Even as a hail-Mary plan to move the beleaguered Woodstock 50 festival to Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion continues to tantalize area music lovers, two veterans of the original Woodstock say they won’t be performing at any relocated golden-anniversary celebration.
Both John Sebastian, leader of the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Country Joe McDonald performed at Woodstock 50 years ago, when “3 Days of Peace & Music” took over Max Yasgur’s farm near Bethel, N.Y., and became a touchstone for a generation. Although both men had signed on for Woodstock 50, which had been set for Aug. 16-18 near the original upstate New York site, they now say they won’t be part of the lineup if the concert moves to Columbia.
“I was with them all the way until the location changed,” said Sebastian, noting that he already has a concert scheduled in the area that contractually would prevent him from performing at Columbia. But he mourned the chance to appear again at a Woodstock festival created by promoter Michael Lang.
“And it pisses me off, because I feel like a blood brother with Michael, and I would love to be able to join him.”
McDonald, who memorably performed his “The ‘Fish’ Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” at Woodstock in 1969, said he has not heard from the concert promoters in weeks and has no intention of playing at a relocated festival, especially one moved at the last minute and with details yet to be firmed up. His contract, he noted, called for him only to perform at the original Woodstock 50 site, in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
“I have no airfare booked. I have no hotels. I have nothing planned," McDonald said. “I’m not interested in getting on a ship that’s sinking, and I don’t see any indication that this ship is not sinking.”
Meanwhile, details of the possible concert remain unclear. Various media have reported that tickets will be free and that the concert might run for only one day, although nothing has been confirmed. At least three additional acts have dropped out: headliner Jay-Z and original Woodstock veterans John Fogerty (who was there in 1969 as part of Creedence Clearwater Revival) and Dead & Company, including members of the Grateful Dead. News reports have said acts scheduled to play the festival have been released from their contracts, leaving the question of who will play Woodstock 50 up in the air.
Merriweather Post already has a concert scheduled for Aug. 17, featuring Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. A spokeswoman for I.M.P., operators of Merriweather Post, said that concert is still scheduled.
News broke late last week that Woodstock 50, after numerous setbacks, would be moving to Merriweather Post Pavilion. Howard County Executive Calvin Ball confirmed late Thursday that talks were ongoing to bring Woodstock 50 to Columbia.
Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., said in a statement Monday morning, "The Woodstock folks are working on securing the artists now. If the bands come, we’ll produce the show. We’re looking forward to getting an update as soon as Woodstock 50 has one.”
No such update was available as of Monday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Woodstock 50 said only that further details would be provided as they become set.
Howard County spokesman Scott Peterson said in an email Monday, "Woodstock 50 promoters have not submitted their permit application at this time. Once we receive their application, a logistical plan will be put in place similar to all Merriweather Post Pavilion shows.”