50 line-up was supposed to include performances from The Killers, Robert Plant, Santana, Chance the Rapper, Portugal. The Man, Country Joe McDonald, Cage The Elephant, The Zombies and Courtney Barnett, among others.

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