Do we really need another Woodstock? Didn’t we do enough damage in ’94 and ’99? At this point, that question seems as obsolete as the movement that first birthed the festival four decades ago. There’s always a mint to be made on nostalgia, and with the advertising ninjas at the very peak of their whorish, pillaging game the iron is once again hot for the striking. In fact, there’s a perfect storm of profitability brewing, and you can bet your ass that the Woodstock ’09 harvest will be massive. (Don’t get me started on the Limp Bizkit “Unicorns & Rainbows” reunion.)
This recent comment from Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang sparked an understandable shitstorm of worry: “It’s got to be sponsor-driven… Depending on how successful we are in raising that sponsorship [money] will determine when and how we do this event-or if we do this event, frankly.”
Sure, sponsors are necessary to put together a music festival and promote it correctly, but times have changed in the industry, and the advertising world’s been ‘roiding up heavily in recent years. Instead of seeing a Playstation booth sandwiched between the porta-potties at the show, these days the band is playing their sets in front of giant Guitar Hero banners and hawking ringtones from the stage in between songs.
Welcome to the future. Stadiums coast to coast no longer bear the names of the men that achieved the impossible, the heroes that reminded us that more is always within reach. Now they’re named after the highest-bidding corporate monoliths. With the impending Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger, the entire script on commercial options in live music is going to get a Michael Bay rewrite. Advertising will suffocate that sacred concert atmosphere, and in this writer’s deluded, utopian vision, people will have had enough of artists and promoters scalping their own tickets and unplug from the whole game altogether. Only then will the temple topple over, the macro go micro, the club scene get revived, and music return to what it’s always been- and always should be- about: the music. The irreplaceable experience of feeling the energy interplay between artist and fan as the songs we love are brought to life before our eyes by the people that created them.
When you hang a fucking banner in front of that, when there’s a commercial break between songs, you cut that beautiful, thrashing lifeline to the moment. You take away precisely what’s special about the moment. There’s a staggering amount of music festivals cropping up this year, and we don’t need another rehashing of a dream that died long before most of us were even born.
For many of us still, the first image of Woodstock that comes to mind is Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. But if the latest & greatest army of ad wizards get their way, by the time the roaches and empty Rockstar cans are all picked up you’ll be panting with Pavlovian excitement at the mere mention of the festival, immediately associating it with that amazing [insert highest bidder here] you discovered there. Who cares if it has nothing to do with music?