Mid-August, 1969, White Lake, New York. Thousands of hippies were gathered for what had been billed as “Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music.” What they may not have known is that the event would dramatically change the nature of the way music is viewed in our culture, bringing to a head many important evolutions happening in the industry. The modern music landscape is what it is today largely because of the hippie movement and its culmination at Woodstock, and this is felt very much in the prescience of music festivals in modern culture.
The original Woodstock lineup was as star studded as a lineup has ever been. The 32-act list includes icons like Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, The Who, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. It was a veritable who’s who of the early psych and arena rock movements, and though an argument can be made that other festivals at the time had better or more interesting lineups, there is absolutely no denying the cultural impact of Woodstock. With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, Woodstock II is scheduled the same days and same town this summer, and my outlook is fairly positive.
First and foremost, the lineup, though not lacking its fair share of duds, features quite the array of artists. There are, of course, the legacy acts who couldn’t and shouldn’t have been left off, namely people like Santana, Dead & Company, John Fogerty, and Robert Plant. However, the collection of young and established musicians is notable as well.
The first day is headlined by The Killers, an unexpected but strong choice, and Miley Cyrus, who is often overlooked despite a powerhouse voice and a multitude of impressive, live performances, most recently at the memorial for the late Chris Cornell. Earlier in the day, Run the Jewels will likely carry the torch of protest music in addition to bringing quite a bit of energy. Akon and The Head and The Heart will likely be quite fun, though both are somewhat odd choices. The dark horse artist of the day is easily Maggie Rogers who’s debut LP earlier this year was very strong, built on a modernized version of the 70’s aesthetic. Easily the highlight of the day, though, will be the Jack White lead Raconteurs. Put simply, Jack white knows how command a crowd, and the band’s blues rock sound will easily fill the large venue.
Day two is maybe the most impressive. Greta Van Fleet and Gary Clark Jr. were extremely obvious choices, and their styles will likely play extremely well here. Portugal. The Man will likely give a fun performance, as will Dawes, though nothing jaw dropping. The top row, however, is quite fantastic. Chance the Rapper is one of the most creative and exciting artists at work today, The Black Keys’ garage rock sound is tailor made for this kind of event, and Sturgill Simpson’s unique brand of psychedelic country fits this festival well. It will be an interesting battle between the three for the best act of the day.
Day three leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s not without it’s bright points. Jay-Z is nothing short of a legend in his own right and will easily give the best performance of the day. Cage the Elephant and Judah and the Lion will bring a diverse selection of rock to the heavily rap-centric day. Of course, Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae can’t be overlooked as powerful songstresses in the lineup. Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt have both dropped solid projects in recent months. Imagine Dragon’s doesn’t belong within 10 miles of this event, let alone in a headlining slot, but underdogs like Amigo the Devil and Pussy Riot are welcome sites on the list.
Ultimately, the lineup may be the strongest of any festivals I’ve seen in a few years, and the mix of new and old is much appreciated. It should go without saying, though, that the event itself will carry on cursory similarities to its namesake. What seems to be an intentional move by the promoters to bill this more as a celebration of Woodstock’s legacy than a second coming of the historical even itself is a smart one. In that sense, I’m fairly optimistic.
With a very strong lineup and a creative marketing campaign, Woodstock II stands a chance of being one of the best festivals of the summer, and a fairly fitting tribute to the event that changed it all.
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