By Bob Lefsetz, Celebrity Access | Forget that Woodstock ’99 was a disaster, so was the original edition. Sure, there was great music, over-attendance and peace, but the systems were in no way capable of handling the crowd. From ingress and egress on the roads, to food, to porta-potties.
And financially, it took the movie to put it in the black.
Who wanted this formula replicated?
Certainly not the rural burgs that were inundated with festivals thereafter. Can you say “Powder Ridge”? No one wanted a festival in their backyard. They saw it as a nuisance. Ironically, the children of these elders feel the same way. The baby boomers who wanted to show up, camp and smoke dope, now don’t want their children and their children to be able to do this themselves.
Which is one of the reasons promoters buy the land their festivals run on. Like AEG with Coachella, and Live Nation with Bonnaroo. Sure, there are financial considerations, but you don’t want to be beholden to anyone, you just want to do your show.
But it’s even worse. You’ve got the town elders.
But what about all the cash a festival generates?
Well, at this point it’s mostly within the confines of the gig, and the rest of the town is overrun for the better part of a week, with “undesirables” camping and pissing everywhere and if food and merchandise is sold, there’s none for the locals, who can’t leave their houses, no wonder it’s so hard to get permission.
As for a gig at a racetrack… The only one that works is the Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas, but Insomniac invests in so much infrastructure, its attendees don’t mind. But just plunking down a show in some venue not prepared for it? That’s not enticing to the audience.
And that’s the unspoken issue with this iteration of Woodstock. If the show actually happened would anybody want to come?
The modern festival is more than the acts, people go to shoot selfies and hang, so the environment must be enticing.
And there’s only a thin layer of acts that will draw people irrelevant of the location, and they weren’t on the bill for Woodstock. You’d need to have Ariana Grande and Drake and maybe Lil Nas X to generate the excitement to get kids out of their abodes, and believe me, festivals are about youngsters. The oldsters can’t tolerate the discomfort. They want to pay for elbow room and access, can you say VIP?
And the business has consolidated and become professional. Michael Lang and his minions staging an independent Woodstock is like Gateway or Kaypro trying to compete with today’s Dell or HP. Sure, there’s equity in the brand name, but not much, never mind a lack of knowledge re today’s systems.
Why did Tim Cook become so successful? Because he’s a logistics expert, sourcing materials, getting product delivered in time to meet customer demand. It’s not sexy, but that’s a key element in today’s festival production. Nowhere has it been demonstrated that Michael Lang has this skill, he just keeps saying since he did it once, he can do it again, like an aging athlete who can’t compete in the new game, and the truth is we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.
And music doesn’t play the same role in the national psyche. Today the cutting edge is the internet and influencers. Have a festival where attendees can meet the influencers and learn how to become one…that would be more exciting and draw more people than this Woodstock.
And the reason this saga has played out at all is because Virgin came up with the bucks. And why was Virgin willing to pay?? BECAUSE THE ACTS HAD ALREADY BEEN PAID BY DENTSU! It’s like a new builder taking over a bankrupt, half-built edifice for free. The costs are much less than starting from zero.
But now even Virgin is out.
So the only interesting thing about the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock is the story of the promotion and failure thereof.