From Woodstock To Boston Calling: How Music Festivals Developed Since The Psychedelic ’60s – WBUR


Music pageant season is formally right here, with bands and swarms of followers descending on fields and truthful grounds throughout the U.S. This weekend it’s Boston Calling’s flip to entertain the plenty in its 10th version.

This summer time additionally marks the 50th anniversary of what is been referred to as the mom of American pop and rock music festivals: Woodstock. That received us occupied with how festivals have advanced since that dairy farm in Bethel, New York turned the stuff of legend.

About half-a-million like-minded hippies converged at Woodstock in 1969 to see greater than 30 musical acts, together with Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Younger and Richie Havens.

That wet weekend nonetheless looms giant in Michael Lang’s thoughts. He partnered in creating the now mythic music occasion.

“For us, it was extra of a sociological experiment than only a music pageant,” Lang recalled once I spoke to him on the “Woodstock 50: Then and Now” symposium at Berklee School of Music.

“And it wasn’t nearly music, it was about all the humanities and it was in regards to the counterculture and all our values,” he continued. “That is why it was referred to as ‘Three Days of Peace and Music’ and that is what occurred — solely on steroids. You realize it was a lot greater than deliberate, however it manifested within the type of consequence that I hoped it will.”

Even with its miles of caught visitors, lack of facilities and over-abundance of mud, Berklee professor Jeff Dorenfeld mentioned Woodstock laid a blueprint for enormous music gatherings that adopted.

Jimi Hendrix enjoying at Woodstock. (Courtesy Henry Diltz)

Whereas the Monterey Pop Competition and Human Be-In occurred within the winter and summer time of ’67, respectively (Dorenfeld went to the latter), he suspects in the event you requested of us to call the primary pageant, “90% would say Woodstock. That is the one. That is the pageant that began every part.”

Dorenfeld is founding father of the Berklee Widespread Music Institute and has been going to all types of music festivals because the psychedelic ’60s, together with one which nobody would ever wish to repeat.

“Altamont was after Woodstock. The Rolling Stones wish to do a free present on the West Coast,” he mentioned, recalling how 400,000 folks descended on a rundown speedway in northern California. The Hells Angels ran safety which led to fights and a deadly stabbing.

Motorcycles crowd the field at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California, on Dec. 8, 1969. The Hells Angels motorcycle club was hired as bouncers. (AP)Bikes crowd the sphere on the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California, on Dec. eight, 1969. The Hells Angels bike membership was employed as bouncers. (AP)Music fans gather for the Rolling Stones Music followers collect for the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” live performance at Altamont Speedway. (AP)

Altamont marked a turning level for festivals. “From there clearly promoters began to appreciate that they wanted extra safety, extra controls, you recognize, to supply higher festivals,” he mentioned.

In his previous life Dorenfeld labored with Ozzy, Sammy Hagar and the band Boston. He nonetheless goes to numerous music festivals as of late — not less than six this summer time and early fall, together with Governor’s Ball, Essence, Nation LakeShake, Lollapalooza, Music Midtown and Osheaga — with Berklee musicians and his artist administration college students.

They’re studying the pains of touring with Berklee bands on one thing like a pageant “boot camp.”

The music trade veteran attracts a line between modern festivals and variations from a long time previous.

Within the ’70s, Dorenfeld mentioned promoters staged big stadium reveals with a number of acts for upwards of 80,000 followers. They had been a type of pageant, however in contrast to as we speak, tickets the place low-cost.

Bounce to the ’80s and also you noticed big, charity advantages like Stay Assist. On the Philadelphia iteration at JFK stadium, Joan Baez greeted the gang with, “Good morning kids of the ’80s, that is your Woodstock, and it’s lengthy overdue…”

Because the music trade shifted to CDs and the web was born, enjoying stay would develop into an more and more essential income for artists within the ’90s. Dorenfeld factors to the H.O.R.D.E. tour (quick for Horizons of Rock Creating In every single place) began by the band Blues Traveler.

“Lilith Honest, Lollapalooza, Warped Tour,” he went on, “all these had been taking place.”

Jane’s Dependancy singer Perry Farrell took his multi-act, different rock pageant Lollapalooza on the street between 1991 and ’97. That roving musical carnival would in the end redefine itself in Chicago’s Grant Park after one other fest-olution turning level. In 1999 Dorenfeld mentioned two guys who did punk reveals in LA had an thought that will change the pageant panorama.

“Coachella took place by the promoters taking an opportunity on doing a pageant within the desert, and realizing a vacation spot pageant folks would go to,” he remembered. Coachella helped usher within the present period of elaborate, way of life festivals which might be owned by a handful of massive conglomerates. AEG and Stay Nation being the massive two.

“There’s been a consolidation throughout the trade over the past 5 to 10 years or so,” Brian Appel, co-founder of Boston Calling mentioned. He is aware of this primary hand. Boston Calling began as an impartial pageant on Metropolis Corridor Plaza. When Appel’s group needed to relocate and develop the fest a number of years again, the Madison Sq. Backyard Firm bought controlling curiosity.

“There usually are not numerous like purely independently owned festivals which might be on the market as a result of it is a enterprise mannequin that, you recognize, adjustments yr after yr,” he defined, “and it is good in the event you’ve received an enormous companion firm with you to assist throughout lean instances and to be there for you throughout good instances.”

With that help, Appel says his group could make Boston Calling a three-day, multi-genre expertise.

The crowd at Boston Calling all with their hands in the air. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)The gang at Boston Calling all with their fingers within the air. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

And that’s what numerous festival-goers have come to anticipate, in accordance with Dorenfeld.

“It’s all about way of life, it’s the meals, it’s the present, it’s the grounds how they do it,” he mentioned.

It’s additionally the a number of levels, comedy acts, podcasts, craft beer, VIP seating, Wi-Fi and costly headliners (like Beyonce!) who typically make thousands and thousands for a single look.

“The ticket costs are going to need to replicate that,” Dorenfeld mentioned. “Everybody needs to go see the headliners.”

With properly greater than 100 festivals of all sizes and genres within the U.S. — from ginormous to boutique to artist-curated — it’s a extremely aggressive, high-stakes mannequin. A lot so, it’s unclear if Woodstock 50 will even occur. The golden anniversary pageant long-planned for August is in query after its monetary backers pulled out this month, leaving organizers embroiled in authorized strife. However the founders are retaining the religion they’ll nonetheless be capable of evoke the spirit of peace and love they created again in 1969.

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