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Image Credit: Reuters

A major festival commemorating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock can proceed, a New York judge ruled, saying in a decision May 15 that a former investor can’t unilaterally shelve the event.

The two-day hearing came after the organisation behind the anticipated festival, Woodstock 50, sued its former financier Amplifi Live for telling the public the celebration scheduled for August 16-18 was cancelled.

Judge Barry Ostrager of New York state’s Supreme Civil Court decided in favour of the festival organisers but said Woodstock 50 “falls woefully short” of proving Amplifi Live — a subsidiary of the Japanese marketing firm Dentsu — needed to return the approximately $18 million in funds it withdrew from the festival bank account when it backed out.

The feud is set for arbitration. Dentsu had thrown in the towel on April 29, alleging “misrepresentations, incompetence, and contractual breaches” by Michael Lang — a mastermind of the original weekend who is working as a promoter for the 2019 event.

Neither Amplifi Live nor its lawyers responded to AFP’s request for comment.

The Woodstock 50 organisation vowed an “amazing and inspiring Festival in August” following the ruling.

“Judge rules Woodstock 50 Festival may go ahead as planned! Dentsu Aegis had no right to cancel the Festival.”

The event would mark half a century since the 1969 weekend of peace, love and music, considered a major milestone in pop culture history.

Despite the ruling, hurdles remain: Woodstock 50 must secure new investors, a new production company, acquire the necessary local permits and ensure the site has adequate water, sanitary facilities, road access and emergency response capabilities.

A primary point of dispute was the festival’s anticipated capacity, with an initial plan to host 150,000 people in bucolic upstate New York’s Watkins Glen.

But production company Superfly said the location — some 250 kilometres 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 festivalgoers, court documents say, a concern that ultimately led that firm to back out.

Managing member Gregory Peck said Woodstock 50 has offers from other financial backers and production companies that could take over putting on the festival, whose line-up of 80 performers is stacked with contemporary heavyweights including Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and The Killers along with Woodstock veterans Santana, John Fogerty and Canned Heat.