From Woodstock to Coachella: 50 historic music festivals
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.”
[Pictured: The Hotel Viking stands ready to serve as headquarters for the American Jazz Festival (later renamed the Newport Jazz Festival) in July 1958 in Newport, Rhode Island.]
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.
[Pictured: Bob Dylan plays a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for the first time on stage as he performs at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, in Newport, Rhode Island.]
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.
[Pictured: Jimi Hendrix performs on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967, in Monterey, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Mount Tamalpais Fantasy Fair Music Festival put on by KFRC.]
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.
[Pictured: Fleetwood Mac in 1968.]
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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.
[Pictured: Jim Morrison of The Doors performs at the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival on May 19, 1968.]
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.
[Pictured: Fans at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair held at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in August 1969 near White Lake a hamlet of Bethel, New York.]
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.
[Pictured: The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival at Varsity Stadium Sept. 14, 1969.]
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.
[Pictured: Joni Mitchell performs at the Isle of Wight Festival on Aug. 9, 1970.]
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.
[Pictured: Kennedy Gospel Choir performing at the New Orleans Jazz Festival 1994.]
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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.
[Pictured: Hippies at the second Glastonbury Festival.]
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.
[Pictured: Aretha Franklin during a performance onstage at the Astrodome Jazz Festival, Houston, Texas.]
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.
[Pictured: The Grateful Dead perform at the Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, Iowa, June 16, 1974.]
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.
[Pictured: Stage Left at the Ozark Music Festival, Sedalia, Missouri.]
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.
[Pictured: American Jazz musician, composer, and bandleader Miles Davis plays trumpet during a performance in the Schaefer Music Festival series at Central Park's Wollman Rink in New York City Sept. 5, 1975.]
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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.
[Pictured: American vocal group The Chi-Lites perform on stage at the Kool Jazz Festival in 1976.]
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.
[Pictured: Texxas Music Festival, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas July 1, 1978.]
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.
[Pictured: The Mothership of the funk band Parliament-Funkadelic lands onstage on June 4, 1977, at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.]
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.
[Pictured: The Heatwave Festival at Mosport Park race track near Toronto on Aug. 23, 1980.]
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.
[Pictured: A Flock of Seagulls performs at the US Festival in 1983 in Devore, California.]
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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.
[Pictured: Bob Dylan and Tom Petty at Farm Aid.]
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.
[Pictured: Freddie Mercury and Brian May on stage during Queen's performance at the Rock in Rio festival, Brazil, January 1985.]
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.
[Pictured: Doug Wimbish of Living Colour performs as a part of at Lollapalooza 1991 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on July 26, 1991, in Mountain View, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Kurt Cobain performing live onstage, with Nirvana, playing a Fender Stratocaster guitar at the Reading Festival in 1992.]
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.
[Pictured: View of concert-goers in front of the main stage during the Woodstock '94 music festival at Winston Farms, Saugerties, New York, Aug. 12, 1994.]
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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.
[Pictured: ZZ Top performing on stage at the Beale Street Music Festival in 1997.]
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.
[Pictured: Lars Frederiksen (L) and Tim Armstrong of Rancid perform at the Vans Warped Tour at Pier 30/32 on July 4, 1998, in San Francisco.]
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.
[Pictured: James Hetfield of Metallica performs as part of the Bridge School Benefit 1997 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Oct. 19, 1997, in Mountain View, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.]
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.
[Pictured: The main stage lights up after dark at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 28, 2002, in Indio, California.]
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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.
[Pictured: Woodstock 30 Years Later.]
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.
[Pictured: Glastonbury 2000. Pyramid stage with tents in foreground, U.K.]
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.
[Pictured: The front display at the first-ever DEMF.]
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.
[Pictured: Jay-Z onstage at thee 2001 Summer Jam.]
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.
[Pictured: Glen Hansard of The Frames performs as part of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on Sept. 24, 2005 in Austin.]
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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.
[Pictured: Jack Johnson during Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.]
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.
[Pictured: Thom Yorke of Radiohead at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Comedy superstar Dave Chappelle attended the Los Angeles DVD Block Party at the Best Buy in Culver City, California, to celebrate the June 13 release of Dave Chappelle's Block Party.]
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.
[Pictured: Karen O (L) and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform as part of the Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on May 23, 2009, in Quincy, Washington.]
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.
[Pictured: G Love performs onstage at San Diego Street Scene held at Qualcomm Stadium on August 5, 2006, in San Diego.]
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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.
[Pictured: Singer/guitarist Craig Finn of The Hold Steady performs onstage at the Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 19, 2008, in Chicago.]
Three-day passes to the 2008 Lollapalooza Festival cost $190. The lineup included Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Radiohead, and Rage Against the Machine.
[Pictured: Singer Kele Okereke of Bloc Party performs as part of Lollapalooza 2008 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2008, in Chicago.]
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.
[Pictured: Phish performs on stage during Bonnaroo 2009 on June 12, 2009 in Manchester, Tennessee.]
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.
[Pictured: Lady Gaga performs during the 2010 Lollapalooza music festival at Grant Park on Aug. 6, 2010, in Chicago.]
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.
[Pictured: Stevie Wonder performs as part of the Austin City Limits Music Festival Day Two at Zilker Park.]
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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.
[Pictured: Rapper/actor Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino performs during Day 2 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy perform on stage on Day 1 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on Sept. 13, 2013, in Chicago.]
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.
[Pictured: Tyler, The Creator performs on the Camp Stage during day 2 of Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival 2017 at Exposition Park on Oct. 29, 2017, in Los Angeles.]
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.
[Pictured: Paul McCartney and Rihanna perform on Day 3 of Desert Trip Weekend 2 at the Empire Polo Field on Oct. 15, 2016, in Indio, California.]
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.
[Pictured: Singer Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs onstage during FYF Fest on July 23, 2017, in Los Angeles.]
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