David Crosby Calls Woodstock 50 Organization ‘Grubby’
Promoter Michael Lang encountered a series of issues that eventually forced him to cancel plans to stage any kind of memorial event. By that time he’d gone through several variants of his original intentions, with changes including location, length and scale. The final version he attempted to put on would have been a free single-day event, but by that time almost all the big-name acts originally listed had dropped out.
“You can’t ‘magic’ one of these into happening, and that’s what they tried to do with this,” Crosby told Rolling Stone in an in-depth analysis of what went wrong with Woodstock 50. “It had nothing to do with anybody feeling good about each other. It had to do with certain people making a huge amount of money. That’s a grubby way to start in the first place. It’s not a motivation that brings out the very best in people.”
He added that he "didn’t make it public, but we had already pulled. … I would have honored the contract on the first two or three iterations, because I try to do that. I don’t want to do shitty business. I could have walked right from the start, legally. [After] the first three iterations of it, it got really silly.”
Meanwhile, Country Joe McDonald said he’d hoped to recreate his “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag” at whatever Woodstock event took place, before bowing out. “[Lang] got lucky in 1969,” he argued. “The event made itself. He didn’t make the event. ... I was excited to be there because I represent the Vietnam War; the war no one wants to talk about and pretends never happened. So I was very happy to bring that back just by doing that song.”
However, he continued, “I kept searching the internet because I had no fucking communication with Lang. It’s really unprofessional. I’m shocked, actually. I thought, ‘What the fuck is going on there?’ I had a pretty good opinion of Mike Lang up until this point. … When they lost Watkins Glen, someone emailed and said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to happen, blah blah blah.’ When you do a gig, you have to book your hotel and flights and plan your life. But there wasn’t one communication of ‘Gee, I’m sorry things aren’t looking so well, hang in there.’ It was unbelievably rude.”
McDonald went on to say that there was another reason Woodstock 50 failed. “Everything that was invented at Woodstock – mores, attitudes, production concepts, everything – is now totally integrated and taken for granted in American society,” he reflected. “That will live on forever. This will just be a blip on the news. It was ‘Ho-hum, it’s another festival.’ All the way along on the adventure, I didn’t feel the buzz. Did you?”