Come together with music festivals
With winter around the corner, social media is already buzzing with countless announcements of spring and summer music festivals to come in 2014.
Music festivals have become so popular in the last century that what once was a counterculture movement, music festivals are now evolved into more mainstream, inclusive events.
A study by Nature Reviews Neuroscience shows that listening to music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. Both an art form and a pastime, music has a way of affecting a person’s mood and bringing people together.
“You’re bound to have an unforgettable time at a festival that has good vibes, friendly people, and most importantly great music because that’s what it’s all about — the music,” says Santa Monica College student Alex Vargas.
More than 100,000 people attend the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., which was first held in 1999. According to the Los Angeles Times, the multi-stage, three-day event attracts so many festival-goers because of its diverse range of musical performances. From mainstream to indie to hip-hop, artists across all genres are featured at the festival.
“I went to Coachella last year, not because I knew every single band performing, but because of the wild, anything-can-happen kind of atmosphere that I heard so much about,” Vargas says. “I met so many people from different parts of the world that I probably would have never gotten the chance to meet had I not gone to the festival.”
But Coachella is only one of the many music festivals in the country.
In 1991, Lollapalooza began in Chicago as a farewell tour for the band Jane’s Addiction. It has reached such success in the U.S. that it debuted its first overseas festival in South America, states the festival’s official website. Lollapalooza features mostly alternative rock with a variety of other genres such as hip-hop and heavy-metal bands.
Bonnaroo started in 2002 in Manchester, Tenn. as an eco-friendly festival with a focus on folk rock and top 40 hits. The festival promotes sustainability and eco-awareness, and has evolved into a large-scale event. Bonnaroo offers attendees an entertainment village with an arcade, comedy club, theater, beer festival, and silent disco.
The history of music festivals in the U.S. goes back more than five decades. According to Billboard, one of the first music festivals in the 20th century was the Newport Jazz Festival, which began in 1954, and is still ongoing. Hosted in Rhode Island, America’s first annual jazz festival brought to the stage performances from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong, with more than 11,000 attendees each year.
Monterey, Calif. is home to the first-ever rock festival, Monterey International Pop Festival, held only once in 1967. As stated on the festival’s official website, the three-day festival was said to have been the first extensively promoted and heavily-attended rock festival. The Who, the Mamas and the Papas, Otis Redding, and the Grateful Dead were only a few of the renowned artists to have performed at the festival.
However, according to Rolling Stone, the title of the most famous music festival in history was earned by Woodstock, a counterculture, hippie movement held on a dairy farm in 1969 that lasted three days and attracted 500,000 attendees and artists like Janis Joplin, Santana, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix, who had his career’s most iconic performance at the festival. Woodstock is listed by Rolling Stone as one of the 50 moments that changed the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I’ve never been to a music festival, and I would love to go,” says SMC dance major Gloria Modesto. “Although some people get too crazy there, I’d still go because of all the popular artists and how every year is so different, so you never know what to expect. Regardless of the environment and the people, music festivals would be nothing without good, quality music.”
In addition to their popularity in American music culture, music festivals are also widespread in Europe.
Some of today’s most famous musicians have taken their turn performing at festivals in Europe. Isle of Wight Festival, held in England since 1968, is famous for having a lineup that mixes new up-and-coming acts with legendary artists such as Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Coldplay. The festival brings almost 600,000 people to the small island each year, according to What Festival, a website that outlines the 700 yearly music festivals that take place in Great Britain each year.
Artists including Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, and Jay-Z have performed at the English Glastonbury Festival, which is best known for its contemporary music, but also for dance, comedy, theater, circus, cabaret and other arts. The festival started as a small event in 1970, and today it sells out several thousands of tickets in a few hours, as reported by the festival’s official website.
With an increase in the span and size of festivals, they have gone from being solely about the music to serving as a weekend-long experience of partying, camping out under the stars, appreciating one-of-a-kind artwork, and taking part in the vast selection of attractions on the festival grounds.
Along with these changes comes the increase in ticket costs. According to The Independent, Woodstock and the first Isle of Wight Festival were free to attend because of the unprecedented amount of people who showed up demanding entrance. Today, the price range for music festival tickets ranges from $100 to more than $300.