Woodstock 50: The Killers, Dead & Company, Jay-Z are headlining the festival

March 19, 2019

by Carla Hay

Woodstock 50 has announced that the Killers, Dead & Company and Jay-Z are headlining the festival, which takes place at Watkins Glen International race track in Watkins Glen, New York, from August  16 to August 18, 2019. The event is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock Festival. Woodstock 50 is produced by Woodstock Ventures, whose founder is original Woodstock promoter Michael Lang.

Woodstock 50’s lineup, which is dominated by male rock artists, will also include several of the original Woodstock Festival performers, including Santana, David Crosby, members of the Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, Canned Heat, John Sebastian, Country Joe McDonald and Melanie.

Other artists who will be performing at Woodstock 50 include the Raconteurs, Miley Cyrus, Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters, Chance the Rapper, the Black Keys*, Imagine Dragons, Cage the Elephant, Sturgill Simpson, Greta Van Fleet and Brandi Carlile.

Woodstock 50’s lineup is not as iconic or diverse as many people had expected. Electronic dance music and country are two genres of music that are huge at festivals, but EDM and country are almost ignored at Woodstock 50. And even the rock music at Woodstock 50 isn’t very diverse: It falls into two categories: classic rock and alternative/modern rock. There are almost no heavy metal or punk acts on the bill. Women of color are also noticeably under-represented in the Woodstock 50 artist lineup (Halsey, Janelle Monáe and India.Arie are the most well-known women of color performing at the event), and the few rappers who are performing at Woodstock 50 are all male.

The original Woodstock Festival took place August 15 to 18, 1969, and had an estimated attendance of 400,000 people. Artists on the bill included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The original Woodstock Festival is widely considered to be the most important live music event of the 1960s. The official “Woodstock” documentary film won an Oscar.

A 25th anniversary Woodstock Festival called Woodstock ’94 took place in 1994 in Saugerties, New York. The performers included Aerosmith, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Bob Dylan, Santana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Crosby, Stills & Nash. A more controversial 30th anniversary Woodstock Festival (which included numerous incidents of assaults, vandalism, theft and arson) called Woodstock ’99 took place in 1999 in Rome, New York. Woodstock ’99’s lineup included Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bush, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Santana, Creed, Megadeth, the Chemical Brothers and Alanis Morissette.

So why are there very few superstar acts performing at Woodstock 50? A lot has changed in the concert industry since 1999. There are now more star-studded festivals than ever before, and people expect more diversity at festivals that are supposed to be represent several genres of music. In addition, the rise of mega-festivals such as Coachella (the world’s largest-grossing music festival), iHeartRadio and Bonnaroo has meant that people expect A-list talent every year at many of these events. And the fees for A-list entertainers have skyrocketed since Woodstock ’99, which is probably the biggest reason why there are few superstar acts on the Woodstock 50 bill.

Woodstock 50 is also competing against the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival, produced by Bethel Woods Center for the Arts,  Live Nation and brand communications agency INVNT. The Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival will take place August 15 to August 17, 2019, at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (the site of the original Woodstock Festival) in Bethel Woods, New York. The Bethel Woods event has a lineup that leans heavily toward classic rock, with performers that include Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, Arlo Guthrie, the Doobie Brothers and Edgar Winter. Woodstock 50’s Watkins Glen venue is larger (with a capacity of 39,000) than the Bethel Woods venue, which has a capacity of about 15,000. But since Woodstock 50 and the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival are both vying for the same core audience (rock fans who want huge doses of 1969 Woodstock nostalgia), that overlap is bound to affect ticket sales and enthusiasm for both events.

*April 8, 2019 UPDATE: The Black Keys have canceled their Woodstock 50 performance, due to a “scheduling conflict.”

April 29, 2019 UPDATE: Woodstock 50’s main investor has pulled out of the event, citing concerns about safety and overcrowding. Woodstock 50 has essentially been canceled before tickets went on sale. Click here for more details.