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Woodstock 50 co-founder says investors trying to ‘suffocate and kill’ music festival

Michael Lang speaks on stage at the announcement of the Woodstock 50 festival lineup at Electric Lady Studio on March 19, 2019 in New York City. .
Michael Lang speaks on stage at the announcement of the Woodstock 50 festival lineup at Electric Lady Studio on March 19, 2019 in New York City. . Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Woodstock 50

Despite major uncertainty and confusion in the Woodstock camp, the festival’s highly controversial 50th-anniversary extravaganza is still scheduled to go on.

Unfortunately for fans, however, tickets have not yet gone on sale, meaning there may be no audience whatsoever come Aug. 16.

It’s currently unclear why this is the case, but many have speculated that it’s because the venue, Watkins Glen, has not been approved for a mass gathering permit by New York’s Department of Health.

However, according to festival co-founder Michael Lang, Dentsu Aegis Network — Woodstock 50’s biggest investor — is to blame after it unexpectedly pulled out of the festival last week.

A man and his dog walk through the trash and debris left behind by festivalgoers on the concert grounds after the end of Woodstock ’94, a three-day rock music festival in Saugerties, N.Y.
A man and his dog walk through the trash and debris left behind by festivalgoers on the concert grounds after the end of Woodstock ’94, a three-day rock music festival in Saugerties, N.Y. Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty Images

The 74-year-old claimed the company tried to “suffocate and kill Woodstock” in a five-page letter addressed to Dentsu, as reported by Pitchfork.

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On Monday, April 29, Dentsu announced that the festival was cancelled — “which they had no legal right to do,” according to Lang, who shortly afterwards refuted the company’s claim.

“The bottom line is there is going to be a Woodstock 50th-anniversary festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast,” he said, according to Reuters.

Lang has continued to publicly assure Woodstock fans that the “show will go on,” however things are not working in his favour. This back-and-forth uncertainty has left potential concertgoers disappointed and rather suspicious.

READ MORE: Woodstock 50 cancelled, say investors – but organizers say the show ‘must’ go on

“While we were on a call together as a group, the media had already begun reporting that Woodstock was cancelled,” wrote Lang in the letter addressed to the investor.

“I learned that Amplifi (owned by Dentsu) illegally swept approximately (US)$17 million from the festival bank account, leaving (Woodstock) in peril,” he added.

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Woodstock 50 music festival co-producer Michael Lang attends a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC on August 13, 2009 in New York City.
Woodstock 50 music festival co-producer Michael Lang attends a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC on August 13, 2009 in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Lang further accused the Japanese multinational media company of “directly (contacting) all stakeholders, including Watkins Glen International, insurance companies, producers, vendors and performers — some of whom (he considers himself) lucky to count as personal friends — and suggested they not do business with (him).”

He further pointed his finger at company representatives who he believes suggested that certain musicians and bands drop out of Woodstock for a spot in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, for which Dentsu will reportedly organize entertainment-based events.

“These actions confirmed my worst concerns about partnering with your company,” continued Lang. “These actions are neither a legal nor honourable way to do business.”

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Dentsu responded to Lang’s open letter on Tuesday afternoon, according to Rolling Stone. The company admitted to taking the $17 million but claimed they were “simply recovering the funds (they) originally put in as financial partner.”

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Ticket sales for Woodstock 50, which is set to take place in August, have been postponed.
Ticket sales for Woodstock 50, which is set to take place in August, have been postponed. Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

“We had the customary rights one would expect to protect a large investment,” claimed a company spokesperson. “After we exercised our contractual right to take over and subsequently cancel the festival, we simply recovered the funds in the festival bank account … funds which we originally put in as financial partner.”

The spokesperson continued: “Further, tickets cannot go on sale for an event prior to obtaining a mass gathering permit, which has still not been granted. Beyond that, we stand by (our) original statement made last week.”

As of this writing, Lang has not responded to Dentsu in regards to its latest statement.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca
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