Woodstock 50: Who Will Play?

Woodstock 50: Who Will Play?

Woodstock 50

Woodstock 50

Watkins Glen, NY, United States of America

Without question, the most significant music event that took place in the 20th century was Woodstock in 1969. Billed as '3 Days of Peace, Love and Music', the footage of Jimi Hendrix performing 'Star Spangled Banner' burned brightly within the counter-cultural zeitgeist. 

At the start of the year, a commemorate festival celebrating the 50th anniversary was announced – with Woodstock 50 promising "an eclectic bill" made up of "hip-hop, rock, some pop, and some of the legacy bands from the original festival.” Co-creator Michael Lang stated that further official details would be revealed in the coming months with the roster likely to consist of primarily contemporary talent, with legacy acts represented and honoured.

Rumours are circulating that The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Chance The Rapper are tipped to headline –  but are they the kinds of socially conscious artists entrenched in contemporary popular culture who possess the kind of clout to deliver firmly optimistic yet impactful political and social messages that will resonate with both engaged activists as well as the more indifferent festival-goers?

With a palpable sense of brewing disillusion amongst our current generation, somewhat mirroring the sentiments of youths during the '60s, Lang feels it's perfect timing to "bring back the Woodstock spirit, get involved and make our voices heard."

Let's see which crop of artists, old and new, would fit the bill:

Kendrick Lamar

No doubt the first contemporary artist that springs to mind considering the festival's predicted political-leaning stance, as Kendrick Lamar is a perpetual advocate for social justice. He has experienced the shortcomings of governmental involvement (or lack of) in America's ghettos having grown up in Compton, California, which has unquestionably shaped his artistry.

The highly-decorated rapper promotes the fundamental importance of possessing the knowledge to alter political discourse, rather than straight-up revolt; a crucial message to send to those feeling left behind by modern politics. It'd be an opportunity missed if he weren't to perform at Woodstock 50.

Bob Dylan

Certainly a legacy artist, but not part of the original Woodstock’s legacy, however. After his well-documented motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan hadn’t performed for almost three years, with Woodstock touted as his live return (considering he lived nearby). Dylan famously shunned Woodstock in favour of playing the Isle of Wight Festival that year.

One of, if not the most revered socio-political musicians of the past six decades, the 50th-anniversary could see Dylan play Woodstock, re-writing himself into the festival’s history after all.

Taylor Swift

A curveball, considering Swift has refrained from political comment throughout her rise to stardom until she revealed her left-leaning political stance last year before the midterm elections. Significantly reticent prior to this – a business-savvy move from the cynic's perspective – Swift angered the more conservative branch of her fanbase yet she continues to transcend her social and political views, her universal appeal still intact.

An artist on this level of adoration would be ideal for the modern Woodstock ethos; an idyllic pop icon with 'star power' promoting peace, love, and music? Watch this space.

Run The Jewels

Never a duo to shy away from socio-politics, Run The Jewels are ready-made for the Woodstock 50 stage. El-P and Killer Mike vowed to continue creating music until peace and justice reign, so their values align with Woodstock's wide-eyed utopian vision.

Killer Mike’s forays into socially-conscious Netflix documentaries and their unequivocal support for Bernie Sanders throughout the most recent presidential election campaign prove they 'walk the walk' as much as they 'talk the talk'.

Janelle Monáe

Grammy-nominated Monáe publicly confirmed that she identifies as queer in 2018, dedicating career-defining album Dirty Computer to "young girls, young boys, non-binary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves".

Woodstock 50 will be one of the decade's most visible platforms within the music industry, popular culture even. A prime opportunity for the ambitious artist, a proud proponent of the LGBT community, to take the stage.

The Who

Cementing their iconic status in the USA after their famed Woodstock appearance, The Who are one of the few artists on the original bill that continues to perform to this day, with a tour scheduled this summer. Roger Daltrey has seemingly ruled it out stating "I think they should do it with young bands. I don’t see why they should have us there". 

Their legendary track 'My Generation' echoes the sentiments of reckless youth, regardless of which specific generation, so it remains a possibility.


A politically divisive artist, more so since she used the half-time Superbowl show to highlight the Black Lives Matters movement back in 2016. Perfect then, considering Woodstock's progressive socio-political ethos. 

Just as long as she doesn't entirely steal the show like at last year's Coachella, that is.

Florence + the Machine

Florence Welch is arguably the one artist on this list of predictions that shares the same kind of bucolic optimism of the counter-cultural movement's most prominent female spokespersons, bridging the gap, if you like, between past and present. 

Possessing the charm of Joni Mitchell, and the presence of Janis Joplin, the shoe fits in terms of paying respect to Woodstock's illustrious legacy. 

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Though written by Joni Mitchell, CSNY's version of 'Woodstock' established the mythos of its origins back at Max Yasgur's farm. It'd come full circle if the supergroup reformed for the anniversary celebration.

Neil Young's dedication to ecological conservation means he could be persuaded to get involved. However, David Crosby might give it a miss bearing in mind his curmudgeonly perspective of modern music (especially Kanye West's output). 

Childish Gambino

The impact of Jimi Hendrix's rendition of 'Star Spangled Banner' in front of the few thousand bedraggled festival-goers is widely regarded as the 1960s defining moment. A snapshot of political, social unrest and the reactionary measures that generation's youth took. Fast-forward fifty years and that same disillusion with injustice and inequality is apparent. 

The video for Donald Glover/Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' evokes imagery ranging from police brutality to selfie-culture, marginalised communities, and the fractured nature of modernity and society. If it doesn't warrant its place in the contemporary zeitgeist, then I don't know what does. Michael Lang should be bashing down Glover's door to get him to perform.

Woodstock 50 takes place on 16-18 August 2019. Join the Woodstock 50 waiting list for further details, and check out our guide for more info.


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