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A Brief History of Music Festivals

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017

A Brief History of Music Festivals

Meeting up for shared and communal experiences is something the humans have been doing since almost the beginning of times. This social habit is basically a characteristic trait of human psychology. Humans started to organize music festivals also for fulfilling this psychological need.

People in the Western world witnessed occurrence of the first music festival way back during the 1950s. To be more precise, the trend began with the inauguration of the first Newport Jazz festival in 1952. The event took place in the Rhode Island and was attended by more than 13,000 people. The festival allowed music enthusiasts to see some amazing blues, gospel, and jazz performances live.

Seven years later i.e. in 1959, people in this part of the world saw the launch of a sibling event called the Newport Folk Festival. The inaugural year was known particularly for Bob Dylan’s performance. The biggest contribution of the event was, however, introduction of rock n roll to the folk audiences and thereby aiding the much talked about rock n roll revolution of the late 50s.

It was 1967 and people in the west got glimpses of what modern music festival should look like. The year marked the launch of Monterey Pop Festival; the event was held in California and allowed people in this part of the globe to know great artists like Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. While the Monterey Pop Festival was big and ended up crystallizing a strong social movement in this part of the world, something even bigger was waiting for the Western people.

In 1969, a counterculture and festival called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair (commonly referred to as the Woodstock Festival) got announced. The fest took place in Bethel Woods, New York and turned to be an event of international standard. The three days of the festival saw more than 400,000 people come together. Such was the impact of the festival on the people in the west that it soon became a vital societal ritual. What’s more, the west’s relationship with counterculture is often marked as before and after Woodstock.

The following year was also special. This time it was the United Kingdom that hosted one of the most popular music festivals ever. It was 1970 and the first ever Isle of Wight Festival was held in the country. The event was attended by more than 700,000 people from different corners of the globe. Here, it must be noted that in spite of attracting so many people the Isle of Wight Festival is not the largest music festival ever. The title belongs to The Summerfest of Milwaukee. The fest that started in 1968 played host to as many as 1,000,000 people in 1999.

During the 1980s, rock festivals became more frequent across the globe. Europe and America were, however, still the frontrunners. Some of the most prominent nations to join the fleet were Zaire, Colombia, and Yugoslavia. The year 1985 was special for the people of Brazil; the Rock in Rio festival organized in Brazil attracted more than 1.5 million music enthusiasts.

The 1990s saw the festival turn bigger and get more commercialized. Since the millennium, music festivals have become more extravagant with hefty sponsorship deals. The current scenario is significantly different from what it used to be during the 50s.

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