Woodstock Co-founder Michael Lang on Plans to Grow Activism With Lovelight Festival

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Michael Lang photographed circa 1976 in Le Castellet, France.

'It's kind of an extension of what happened at Woodstock in 1969," the promoter says.

As Woodstock did in its inaugural summer of ’69, the Lovelight Festival hopes to bring enlightenment and the arts to an aching country. Co-founded by one of the same people that started it all, Michael Lang is at the forefront of this transformation.

Lovelight, which runs Aug. 18-21 in Darlington, MD, celebrates yoga, health and the arts of enlightenment for a family-friendly experience over a long weekend that features nearly 100 yoga classes, workshops, immersions and experiences in dance, new age, healing and transformational subjects. And, of course, there’s music. The headliners include Matisyahu, Trevor Hall, MC Yogi and Living Light. Kirtan rockstar Krishna Das will provide yoga music and chanting, and IDM (so called Intelligent Dance Music)—electronica produced by DJs who are inspired by spirituality and visionary art—will perform throughout the weekend.

Lang and his co-creators, yoga musician Wynne Paris and producer Kim Maddox, have made the event alcohol and drug-free and vegan. Yoga played a key role in the 1969 festival and that legacy is hoped to continue with Lovelight.

Billboard caught up with Lang over the phone as he gears up for last minute prep to talk about why he wanted a festival like this and why now.

Billboard: So what’s been going on for you since 1969?

Lang: Well, I started a record company in 1971 called Just Sunshine Records. We signed Karen Dalton first and then Billy Joel. After I did that for about six years, I went into management with Joe Cocker and a few other artists, but Joe was the main focus then. That lasted another 15 years and in the interim we did television production, some festival production in Europe, we toured with Joe all over the world. Then in 1994, as you know, we did our Woodstock 25th anniversary. [I’ve mostly been splitting my time between] Woodstock and in New York City and I have five kids -- from twins who are 16 to twins who are 46 -- and am happily married.

Why did you decide to create Lovelight last year?

It was really Wynne's idea to do Lovelight and it’s kind of an extension of what happened at Woodstock in 1969, when introduced yoga to a broader audience. I've always admired [yoga]; my wife is a yoga teacher and Wynne is super embedded into that community. We thought it’d be nice to put something together that's family-orientated. It seemed like a good time.

Woodstock ’99 was a far cry from the ethos of the original Woodstock, is Lovelight in response to that fiasco?

Woodstock '99 was more like an MTV event than a Woodstock event, quite frankly. [Lovelight] is not in response to it, though. I mean, Woodstock '99 was of its time -- it was reflective of the music and the mood that was in the country at the time. There was a lot of angry music and it sort of played out there. Lovelight is a reaction to itself -- the times are calling for more spiritual and peaceful events that celebrate those types of principles that Woodstock was known for. It is transformational in the sense that the people who come really are the ones who create the event, which is kind of what happened at Woodstock.

[The current climate] swings completely to the other side of life and the progress that I've seen, that we all felt we were making towards a more compassionate world. It's in reaction to that.

What is your take on the modern music festival?

I think there are some great festivals out there. You know, it's hard to compare [and] I keep getting asked to compare them to Woodstock. [They seem to follow that] basic formula that was kind of invented there -- three days out in the country, celebrating art and music and the idea of creating community. But Woodstock was more of a sociological event than just a music festival. And I think that that's a lost opportunity in a lot of modern music festivals; they don’t focus on activism.

And what are your plans for activism through Lovelight? Is there a plan to expand?

We will expand, we're going to go to two other locations, but we’re not looking to make this into a mega-fest event. It will always stay intimate and small, but it will travel. [Woodstock’s] 50th anniversary is coming up in two years we're pursuing a festival event for that. And we'll probably be doing a festival event and [it’s being planned] definitely as a reaction to the times. I really can't talk about it yet, other than just to say it'll certainly be focused around activism and a reflection of what values Woodstock brought to the floor, which are, I think, more needed today than ever.


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