#BethelWoods #Anniversary #Woodstock #MichaelHallisey #MikeKohli #NYSMusic #SpotlightNews
By MICHAEL HALLISEY
& MIKE KOHLI
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts recently announced it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, fueling speculation and false news leaks ever since.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts will be the home of the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 16 to 18. The Sullivan County venue is the site of the original festival produced by Michael Lang in 1969 which drew an estimated 400,000 people to the secluded Catskills town.
Music acts have not been announced, but the weekend has been billed as a pan-generational event that will feature live music from prominent and up and coming talents and TED-style talks from leading futurists and technology experts.
In December of 2017, Bethel Woods was awarded nearly $700,000 through the New York State Regional Economic Development Council to be used towards a 50th-anniversary celebration.
“As the stewards of this historic site, we remain committed to preserving this rich history and spirit, and to educating and inspiring new generations to contribute positively to the world through music, culture, and community,” said Darlene Fedun, CEO of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Michael Lang, who produced the original Woodstock as well as the ensuing anniversary concerts in 1994 in Saugerties and 1999 in Rome, has all but announced the detail of his own commemoration of the historic festival though no details have yet emerged. He will not be involved with the Bethel event, which is being presented by Live Nation Concerts and INVNT, a branding and live storytelling agency.
“While the original site in Bethel remains close to our hearts, it no longer has the capacity to hold a real Woodstock Festival,” said Lang. “I’m delighted that Bethel Woods is doing events in the coming year to celebrate what we brought to life in 1969.”
The site of the original Woodstock Festival in 1969 will host its 50th-anniversary celebration from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 16 to 18. The center is a series of venues that includes a covered 4,500-seat pavilion with a sloping lawn that can seat an additional 10,500 people. The Woodstock Festival Field can accommodate up to 30,000 people. A third stage could entertain up to 1,000 people.
Which leaves to speculation where Lang will hold his festival.
Lang ruled Bethel out as the site for his festival. Each of the past three Woodstock festivals has hosted at least 400,000 people, with Woodstock ‘94 hosting approximately 500,000 revelers. Lang said Bethel would not be able to accommodate such a crowd.
As we wait for festivals to make their respective announcements as to who will perform, and in Lang’s case, destination, we are left with plenty of room to speculate. Below is a list of possible locations, followed by a laundry list of artists we could see perform in August.
Hot or Cold
Griffis Air Force Base, Rome
Site of Woodstock ’99. The festival ended in disaster. Triple-digit heat and the price gouging of water created a hostile environment. A fire was ignited in what people described a near riot situation. The location is now a business park, so the likely hood of the festival returning is not likely. FREEZING COLD
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh
For three days, the quaint upstate New York city was the 15th largest municipality in the Empire State, rivaling the number of residents in Albany. In 1996, more than 90,000 Phish fans attended Clifford’s Ball at the former air force base. Today, it serves as Plattsburgh International Airport: COLD
The Winston Farm, Saugerties
The site of Woodstock ’94 hosted one other festival in 2014. The former 700-acre dairy farm was once considered for a massive landfill. In recent years it was revitalized as a festival venue, however, it appears to be on the market for potential development: COLD
Central Park, New York City
The thought of a three-day music festival in the heart of Manhatten could induce nightmares for logistics experts, but it’s not uncommon for the park to host a concert. The Concert in The Park hosted 500,000 people who went to hear Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in 1981. However, proceeds from that concert went towards funding the maintenance and redevelopment of the famed city park after years of neglect. It was after New York City declared bankruptcy. It was in desperate need. But, the city had placed a bid to host the Olympics in recent years. If there’s a city that can handle a lot of people, Gotham is it: WARM
Sydney Worthley: Worthley had a tremendous 2018, bookending the year with shows at Saratoga Spring’s First Night. In between, she shared the stage with Grammy Award-winning songwriter Julie Gold, performed at Mountain Jam and headlined at Alive at Five and Rocktoberfest. Her 2017 debut album “Strong” showcases deft songwriting ability that places her in the same company as local storytellers C.K. Flach and Sean Rowe. She’s on an upward trajectory, but she may be lost in the flood of talent garnering for a place in Woodstock this summer: COLD
Sean Rowe: Rowe was a late addition to last summer’s Mountain Jam, which goes to show that he’s garnered enough attention to place him on a bigger stage. This indie artist has a healthy following throughout the country. He’s a gifted storyteller with a distinctive voice, and his blues and folk style would fit well with both a contemporary and nostalgic Woodstock crowd. It helps that he was featured in the 2016 Ben Affleck film “The Accountant:” COOL
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt: The sister-brother duo broke into Billboard’s Adult Album Alternative Top 40 in 2017 with “Red Stops Traffic” off of “Go.” The follow-up to that album “The Fun in the Fight” drops late next month with a discernable effort to branch out into the alternative radio format in addition to AAA and jam band. Last summer was the band’s second appearance at Mountain Jam. Since then, the Bridge Road Entertainment team has hired Brooklyn-based PR firm Shore Fire Media and booking giant Madison House, Inc. They have the ability to reach the people who make decisions and the talent to make them stop and listen: WARM
Phish: There is a general consensus among fans that Phish won’t play at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Trey and the crew last played there in 2011. The three-day event allegedly left the lawn in rough shape. A similar rumor recently circulated around Saratoga that alluded to a ban on Dave Matthews Band shows at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. With that said, it seems to be nothing but a rumor. According to a 2012 statement from Bethel Woods, the art center would welcome Phish and its fans. Question is, would Phish entertain such an invite? Phish has spent decades hosting its own festivals, all the while using shows as a means to help fund local charitable groups and promote environmental awareness through its WaterWheel Foundation. With Michael Lang stressing a globally conscious message for his up-coming festival, that would tie well into Phish’s philanthropic efforts, too: WARM
moe: The band is currently on the East Coast leg of a nationwide tour that shifts west in March before coming back to play Moe Down in July. The band’s next scheduled show is in Pennsylvania for the Peach Music Festival on July 25. That potentially keeps the band on the East Coast for Woodstock’s August anniversary date. Remember, .moe was a Day 2 opening act at Woodstock ‘99. By following these breadcrumbs, the band is a lock to be named in Lang’s upcoming announcement. HOT
As we look beyond the Empire State, other bands appear as possible locks.
Lang’s Woodstock show could draw in several popular bands with his plans to promote awareness of social, political and environmental issues. Green Day immediately comes to mind. Not only did the band perform at Woodstock ‘99, it has served as an environmental advocate since launching its Move America Beyond Oil campaign in 2006. Dave Matthews Band could also use Woodstock as a means to spread the word of its Bama Works Fund. Pearl Jam could do the same for endeavors tied to its Carbon Portfolio Strategy. Carlos Santana has already expressed his interest in playing both events, bridging the 50 years that separate the two eras.
The Festive Owl, a Twitter page devoted to music festival music, has claimed to possess leaked information from INVNT, the marketing firm tied to the anniversary show at Bethel Woods. The alleged material names the Bethel Woods festival as “Journey On,” and lists several acts that include Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Bon Jovi, Phish, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Elton John and Santana. The information is questionable. Santana has expressed interest. He confirmed with Billboard magazine that he has spoken with Lang. However, he has not received an invite to play. Springsteen won’t likely play either show. He stated as recently as last month he would be taking all of 2019 off from performing.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.