As the 50th anniversary of Woodstock draws near, the original co-founder of the event is promising that there will be a celebration of the iconic festival. Michael Lang, who helped arrange the original event in 1969, has been hinting that an announcement is coming soon.
Per the Brooklynvegan, Lang’s plans to celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary go back to 2016, when he discussed the event with the Poughkeepsie Journal. In it, he says that “These are plans. This is not a done deal yet. But it’s very close.”
The original music festival happened on August 15 –18, in Bethel, New York, northwest of New York City. The three-day festival drew around 400,000 concertgoers and became a symbol of the counterculture in the sixties featuring legendary acts such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
While the original intent was to listen to music, Lang has a more ambitious vision of what the 50th anniversary can be. According to a Campaign article from October, “Woodstock 2019 will feature live performances from renowned artists spanning multiple genres and decades. Festivalgoers can also expect TED-style talks and presentations.”
In his interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal, Lang went on to say that his goal for the festival is to focus on “sustainability, activism and social justice.” He went on to say that he hopes to use the original message of the pivotal event. “We’re hoping to inspire people to speak up and get involved and get out and vote and help us save the planet,” Lang said, “We are in trouble and it seems like we’ve been brought back in time in a lot of ways. It’s eerie how similar a lot of things are to the way it was in the late ‘60s. Lessons we thought we learned seem to be coming back, unlearned. The progress we learned in social justice seems to be going backwards.”
Previous anniversaries have not always worked out well for Woodstock in the past. In 1994, a 25th anniversary was held in Saugerties, New York. The show drew a variety of performers, ranging from Nine Inch Nails, Sheryl Crowe, The Allman Brothers Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unfortunately, for all the love the original Woodstock received, the following festival, Woodstock ’99, was marked in controversy. The event’s image was tainted by poor planning, sexual assaults and the crowd setting parts of the fairgrounds on fire.
Despite his optimism, Lang’s goal seems to be far-fetched. Lang tried to organize the 40th anniversary in 2009, but the event never happened. Another problem seems to be a location for the festival. The original location, a dairy farm in upstate New York, is now Bethel Woods Center for the Art.
Another mystery is the lineup for the festival. As of now, Lang has not announced the musical acts or the dates. With so much still left in the air, it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off.