I might have to change my plans this August, 16-18. I wasn’t really stoked about attending Woodstock 2019, because, well, look at what happened during my youth in ’99 and ’94 (yes, lots of mud, overflowing toilets and fires). The bands were top notch, but it was a total disaster. However, after reading the reports streaming in about this August’s lineup, it’s one for the ages. It might be the greatest lineup to ever come to Upstate New York.
First, let me get this out of the way up front: Original Woodstock festival Co-producer, Michael Lang, has been gifted with the lone 50th anniversary Woodstock celebration of record; despite earlier reports that Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, NY—the site of the original Woodstock festival in 1969 (i.e. Yasgur’s Farm)—would be putting on its own 50th anniversary festival, it’s since pivoted away from the festival format in favor of three separate days of rock and roll, which will include Woodstock ’69 veterans Arlo Guthrie, Santana and Edgar Winter (who performed with his brother Johnny back in the day). Bethel also scored a surviving member of the Fab Four: Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, who will be kicking off the weekend of events. (As you might remember, Ringo played the Saratoga Performing Arts Center [SPAC] last summer.)
And now, to the main event. Two of the entertainment world’s major media players have revealed a panoply of artists who are set to perform at the Watkins Glen Woodstock.
According to Variety, headliners will include rap god Jay-Z (!); jam band giant Dead & Co. (who will also be performing at SPAC in June); retro-rock duo the Black Keys, who just released their first new music in five years and clearly have a new album imminent; and three-time Grammy winner Chance the Rapper. Others that are finalizing deals to perform include The Raconteurs (one of Jack White’s “other” bands), pop superstars Imagine Dragons (whose frontman has been in a war of words with Slipknot’s Corey Taylor; Slipknot will be bringing its Knotfest to SPAC in August), Texas bluesman Gary Clark Jr., The Killers, Sturgill Simpson (who appeared at SPAC last summer), Dawes (a personal favorite of mine), the Lumineers (of “Ho, Hey” fame), Russian punks Pussy Riot, Miley “Wrecking Ball” Cyrus and recent multiple Grammy winner Brandi Carlile. (Earlier reports from Variety also mentioned recent Album of the Year Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves, but her name has since been taken out of the report.)
Per Billboard, original Woodstock performer, Santana, will also be performing at Lang’s production—interesting, given that he’ll also be performing at Bethel Woods that weekend, too. The group appears to be the only one straddling both weekends.
Needless to say, Woodstock 2019 is stacking up to be a once-in-a-lifetime event for the region and will clearly bring in a lot of greenbacks—possibly even to Saratoga Springs and other hot-spots in the general area. The one caveat here is the 2018 cancellation of a major festival at Watkins Glen, hosted by jam band powerhouse Phish, because of health concerns. The issue arose because of recent flash flooding and led to a logistical nightmare in terms of providing audiences fresh drinking water. Woodstock 2019’s success will hinge greatly on Mother Nature. Hopefully, she just stays in the Vanagon.