2020 Festival Season
Each year around the world, music festivals garner millions of fans. The concept of a music festival – a live music event hosted for large a large audience – is not new. In fact, it has been around since the Pythian Games of Ancient Greece. In Europe, there were classical and religious music festivals as well. But the festivals in America that we have come to know and love emerged in the mid-20th century. The Newport Jazz Festival had its debut in 1954 and is deemed as the first annual music festival in America. Its first showing had 11,000 attendees and it included performers like Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie. Over the years, the Newport Jazz Festival has had legendary jazz and blues performers including Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis. The festival moved to New York for a few years in the 1970s, but moved back to Newport in 1981 where it has been held annually ever since.
The first ever rock music festival was the Monterey International Pop Festival which was held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. It was a three-day festival that hosted some of the biggest names in music at the time: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Otis Redding, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix (who set his guitar on fire during his performance). The festival is considered to be the kickstart of Janis Joplin’s career and also a blueprint for future festivals like Woodstock.
Woodstock is perhaps the most famous festival in American music history. The first one was held in August of 1969 in Bethel, New York. There were over half a million attendees and 32 different performers including Santana, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix made music history again, this time by improvising on the “Star Spangled Banner”. In 2019, the historic Woodstock Festival is making its return in Watkins Glen, NY with the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival featuring headliners such as Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper and The Killers!
Years later in the 1990s, a new genre of music emerged in Berlin, Germany. This new genre was electronic dance music or EDM. EDM created an entire subculture that spread across the world and gave way to festivals like Electric Zoo, Electric Forest, Ultra Music Festival, and Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas. A few other iconic music festivals debuted in the 1990s. Lollapalooza began in 1991 as one of the first alternative music festivals. The debut included performers such as Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Ice-T. The famous Coachella began in 1999 in California. The first show included a lineup of performers like Beck, Jurassic 5, and Rage Against the Machine. There were 10,000 attendees but now Coachella attracts 75,000, proving itself to be one of the most popular festivals in America.