Dead & Company, the perennial jam band mainstays whose members helped solidify and define the 1960s rock scene with their performance at the original Woodstock, are the latest casualties of organizers’ decision to try and stage the festival at Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion next month.
A source close to the band confirmed to Rolling Stone that the group, who was set to headline the festival, will not appear at Woodstock 50 if producers are able to put on the beleaguered concert August 16th through 18th. The group joins Jay-Z and Woodstock ’69 alum John Fogerty as the latest artists to decline to perform. “John Fogerty knows where he will be for the anniversary weekend of Woodstock,” Fogerty’s rep said in a statement. “At only one site … At the original one – the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.”
A rep for the group did not immediately return a request for comment.
After four failed attempts to stage the festival at Vernon Downs in Vernon, NY, organizers received a letter from Howard County executives in Maryland welcoming them to Merriweather Post Pavilion if they were able to secure acts. “Woodstock 50 approached Merriweather about hosting their event here in Columbia, Md.,” Seth Hurwitz, operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion, said in a statement on Thursday. “The Woodstock folks are working on securing the artists now. If the bands come, we’ll produce the show. We’re looking forward to getting an update as soon as Woodstock 50 has one.” On Friday, Woodstock 50 producers released all artists from their contracts, per Billboard, leaving the lineup very much in doubt.
Agents have been working behind the scenes to figure out whether the dozens of other acts who are still listed on the festival’s lineup page (which still mentions originally proposed city Watkins Glen in the artwork) will commit to the move. Earlier this week, Woodstock 50 organizers put in a request to at least one major talent agency to see if they would perform at Merriweather. Rolling Stone has confirmed that numerous acts on the original lineup would still get paid even if they declined to perform, as artists contractually have the right to refuse to play the new venue.
The decision to try and move Woodstock 50 to Maryland comes after several tumultuous months for the festival, starting back in April when the start of ticket sales was conspicuously pushed back. By the end of the month, the festival’s original investor, Dentsu Aegis, attempted to cancel the event, claiming organizer and original Woodstock cofounder Michael Lang and his company Lang & Co. had not kept up their end of the bargain. The primary reason behind the cancellation: Woodstock 50 had not procured the proper permits to host the concert at a speedway in Watkins Glen, New York.
Following the attempted cancellation, Lang scrambled to keep the festival alive even as it lost production partners and the original venue, Watkins Glen International speedway, pulled out of its contract with the organizers. Lang also filed a lawsuit against Aegis in an attempt to regain control over the festival. Earlier this month, Woodstock 50 tried to obtain a permit to host the festival at Vernon Downs in Vernon, New York, but that attempt was also denied.
If organizers are able to salvage the festival, it remains to be seen which artists will actually perform at it.