Following months—and even years—of speculation, the plans for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock are coming into focus. In a piece published on Wednesday morning by Rolling Stone, original Woodstock organizer Michael Lang officially confirmed that a celebration of the iconic festival’s 50th anniversary in 2019 will take place on August 16th, 17th, and 18th at Watkins Glen International.
The venue predominantly functions as a racetrack but has hosted a handful of notable live music events over the years, including the storied Summer Jam in 1973, which saw The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Band come together for a one-day event that brought north of 600,000 people to the track, making it one of the largest concerts ever. Watkins Glen has also hosted a pair of successful Phish festivals—2011’s Superball IX and 2015’s Magnaball—in addition to one infamously unsuccessful festival, 2018’s Curveball, which was cancelled at the 11th hour due to issues with the area’s water supply following storms and flooding in the week leading up to the event.
Lang explains to Rolling Stone that they are taking measures to ensure that water quality won’t be able to derail this event. “A Woodstock ’94, we had a different sort of water issue since the town didn’t have a big enough reservoir. We had to put up two 1 million gallon temporary tanks and filled them over time. That’s the solution we’re going to use this time to make sure the water is potable.”
While he remains mum on the details of the lineup until tickets go on sale next month, Lang tells Rolling Stone that more than 40 acts have already been booked to play across three stages at the event, noting “It’ll be an eclectic bill. I’ll be hip-hop and rock and some pop and some of the legacy bands from the original festival.”
He also divulges that some of the newer bands on the bill will mount “celebrations of artists from the original Woodstock,” likely including tributes to Janis Joplin, The Band, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, and more. Notes Lang, “Having contemporary artists interpret that music would be a really interesting and exciting idea. We’re also looking for unique collaborations, maybe some reunions and a lot of new and up-and-coming talent.”
Lang hopes to set this event apart from the “cookie-cutter” festivals we’re used to today—especially because this will be his first Woodstock event in the current era of widespread festival saturation. Explains Lang, “We are looking for unique performances. … Woodstock, in its original incarnation, was really about social change and activism. And that’s a model we’re bringing back to this festival.”
In that vein, he confirms that they are planning on bringing in a number of offstage elements to engage attendees throughout their Woodstock 50 experience. They plan to partner with several NGOs to conduct humanitarian and environmental outreach with the crowd. Says Lang, “Things on the planet are critical at this point, especially when it comes to global warming. Everyone has a stake and ignoring it is ridiculous. I really want people to explore how they can get involved. That’s one of my main motivations for doing this.”
While the event’s capacity has yet to be officially set, Lang predicts that it will be a six-figure total. For those who can’t make it out to the festival, Lang also confirms that they will webcast the event.
Of course, Lang’s Woodstock 50th anniversary celebration at Watkin’s Glen will not be the only event marking the festival’s milestone year in 2019. A separate, unrelated festival, branded as Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival, will celebrate Woodstock’s 50th at the original festival site that same weekend. Following that event’s announcement ahead of the new year, Lang responded by assertingthat his event will be the “official” Woodstock 50th anniversary event, and that “while the original site in Bethel remains close to our hearts, it no longer has the capacity to hold a real Woodstock Festival.”
Neither Lang’s event at Watkin’s Glen nor the Bethel Woods event have given much indication as to who will play the respective festivals. That information will likely surface over the coming weeks.