With the wildly-popular Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival approaching in Indio, California, the age-old debate of partaking in these large-scale gatherings has heated up again. Is it worth the cost? Is it more fun to watch online from your couch with your dog and a beer?
Cultural festivals featuring music stretch back to Ancient Greece, but the origin of today's festival format can actually be traced to the 18th century. Religious gatherings like the Three Choirs Festival brought classical music fans to church to hear Beethoven and Mozart.
Meanwhile, the Second Great Awakening developed the idea of musical retreats, where the faithful would camp out and sing hymns together. It was like Woodstock, minus the sex and drugs.
By 1954, jazz had developed a serious foothold in America. The first Newport Jazz Festival brought more than 11,000 people together to enjoy the sweet sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and many others. Not only was this the first jazz festival in America, but it was the first time that such an eclectic crowd got together to enjoy non-religious tunes. At Newport, quality live music was the draw. This revolutionary concept also laid the groundwork for massive rock festivals like Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock in the late 1960s.
Now, just imagine 400,000 people making a pilgrimage to Woodstock, NY in 1969 to hear Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and so many other legendary artists. Only 10,000 people were expected to show up, but it turned into a festival like no other. Music lovers converged on the small New York farm town with peace signs outstretched and the smell of patchouli in the air. So many people came that the festival founders decided to make admission free to the public. It became a real bonding experience for rock and folk fans, who witnessed cutting-edge artists in the prime of their careers. Did we mention it turns 50 this year?
In the time since Woodstock, music festivals have spread around the globe like wild-Fyre (yes, we went there).
Some are focused on the latest up-and-coming acts, while others mix it up with established superstars and newer bands.
Anyway you slice it, online media, streaming, and social platforms have made music festivals a viral phenomenon.
But, not everyone wants to necessarily make a pilgrimage for three days of non-stop music. Some of us would simply rather get the experience at home. Many festivals stream their shows live globally.
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