Woodstock, the muddy, 1969 monster three-day rock concert, defined the hippie generation and set the standard for every Lollapalooza to follow. In other words, they were bound to do it again. So, with the 25th anniversary of the event approaching (Aug. 12-14), promoters are battling to seize the Aquarian moment with two very different festivals. A guide to the not-so-peaceful proceedings:
Dueling fetes: There are two festivals, and neither is in the town of Woodstock. Woodstock ‘94, the bigger of the two, is attempting to book big- ticket acts to attract 250,000 people to a farm in Saugerties, a Hudson River community 100 miles north of Manhattan. The other festival, to be staged by Sid Bernstein 50 miles southeast in Bethel (the same town that hosted the ‘69 blowout), is hoping to attract, uh, anyone. Confused? So are a lot of people. Last week, a man walked into the bureau of a local paper, The Times Herald Record, asking directions to the Woodstock site. The visitor, it turns out, was Bernstein.
The performers: Just about every band since the dawn of time has been trumpeted as a candidate for Woodstock ‘94. But getting them to sign on the dotted line is another story. While you can probably count on rockers like Aerosmith, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, such major-league draws as R.E.M., Guns N’ Roses, and Pearl Jam appear to have bowed out. With the clock ticking, Woodstock ‘94 insider John Scher, the president of PolyGram Diversified Entertainment, claims to have booked ”the most amazing, eclectic lineup of artists since August of 1969.” (Tickets for Saugerties will go on sale June 11 or 12.)
Over in Bethel, where they’re banking on 80,000 fans, the bill boasts such forgotten folkies as Melanie, Richie Havens, and Tom Paxton. Reasons ringmaster Bernstein, ”To me the message is far more important than even the music.”
The red tape: At press time, both festivals were making the natives restless. Bernstein was wrestling with a troupe of Bethel residents over allegations that he failed to submit the proper environmental-impact study and fudged financial information on his permit application.
Across the valley, Woodstock ‘94 had its own skirmishes with the natives. Local caterers, who were hoping to cash in on the onslaught, must pay a heavy price: $3,000 and 33 percent of their take. Whipping up more ill will, the promoters have cracked down on merchants for selling T-shirts with the Woodstock logo.
The profits: If the ‘69 extravaganza was about making myths, the ’90s edition is about making money. There’s a lot riding on Woodstock ‘94, including a soundtrack, a pay-per-view special, and the rerelease of the original documentary (Oscar winner Bar- bara Kopple is chronicling this event). Meanwhile, the merchandising bonanza has come home. ”Hideous T-shirts are sprouting on the walls of beauty parlors,” says one 20-year Woodstock resident, Ed Sanders of the Fugs.
But not everyone’s cynical. ”At worst this’ll be the most amazing two days of music and fun that anybody’s put on in some time,” says Scher. ”At best, lightning will strike twice-and it’ll be magic.”