Woodstock 50 not canceled, but can't regain funds, judge rules | News Coverage from USA

Woodstock 50 not canceled, but can’t regain funds, judge rules

Woodstock 50 can proceed as planned.

But, it will have to do without its former financial partner’s funding.

Dentsu Aegis cannot cancel the upcoming anniversary concert, as it attempted to do on April 29, but does not have to return $17.8 million it removed from a festival account in the midst of a dispute, state Supreme Court Judge Barry R. Ostrager has ruled.

Michael Lang, co-producer and co-founder of the 1969 Woodstock festival, is working to stage Woodstock 50 Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York. However, Woodstock 50 attorney Marc Kasowitz said Monday that Woodstock 50 was broke.

In court papers filed May 8, Woodstock 50 demanded that Dentsu return nearly $17.8 million “in misappropriated” funds from the festival bank account, and provide access to the cash. Woodstock 50 also demanded that Dentsu stick to its contract to stage the festival. 

Dentsu responded by calling the Woodstock 50 team “incompetent” and saying they had breached their contract, which allowed them to take control of the festival’s fate.

Gregory Peck of Woodstock 50 LLC, which is staging the festival, said organizers needed Dentsu’s money, or funds to replace it, within days to stage Woodstock 50.

Troubled celebration

Woodstock 50 comes five decades after the Woodstock Music and Art Fair drew hundreds of thousands of people to Bethel, New York, for four days of music by multiple acts that included Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who.

Common, John Fogerty, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, the Lumineers and many others are scheduled to perform at Woodstock 50. 

On April 29​​​​​​, ​Dentsu Aegis and its Amplifi Live division withdrew support and canceled the festival because: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed … while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.”

Lang fired back that Dentsu had no right to cancel the gathering and he has been steadfast with his pledge to proceed.

Woodstock 50 production company Superfly dropped out on May 1.

Challenges remain for event

Where this leaves the festival’s prospects is to be determined.

The hearing shed light on the state of the event’s planning, including funds already committed to talent and logistical hurdles still to be overcome before it can obtain a mass gathering permit from the state, necessary before ticket sales can begin.

Originally, the budget for talent was approximately $25 million, according to court filings. Testimony revealed $23.5 million has already been spent on talent. Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, The Killers and Santana are all being paid more than $500,000.

During the week of Feb. 25, 2018, Amplifi Live told Woodstock 50 that no more money would be paid to musicians until capacity issues were ironed out.

Originally, Lang had said capacity at the site could be set at 150,000. This was part of the basis for Dentsu determining how much money it would commit to the venture. However, upon inspection by Superfly and state police, the capacity was changed to 65,000 with an expectation of adding another 10,000 if feasible.

In a court filing Dentsu said Superfly and state police identified infrastructural concerns that would need to be met before the state could provide Woodstock 50 with the permit it needed. These included:

► Building new roads to access the festival grounds.

► Obtaining additional land to use for parking.

► Building water and drainage systems.

► Addressing “the lack of security personnel … to ensure concertgoers’ safety.”

“The parties did not have the time, resources, or financing to cure these problems and ensure a healthy, safe and secure festival experience,” the filing said.

Peck said he was aware of “no scenario” where the state police, state officials or representatives of Watkins Glen International “said you cannot have a safe festival.”

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