Woodstock 50 vows ‘peaceful enjoyment,’ free tickets at Merriweather Post

If Woodstock 50 indeed happens at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, in Columbia, Maryland, concert tickets will be free — and valid for a single day only, WTOP has learned from festival organizers.

With a maximum capacity of 32,500 for a weekend concert at Merriweather Post, and Woodstock 50’s stated goal of “3 days of peace music,” reports over the weekend that tickets would be given away for free raised the possibility of security issues in Howard County, Maryland, where the amphitheater opened in 1967.

Organizers of Woodstock 50, led by 1969 co-founder Michael Lang, tell WTOP safeguards are in place to ensure that hundreds of thousands of fans in search of a free ticket don’t descend on Columbia.

In 1969, what began as a festival with an admission charge became free, as approximately 400,000 attendees overwhelmed the concert infrastructure. A 10-mile traffic jam clogged the New York Thruway, as close to a million young people migrated toward Bethel, New York.

“A free concert does not mean an unticketed event, and Woodstock 50 will be a ticketed event,” a Woodstock 50 spokesperson told WTOP.

“While there are peaceful, unticketed events, such as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, which has now grown to some 750,000 people over three days after 18 years, it has worked primarily because of its footprint in Golden Gate Park.”

Golden State Park measures approximately 1017 acres, while Merriweather Post is approximately 40 acres.

“Merriweather requires ticketing,” said the Woodstock 50 spokesperson, who asked to remain unnamed. “For the peaceful enjoyment of all, thoughtful logistical planning has taken place for Woodstock 50 at Merriweather.”

Merriweather Post has hosted free concerts in the past, including Virgin Mobile FreeFest, from 2009 through 2013. Free online tickets were snapped up nearly instantly for that event, and “freemium” tickets were also available.

While the original 1969 Woodstock, as well as its anniversary festivals in 1979, 1989, 1994 and 1999 included makeshift camping for concertgoers willing to trade creature comforts for three days of music, that won’t be the case at Woodstock 50.

“Tickets are for a single day,” said the spokesperson. “Tickets will be distributed through HeadCount, participating artists’ foundations and local charitable partnerships in D.C. and Baltimore.”

Organizers have not stated which charities would benefit.

On Friday, Woodstock 50 organizers formally released all artists who originally signed up to perform in Watkins Glen, New York. An alternative site, in Vernon, New York was quashed by permitting problems.

Artists including Jay-Z, John Fogerty, and Dead & Company have pulled out of the festival.

With less than three weeks to go, organizers have not provided an updated list of performers, or if the now-free concert will include day-long concerts on Aug. 16, 17, and 18, as originally intended.

Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., owner of the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operator of Merriweather Post, has expressed flexibility to host the festival for one, two, or three days, but is not involved in assembling the performers.

“We’re still waiting to hear who is playing, but that’s not our job,” said Hurwitz, Sunday night. “They do still have a venue if they have a show.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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