Woodstock 50 festival organizers and their onetime financial partner traded accusations of broken promises as they argued Monday over whether the anniversary show can go on.
With under 100 days to go, the two sides clashed in a New York courtroom over money, control, changes in plans and whether it’s still feasible to hold the event, scheduled for Aug. 16-18 at Watkins Glen International racetrack. The hearing is set to continue Tuesday.
Organizers insist they’re going forward with a sprawling, big-name homage to one of the most significant moments in pop music history and 1960s counterculture.
“We are producing what will be an iconic and historic event” that honors the 1969 concert’s themes of “peace and music,” said Gregory Peck, a managing member of Woodstock 50. “I feel, personally, we need Woodstock now as much as we did 50 years ago.”
But the festival’s former main investor says it took charge of the show — and announced its cancellation April 29 — because preparations were lagging and the company was concerned for concertgoers’ and performers’ health and safety.
“This festival is not going to happen,” said attorney Marc Greenwald, a lawyer for backer Amplifi Live. It’s an arm of Dentsu, an international marketing company based in Japan.
Woodstock 50 sued last week, saying Amplifi Live couldn’t singlehandedly call off the show. The organizers accused their former partner of sabotaging the event by scaring off the public, privately telling artists to stay away and draining $18 million from the festival bank account.
Amplifi Live shot back in court papers Sunday that the organizers’ “incompetence” and “misrepresentations” spurred the company to take control, nix the festival and take back what remained of the $49 million it put in.
The festival has yet to get a state permit, though officials have prepared one conditionally, court papers show. Production company Superfly dropped out after raising concerns about funding, attendance capacity and infrastructure at the festival’s central New York venue, according to court papers.
Woodstock 50 initially foresaw a 150,000-person event. But Superfly said the site can’t handle more than 65,000, according to court documents.
Woodstock 50 wants the $18 million back, saying it’s needed to pay for a new production company and other expenses. Organizers also want their ex-investor barred from talking about the festival with the media, performers or others — a request that Manhattan judge Barry Ostrager temporarily granted last week but lifted on Monday, at least for now.
Amplifi Live says at least another $20 million would be needed to pull off the concert. Woodstock 50 says it needs to raise $6 million to $9 million in the next four to six weeks alone. Peck said organizers have been approached by other investors, but he wouldn’t name them.
The over 80 artists — who range from Jay-Z to John Fogerty to Miley Cyrus — have already been paid $32 million, according to the organizers. Ticket sales were supposed to start April 22 but were delayed.
The original Woodstock concert was held about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southeast of Watkins Glen on a farm in Bethel, New York.
It’s now run by The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which has its own anniversary concert planned Aug. 16-18, with performers including Ringo Starr, Santana and Fogerty.