Couple dancing at Woodstock, 1969.

From Woodstock to Coachella: 50 historic music festivals

Written by:
August 9, 2022
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From Woodstock to Coachella: 50 historic music festivals

Before Woodstock and Coachella, the earliest recorded festivals date back to ancient Greece. The Greeks honored the gods by holding competitions in drama, poetry, music, and athletics. To honor Dionysus, the God of wine and ecstasy, the Greeks would hold the festival of Dionysus, which consisted of tragedy and comedy performances. Well-known Greek playwrights, such as Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, participated in these festivals.

Fast-forward to modern-day, and festivals have survived the test of time to evolve into a mainstream business. Since music is practically free with a minimal subscription-based fee through streaming services, artists can have a hard time making money in record sales. Instead, they financially depend on ticket sales for live performances. This also works in the fan's favor as more people are looking to spend their money on experiences, such as travel and festivals instead of material goods.

Perhaps the most sought-after music festival experience was Woodstock in 1969. To this day, festival producers and organizers attempt to recreate the peaceful atmosphere of love and music. That event directly shaped the way we experience music: Attending a music festival has become a cultural phenomenon and right of passage that serves as a timestamp of popular music of the moment.

Stacker compiled a gallery of 50 historic music festivals, linking to video coverage of the shows when available. Read on to see if any of the music festivals you attended (or wish you had) made the list.

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1958: Newport Jazz Festival

As the headlining artist, Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll performance of "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "School Days" at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival was a major clash with the festival's jazz genre. His set was filmed in Bert Stern's documentary, "Jazz on a Summer's Day."

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1965: Newport Folk Festival

The 100,000 attendees at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival were ready and excited for Bob Dylan's acoustic hits, but found themselves outraged when Dylan premiered a new, electric sound. After only three songs, the crowd booed Dylan offstage.

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1967: Monterey Pop Festival

It was the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival that was a major turning point for rock 'n' roll in the 1960s. The lineup included The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and The Who, but it was Jimi Hendrix whose groundbreaking performance made rock 'n' roll history when he set his guitar on fire and smashed it to pieces on stage.

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1967: Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival

The 1967 Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival took place just one week before the Monterey Pop Festival. At the ticket price of $2, 36,000 attendees had access to the arts and crafts fair as well as listening to artists Dionne Warwick, The Doors, and Canned Heat at the adjoining Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre in Marin County, California.

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1968: Miami Pop Festival

There were actually two Miami Pop Festivals in 1968. Twenty-six thousand people attended the Miami Pop Festival in May to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix even made a memorable entrance via helicopter. One hundred thousand people attended the Miami Pop Festival in December to see Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, and Marvin Gaye.

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1968: Northern California Folk-Rock Festival

Produced by Bob Blodgett, the 1968 Northern California Folk-Rock Festival was held at the Family Park in the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California. Twenty-eight thousand tickets were sold for a gross income of $100,000. The musical acts included The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and The Steve Miller Band.

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1969: Woodstock Music & Art Fair

Half a million attendees gathered at a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to hear leading and emerging artists in the pop music scene including The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Janis Joplin, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The festival is the most monumental event in music history and set the bar high for proceeding festivals, even today.

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1969: Toronto Rock and Roll Revival

Promoters had to scramble when The Eatons pulled out of the 1969 Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. John Lennon agreed to attend the event on the condition that he could play with his new band, "The Plastic Onos," which consisted of Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, and Alan White. The band covered well-known hits including Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" because they had never played a gig as a band before this festival.

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1970: Isle of Wight

With 600,000 attendants, the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was at the time one of the largest human gatherings in the world. Artists of the festival included Chicago, The Who, Joni Mitchell, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The festival was captured by future Academy Award-winner Murray Lerner.

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1970: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Commonly referred to as Jazz Fest, the 1970 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival featured artists including Duke Ellington, Pete Fountain, and Louisiana native, Mahalia Jackson. The festival still runs to this day as a cultural experience to showcase Louisiana music, art, and cuisine.

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1971: Glastonbury

Free to the public, the 1971 Glastonbury festival featured artists including Fairport Convention, Joan Baez, and a young David Bowie. It was the first music festival to feature a pyramid stage, which was inspired by the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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1973: Astrodome Jazz Festival

The second Astrodome Jazz Festival took place in Houston, Texas, and featured iconic jazz and soul artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles. Ticket prices ranged from $5.50 to $10. Even though there were only two Astrodome Jazz Festivals, the jazz tradition continued at proceeding Kool Jazz Festivals.

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1973: Summer Jam at Watkins Glen

With over 600,000 attendees and virtually no security, most concert-goers got in without paying the $10 ticket price. The festival was located in Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway and overwhelmed the small town with an overflow of people. Artists included The Allman Brothers, The Band, and The Grateful Dead.

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1974: Ozark Music Festival

An estimated 350,000 people attended the 1974 Ozark Music Festival at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. The headlining artists included rock bands America and The Eagles, and emerging acts included Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, and Boz Scaggs.

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1975: Schaefer Festival

The Schaefer Festival was held at Wollman Skating Rink in New York City's Central Park. For the 10th anniversary in 1975, feature artists included Bob Marley and the Wailers, Journey, and Aerosmith. The Festival lasted from June 18 to Sept. 14.

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1976: San Francisco Kool Jazz Festival

The first annual San Francisco Kool Jazz Festival happened in 1976 at the Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium. The lineup featured Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and The Staple Singers.

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1978: Texxas World Music Festival

The 1978 Texxas World Music Festival is a showcase of the best in rock music at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. Twenty thousand people congregated to see Journey, Heart, Van Halen, Nugent, Aerosmith, and Sammy Hagar perform.

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1979: World's Greatest Funk Festival

Rick James and the Stone City Band, The Brides of Funkenstein, Bootsy's Rubber Band, and Parliament Funkadelic played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the 1979 World's Greatest Funk Festival. The crowd was an estimated 65,000 people and it cost $12.75 to attend.

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1980: Heatwave

The 1980 Heatwave festival was held just outside of Toronto at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. Over 100,000 people attended to see The B-52s, The Clash, Elvis Costello, and Talking Heads perform.

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1983: US Festival

The 1983 US Festival was held at the Glen Helen Regional Park, in Devore, California, and had funding from one of Apple's co-founders, Steve Wozniak. His goal was to make this event the "Woodstock of the '80s." The festival featured heavy metal and rock acts including A Flock of Seagulls, The Clash, Ozzy Osbourne, and Van Halen.

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1985: Farm Aid

The Farm Aid festival was created to raise money for American farmers and their families. The event was put together in six weeks and was held in Champaign, Illinois. Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, and Loretta Lynn performed for a crowd of 80,000 people. The concert raised over $7 million.

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1985: Rock in Rio

This was the first Rock in Rio multi-day concert in Rio de Janeiro, lasting 10 days and attracting more than 1 million people. Headlining acts included Iron Maiden, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne, Rod Stewart, and James Taylor.

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1991: Lollapalooza

Perry Farrell founded the traveling festival as a farewell tour for his band, Jane's Addiction. Other acts included Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, and Ice-T. Since 2005, the event has been held exclusively at Grant Park in Chicago.

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1992: Reading Festival

The Reading Festival is the world's oldest popular music festival. In 1992, the headlining acts included Public Enemy, The Wonder Stuff, and Nirvana. It was Nirvana's iconic headlining set that is still remembered to this day.

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1994: Woodstock

Bob Dylan, who turned down the opportunity to play at Woodstock in 1969, made a triumphant return to the stage at the 1994 Woodstock at Winston Farm in Saugerties, New York. Three-hundred and fifty thousand people paid $125 to attend the festival, which included the musical artists Aerosmith, Traffic, and Peter Gabriel. Musical acts from the original 1969 Woodstock also performed, such as Santana, and select members of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

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1995: Beale Street Music Festival

Also known as "Memphis in May," The Beale Street Music Festival is an annual summer event held at Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1995, the musical acts Doyle Bramhall, Gov't Mule, Adam Ant, and Fleetwood Mac performed for a crowd of 50,000 people.

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1996: Warped Tour

Sponsored by the shoe brand Vans, the Warped Tour was a 24-date tour in the summer of 1996. The bands who played included Deftones, Pennywise, Rocket from the Crypt, and Blink-182.

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1997: Bridge School Benefit

Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit offers a chance for seasoned musicians to play in an unplugged format. The 1997 lineup included Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews Band, and Metallica. The festival is held at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

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1998: Tibetan Freedom Concert

The Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1998 was a benefit for the Milarepa Fund, which raises money to end China's occupation of Tibet. Headlining artists included Dave Matthews Band, Beastie Boys, and Pearl Jam.

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1999: Coachella

The first Coachella music festival was held at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. Headlining artists were Beck, Rage Against The Machine, and Tool. The festival didn't make a profit with only 25,000 tickets sold and was canceled in 2000, but was revived in 2001 and has been an annual music event ever since.

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1999: Woodstock

With high hopes for a successful 30th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, concert-goers descended into rioting, arson, and assault. The 1999 Woodstock Festival was held at the Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. Performing artists included James Brown, Kid Rock, and Sheryl Crow.

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2000: Glastonbury

The musical acts at the 2000 Glastonbury performed on the third rendition of the pyramid stage. Performers included The Chemical Brothers, Moby, Travis, Morcheeba, Basement Jaxx, and David Bowie.

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2000: Detroit Electronic Music Festival

The year 2000 was the first year of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Detroit is known as the birthplace of electronic music. Over 1 million people attended the festival. Stacey Pullen, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May were a few of the artists to perform.

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2001: Summer Jam

Jay-Z made the 2001 Summer Jam a memorable night by putting his feud with Prodigy in the limelight. He performed his new song, "Takeover," which ended with Michael Jackson making a surprise appearance.

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2002: Austin City Limits

In its debut year, the 2002 Austin City Limits Festival featured 67 artists that stayed within its musical roots of bluegrass and country. Performers included Ryan Adams, Cross Canadian Ragweed, G. Love and Special Sauce. The success of 2002's event ensured there would be another event in 2003.

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2002: Bonnaroo

The 2002 Bonnaroo Concert was held at the Grate Stage Park in Manchester, Tennessee. It was the first annual Bonnaroo Concert and drew a crowd of 70,000 people. Artists included Widespread Panic, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and The Disco Biscuits.

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2004: Coachella

The 2004 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival was held at Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. Radiohead and The Cure headlined the musical event. It was the first time the event had completely sold out. Co-founder of the festival Paul Tollett turned down the opportunity to extend the festival for a third day with David Bowie as the closing act.

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2004: Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Dave Chappelle had the idea to put on a city party inspired by the 1972 benefit concert, Wattstax. Dave Chapelle's Block Party was a spectacle featuring his friends, including The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Kanye West. Tickets to the Brooklyn event were free, but extremely hard to come by.

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2005: Sasquatch!

The 2005 Sasquatch! music festival took place at The Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington. The festival featured a broad range of musical artists including Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Kanye West, and The Shins.

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2006: Street Scene

The 2006 Street Scene was held at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. In addition to the headlining artists Kanye West and Tool, concert-goers had the chance to taste food from top San Diego restaurants and see circus and burlesque acts.

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2007: Pitchfork

The 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival was a three-day weekend bonanza at Union Park in Chicago. A Saturday/Sunday pass cost $35 and a one-day pass cost $25. The event has since gone on to be a yearly staple in the festival scene and draw huge crowds.

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2008: Lollapalooza

Three-day passes to the 2008 Lollapalooza Festival cost $190. The lineup included Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Radiohead, and Rage Against the Machine.

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2009: Bonnaroo

The 2009 Bonnaroo lineup of performers included Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Phish, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, and David Byrne. Four-day passes to the concert cost $224.50.

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2010: Lollapalooza

The final lineup was announced a full two months prior to the festival, which included Lady Gaga, The Strokes, and The Black Keys. Three-day passes were priced at $215.

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2011: Austin City Limits

For its 10th anniversary, the 2011 Austin City Limits Festival featured the headlining artists Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and Coldplay. The festival was held at Zilker Park in Austin.

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2012: Coachella

This is the first year that Coachella was a two-weekend festival. The 2012 featured headliners were The Black Keys, Radiohead, and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Childish Gambino, Arctic Monkeys, and The Weeknd also performed.

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2013: Riot Fest

Riot Fest was established in 2005 and caters to fans of punk, rock, alternative, metal, and hip-hop. The 2013 Riot Fest took place in Chicago and featured The Replacements, Brand New, Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, and Pixies.

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2015: Camp Flog Gnaw

The terrorist attacks in Paris had occurred only the night before the 2015 Camp Flog Gnaw. Each artist's set was an excellent way for fans to escape the harsh realities of the world. Headliners included Snoop Dogg and Tyler, The Creator.

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2016: Desert Trip

Dubbed the nickname, "Oldchella," Desert Trip is a three-day festival with a lineup of artists that transcends generational music. Paul McCartney and Neil Young performed together at the festival.

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2017: FYF Fest

A three-day festival held at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Headlining acts included Missy Elliott, Bjork, Frank Ocean, and Nine Inch Nails.

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