These festivals embody the quintessence of the era of love, peace and music.
The sixties and seventies were the golden decades of rock n roll, giving rise to music festivals that would be spoken about reverently for years to come. Unfortunately, not many of these festivals thrived past their prime, their effervescence fading like old photographs. The Sherp brings you a list that celebrates both music and the famous hippie culture of the ’60s.
Here are five music festivals from the great Woodstock-era worth remembering and reminiscing about.
Where: New York
It’s been 46 years since the world’s most iconic festival took place in the quaint countryside of Bethel Woods, New York. Woodstock ’69 is known as turning point in the counterculture revolution of the 60’s and is remembered as the solely greatest moment in music festival history, to this day. Of course, ten years later, the literal shit-show that was Woodstock ’99 has come to be known as the ‘day music died’, so the festival marks both, the worst and the best moments in music festival history, we suppose. However, nobody can deny the fact that Woodstock was, ultimately, iconic and set trends for an entire generation. Read more about Woodstock ’69 here.
2. Big Sur Folk Festival
Where: Big Sur, California
Big Sur was known as the “performer’s festival”, a place for artists to relax and enjoy music after a season of hectic shows and festivals. Held on the tree-shaded lawns of Esalen, Big Sur was a refined folk festival, dedicated to its music and leisurely environment. The ’69 edition of the festival was headlined by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Neil Young, and is by far the most popular one, with a film based on it, known as ‘Celebration at Big Sur’. This festival has the reputation of being one of the most amicable ones in history. As this article by Rolling Stone says:
“Everyone performed without charge. Some of the best batiks ever made decorated the spongy Esalen lawn. Children danced. […] the audience cleaned the trash from the grounds. The hundreds who hadn’t money to get in lined the highway on top of the hill, and didn’t crash the gates – even though there were no “gates.””
3. Atlanta Pop Festival
Where: Georgia, Atlanta
Atlanta International Pop Festival, also known as Atlanta Pop Festival first took place the same hot summer as Woodstock ’69. About one month before Woodstock, this festival brought some of the biggest acts in rock n roll during its two year run – from Led Zeppelin to Jimi Hendrix, and The Allman Brothers Band. Despite the heat, Atlanta Pop is remembered as a happy festival, full of the hippie vibe propagated by Woodstock. The day after the festival’s first edition, the organizers threw a free concert at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park featuring several acts from the lineup in gratitude for the success of the event. Although Alex Cooley (organizer) admitted it was simple hippie guilt after making money from the event that inspired the free concert.
4. Sunbury Pop Festival
Where: Victoria, Australia
Initially dubbed the “Australian Woodstock”, Sunbury Pop Festival actually signalled the end of the hippie peace movement of the ’60s, giving rise to the onslaught of pub-rock. Over 45,000 music enthusiasts gathered for the initial years of the festival, but by ’75, due to high ticket prices and abominable weather conditions, it dropped down to about 15,000 attendees. ’75 was consequently the last edition of the festival. The stages of Sunbury have seen some groundbreaking acts, including Deep Purple, AC/DC and, Queen, who were incidentally, booed off stage in ’74. Freddie Mercury later promised, “When we come back to Australia, Queen will be the biggest band in the world!”.
5. Kralingen Music Festival
Where: Kralingen, Rotterdam
Kralingen is one of the biggest and most influential festivals of the ’70s – big due it it’s sheer populance, which was 150,000 and influential because it marked the beginning of the Dutch tolerance policy towards marijuana. Being the most popular pop/rock, open air festival in Europe, Kralingen was often labelled the “European Woodstock”, much like Sunbury. The festival itself featured some massive acts such as Pink Floyd, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and more. A year after the festival culminated George Sluizer also created a documentary about it. As of September 2013, there is a memorial placed in the Kralingse Bos area, as a tripute to the festival.
Lilith Fair was a travelling music festival that featured only female acts and female-fronted bands, founded by Sarah McLachlan, the Canadian singer/songwriter. It ran successfully from 1996-1999 and raised over $10 million for charity. This is one festival that actually made it to the ’00s. It was revived and re-branded in 2010, but didn’t do very well. The ticket sales did very poorly and many shows were cancelled or moved to smaller venues. Sarah McLachlan finally decided to pull the plug after the 2010 edition.
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight still flourishes as a music festival, yes. But when it began back in the late sixties, it started out as a counterculture festival. The 1970 Isle of Wight edition – and the last of the original – was one of the biggest live music gatherings in history, garnering a crowd of 600,000 approximately. Due to this, the Parliament initiated the ‘Isle of Wight” act, and any event with over 5000 attendees required a special licence. Hence, Isle of Wight was curbed until its revival in 2002.
Mar y Sol Pop Festival
This festival didn’t make it onto the list, but into the article solely for its infamy. Innumerable newspapers and magazines – including Creem and The New York Times – published negative reviews of the festival. One of the most notorious festivals of the 70’s, Mar y Sol was held accountable for several accidental deaths at the beach and a murder. Organizer Alex Cooley narrowly escaped arrest by leaving the island before the festival got over.