It could be the War of the Woodstocks this summer as two events approximately 150 miles apart stage competing musical tributes celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic concert on a diary farm in the Catskill Mountains. Both events are happening the same weekend (Aug. 16-18) in upstate New York, each competing to carry on the legacy of the famous festival featuring The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Santana.
On Wednesday (Jan. 9) Michael Lang, co-founder and co-producer of the 1969 concert billed as “three days of peace and music,” announced he was staging a 50-year anniversary tribute concert at the Watkins Glen International speedway. Lang is a partner in Woodstock Ventures with the original Woodstock producers Joel Rosenman and the family of John Roberts, all of whom collectively own the Woodstock trademarks and intellectual property.
While Lang’s event claims to be the “only authorized commemoration of the iconic 1969 festival,” the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts announced last month that it was staging its own tribute event at its 15,000-seat amphitheater built on the site of the original Woodstock. The Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival is being booked by Live Nation, while Lang is leading booking on his Woodstock event at Watkins Glen.
Having two competing events battling it out over ticket sales and radius clauses doesn’t really feel like the spirit of “peace and music,” but Lang’s event promises to have a much different feel than Bethel Woods. In a press release, Lang said, “the original site in Bethel is wonderful, but much too small for what we’re envisioning.”
Instead, Lang continued, the Watkins Glen speedway “gives us the ability to create something unlike any other commemorative event and something uniquely Woodstock.” He noting that Watkins Glen International was also the site of Summer Jam in 1973, headlined by the Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band in front of 600,000 people — a record at the time.
Lang’s event will have three stages and feature 60 bands, with both contemporary acts and specially curated performances that pay tribute to iconic Woodstock moments. Lang said to expect camping, luxury glamping, art installations, film screening and plenty of high-end food and beverage offerings. A lineup for the event will be released in February.
“The Woodstock 50th Anniversary will be about sharing an experience with great artists and encouraging people to get educated and involved in the social issues impacting everyone on the planet,” said Lang. “It’s so inspiring to see young people today channeling their passion into causes they care about. That’s something that’s always been a part of Woodstock’s mission, and it’s a big focus at the 50th festival.”
Meanwhile, Bethel Wood’s event is being billed as “pan-generational music, culture, and community event” that will include “live performances from prominent and emerging artists spanning multiple genres and decades, and TED-style talks from leading futurists and retro-tech experts,” per a December press release on the event. Festival goers will also be able to visit the museum at Bethel Woods, which includes interactive exhibits and artifacts from the 1969 festival, as well as experience the 2019 exhibit “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for an Aquarian Future.”