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Woodstock 50 organizers, former financier clash in New York court

 

Agence France-Presse

New York, United States  /  Tue, May 14, 2019  /  04:02 pm
Woodstock 50 organizers, former financier clash in New York court

Crowd in front of the main stage on opening day of the 25th anniversary of Woodstock music festival in Saugerties, New York, US, on August 12, 1994. (Shutterstock/mark reinstein)

Just months before the much-touted Woodstock 50th anniversary celebration is set to go on, the festival's organizers and its former financier on Monday began battling over its future in New York court.

Woodstock 50 sued investor Amplifi Live last week, accusing it of sabotaging the event by saying it was canceled and wrongfully withdrawing more than $18 million in funds earmarked for the weekend currently slated for August 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York.

W50 Attorney Marc Kasowitz -- who for a time defended Donald Trump regarding investigations into the US president's ties to Russia -- demanded that the NY Supreme Civil Court in Manhattan force the return of those funds to the festival bank account so W50 could go on planning the commemoration.

Calling the celebration "an iconic and historic event" -- it would mark half a century since the 1969 weekend of peace, love and music that's considered a major milestone in pop culture history -- W50 managing member Gregory Peck told the court that "I feel, personally, we need Woodstock now as much as we did 50 years ago."

But its former financial backer said in court documents that "misrepresentations, incompetence, and contractual breaches" by Michael Lang -- a mastermind behind the original weekend who is working as a promoter for the 2019 event -- "have made it impossible to produce a high-quality event that is safe and secure for concertgoers, artists, and staff."

"The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient financing," wrote attorney Marc Greenwald -- who represents Amplifi Live, an investing arm of the Japanese marketing firm Dentsu -- in the memorandum.

Read also: Woodstock organizer says embattled festival still on

"As much as the parties might wish it otherwise, the festival contemplated by their agreement cannot happen and allowing it to go forward would only put the public at risk."

In court Monday the primary point of dispute was the festival's anticipated capacity, with an initial plan to host 150,000 people in bucolic upstate New York. 

But production company Superfly said the location -- some 155 miles (250 kilometers) away from the original site at Bethel Woods, where a separate, smaller commemoration event is planned -- would be incapable of accommodating more than 65,000 festival-goers, court documents say, a concern that ultimately led the firm to back out.

Peck said W50 has offers from other financial backers and production companies that could take over putting on the festival, whose 80-strong lineup is stacked with contemporary heavyweights including Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and The Killers along with Woodstock veterans Santana, John Fogerty and Canned Heat.

But he said unless Amplifi Live returns the $18 million soon, taking up those proposals would prove difficult.

The hearing is set to continue Tuesday.