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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Woodstock returning for its 50th anniversary with legacy acts, better toilet situation

Woodstock ‘99
Woodstock ‘99
Photo: Joe Traver (Getty Images)

Woodstock 1999 was probably the worst music festival of all time (outside of Fyre Fest, of course), with aggro performances by Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, and Insane Clown Posse igniting riots that curdled the starry-eyed spirit of the 1969 original into what The Washington Post described as a “surreal war zone.” After numerous reports of sexual assault and dozens of ransacked vendor trucks, 700 New York state troopers descended upon the festival in riot gear, brandishing clubs that many allege were used unsparingly. So, hey, why not give it another go?


Rolling Stone reports that Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang has confirmed a 50th anniversary festival for August 16, 17, and 18. He says more than 40 performers, including some “big-name headliners,” have already signed on for the festival, which will unfold not in Bethel, New York, where the original festival was held, but in nearby Watkins Glen. The venue change is due to a 15,000-seat concert venue that was built on the original site. “They’re good stewards of the original site and they built a beautiful performing arts pavilion,” Lang said. “But it’s a 15,000-seat shed. That’s not a Woodstock.”

Lang calls the Watkins Glen spot “the perfect facility for what we had in mind,” and asserts that this festival will in no way, shape, or form resemble the 1999 iteration. “Woodstock ’99 was just a musical experience with no social significance,” he said. “It was just a big party. With this one, we’re going back to our roots and our original intent. And this time around, we’ll have control of everything.” He adds that he wants the event to “[instill] kind of an energy back into young people to make their voices heard, make their votes heard.” That’s why he’s promising to “bring in various NGOs to tell attendees how to get involved in various political causes.”

Of course, all of this sounds on par with the majority of big-ticket events in our festival-saturated era. And this raises an interesting question: Does the Woodstock name even matter in our sea of Bonnaroos and Coachellas? And is the name and “spirit” of Woodstock alone enough to elevate it above the country’s festival deluge, one that’s mostly diminished the “destination” aspect of most festivals? That depends, in large part, on the lineup, which Lang says will distinguish Woodstock 50 by featuring a number of legacy acts who played the festival in 1969. He also mentions tributes from “newer bands” to those of the previous generation, as well as “unique collaborations” and “maybe some reunions.”

The best news, though? Clean toilets. “There’s a new dimension in portable toilets now,” he said, addressing the overflowing shit coffins that plagued the Woodstocks of yore. “They are clean and airy and sizable. They also don’t get pumped during the event, so you don’t have these wagons running around smelling everywhere. And then the end product is fertilizer.”

Thank god.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.