You’re probably thinking, “What do music festivals and the 1970s have in common?” Well, quite a lot as it turns out. The 70s was a period of great change and reinvention for many things, including music festivals. Although music festivals have been held for centuries (the first documented example being in 1066), it was during this decade that they really took off once again. In this article we explore the roots of modern music festivals, and those who played a part in bringing them back into vogue. Since then, they’ve grown exponentially, there are now thousands of different music festivals worldwide catering to every taste imaginable.
The Renaissance of Music Festivals in the 70s
Music festivals have been held all over the world since the beginning of civilization. However, the concept of the modern music festival as we know it today really only came about in the 1970s. Although there were many large-scale music festivals in the 60s, they were usually hosted by the government, or by religious organizations. There were a wide variety of genres, but they were somewhat different to the multi-genre festivals we know now. What are some reasons the 70s was such a great decade for music festivals? One big reason was the change in social mentality. The 60s saw a rise in liberalism and free expression, which carried on into the 70s. Looking back to the counter-culture movement of the 60s you can see that there was a lot of focus on art, music and self-expression. The 70s was an extension of this, as people wanted to expand this creativity beyond art into social and political areas as well. This led to a blossoming of new music and new festivals, with people wanting to share their talents and their cultures with everyone else.
Woodstock and its influence on music festivals
No matter where you go in the world, someone will have heard of Woodstock. It’s one of the most famous cultural events of all time, and spawned a number of different spin-offs and copy-cats in the decades since. The original festival took place in Bethel, New York in 1969, and saw around 500,000 people descend upon the town. Although it was not originally intended to be a music festival, it very quickly became one as musicians were eager to take to the stage. The festival was intended to be a ‘peace and music’ gathering, but it quickly descended into chaos. The lasting impact of the Woodstock Festival can be seen in almost every major music festival that has taken place since. It was the first event of its kind to be recorded and broadcast on television, and many believe that it was this that led to the growing popularity of music festivals.
The dawn of modern music festivals: UK, Europe and USA
One of the first major music festivals of the 70s was the Reading Festival, which took place in August 1970. The festival was organized by members of the ‘Free Festival’ movement, and its goal was to avoid the commercialization of festivals. The following year the first Glastonbury Festival took place in England. This festival was hugely influential, and it drew in around 100,000 people a year. It became the template that many others were modeled on.
Other influential music festivals from the 70s
There are many other festivals that took place during the 70s and have since become household names. Let’s take a look at two of the most famous. In 1974 the Reading Festival was attended by around 80,000 people. The organizers had high hopes for the future, and decided to put a festival on an annual basis. The following year the Reading Festival was held, and it attracted around 120,000 people. This became an annual event, and is still going today. It was around this time that the ‘home-made’ festival began to disappear. Instead, commercialized festivals became more common, especially in the UK. The first commercialized festival in the UK was the Isle of Wight Festival, which took place in 1969. It has been held annually since 1970, and is still one of the country’s largest music festivals. Another notable festival was the Woodstock Festival of 1980, a ‘sequel’ to the original. This was not a ‘true’ music festival, as it was a 3-day concert featuring many artists. It was held at the original Woodstock location, and was attended by around half a million people.
The 70s saw a huge rise in the popularity of music festivals, and to this day they remain hugely popular. This decade saw a change in mentality, as people wanted to expand their creativity beyond art into social and political areas as well. This led to a blossoming of new music and new festivals, with people wanting to share their talents and their cultures with everyone else. These new music festivals were different from the ones that had come before. Before the 60s, most festivals were government-run, and catered for a very traditional type of music, with a focus on folk, country, and classical genres. Since then, the music at festivals has diversified massively. The music festivals of today are very different from those of the 70s, but many people argue that they are better. They are bigger, more diverse, more inclusive, and more commercial.