Rock festival

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See also: Rock concert
This article is about large scale rock concerts. For The Youngbloods' album, see Rock Festival (album).
Rock festival
Woodstock redmond stage.JPG
Woodstock in 1969
General Information
Related genres Rock music, electronic rock, psychedelic rock, etc.
Location Worldwide
Related events Category:Rock festivals, Category:Electronic music festivals, list of music festivals, free festival

A rock festival, considered synonymous with pop festival, is considered to be a large-scale rock music concert, featuring multiple acts performing an often diverse range of popular music including rock, pop, folk, electronic, and related genres. As originally conceived in the mid to late 1960s, rock festivals were held outdoors, often in open rural areas or open-air sports arenas, fairgrounds and parks, typically lasted two or more days, featured long rosters of musical performers, and attracted very large crowds - sometimes numbering several hundred thousand people.


Initially, some of the earliest rock festivals were built on the foundation of pre-existing jazz and blues festivals, but quickly evolved to reflect the rapidly changing musical tastes of the time. For example, the United Kingdom’s National Jazz Festival was launched in Richmond from August 26–27, 1961. The first three of these annual outdoor festivals featured only jazz music, but by the fourth “Jazz & Blues Festival” in 1964, a shift had begun that incorporated some blues and pop artists into the lineup. In 1965, for the first time the event included more blues, pop and rock acts than jazz, and by 1966, when the event moved to the town of Windsor, the rock and pop acts clearly dominated the jazz artists.[1]

A similar, though more rapid, evolution occurred with Jazz Bilzen, a solely jazz festival that was inaugurated in 1965 in the Belgian city of Bilzen. The 1966 festival still featured mostly jazz acts. However, by the time of the third festival from August 25–27, 1967, rock and pop acts had edged out most of the jazz bands and become the main attraction.[2]

In the United States, rock festivals seemed to spring up with a more self-defined musical identity. Preceded by several precursor events in the San Francisco area, the first two rock festivals in the US were staged in northern California on consecutive weekends in the summer of 1967: the KFRC Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival on Mount Tamalpais (June 10–11) and the Monterey International Pop Festival (June 16–17).[3][4][5]

The Nambassa Festival in New Zealand

The concept caught fire and spread quickly as rock festivals took on a unique identity and attracted significant media attention around the world. By 1969, promoters were staging dozens of them. According to Bill Mankin, in their dawning age rock festivals were important socio-cultural milestones: “… it would not be an exaggeration to say that, over a few short years, rock festivals played a unique, significant – and underappreciated – role in fueling the countercultural shift that swept not only America but many other countries [during the 1960s]. It seems fitting… that one of the most enduring labels for the entire generation of that era was derived from a rock festival: the ‘Woodstock Generation’.”[6]

Reflecting their musical diversity and the then-common term ‘pop music’, for the first few years, particularly in the US, many rock festivals were called ‘pop festivals’. This also served to distinguish them among the ticket-buying public from other, pre-existing types of music festivals such as jazz and folk festivals. By the end of 1972, the term ‘pop festival’ had virtually disappeared as festival promoters adopted more creative, unique and location-specific names to identify and advertise their events. While it was still in vogue, however, over-zealous promoters eager to capitalize on the festival concept made the most of it, with some using the term “Pop Festival” or “Rock Festival” to advertise events held on a single day or evening, often indoors, and featuring only a handful of acts.[7]

Today, rock festivals are still usually open-air concerts spread out over several days. Many are annual events sponsored by the same organization, and many feature a single type or closely related genres of music such as dance, electronic, or heavy metal.

List of historic rock festivals[edit]

See list of historic jazz festivals for a more comprehensive list of early jazz and blues festivals in the 1950s and 1960s.

The following is a sample of rock festivals of historical significance, with an emphasis on multiple-day, outdoor events.

1950-1966: Jazz and pop festivals[edit]

Name Year Location Notes Picture
Newport Jazz Festival 1954– present  US Newport, Rhode Island It was established in 1954 by socialite Elaine Lorillard. While initially focused on acoustic jazz, the festival's 1969 program was an experiment in fusing jazz, soul and rock music and audiences.
Swamp Pop Music Festival 1950- 1960s  US Louisiana "Swamp pop" is a distinctive style of music that began in the 1950s when Louisiana teenagers first heard new rock-n-roll idols like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Fats Domino on the radio. The Festival's most popular period was between 1958 to 1964, when nearly two dozen swamp pop recordings reached the national charts.[8]
National Jazz and Blues Festival 1961- 1980s  UK United Kingdom Mostly oriented around jazz and blues to start, this annual festival soon became a showcase for progressive rock as well, featuring groups such as the psychedelic rock group Cream. 1969 National Jazz & Blues Festival01.JPG
Reading and Leeds Festivals 1961– present  UK England The line-up settled into a pattern of progressive rock, blues and hard rock during the early and mid 1970s[9] then became the first music festival to embrace punk rock and new wave in the late 1970s.[10] Reading Festival 1975 (6).jpg
Jazz Bilzen 1965- 1981  BEL Bilzen, Belgium First festival on the continent where jazz and pop music were brought together. Sometimes called the "mother of all (European) festivals," Bilzen started out jazz, but soon blues, folk, rock and soul, punk and new wave, came to be incorporated as well. Jazz Bilzen 1967-jpg.png

1967-1968: Summer of Love[edit]

Main articles: Summer of Love and Psychedelic rock
Name Year Location Notes Picture
Mantra-Rock Dance 1967  US California One of the precursor events to the outdoor rock festivals of later that year, the dance was held January 29 in San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom, featured three bands, and was organized by followers of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness to introduce its founder to a wider American audience.
Fantasy Fair and
Magic Mountain
Music Festival
1967  US Marin County, California Over 36,000 people attended the two-day concert and fair that was the first of a series of San Francisco area cultural events known as the Summer of Love. Influenced by the popular Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which was founded in Irwindale, California in 1963 as the first large renaissance fair. Fantasy Fair became a prototype for large scale multi-act outdoor rock music events now known as rock festivals. KFRC Fantasy Fair Dryden Balin Kantner.png
Pop Festival
1967  US Monterey, California Major one-time cultural event with genres including rock, pop and folk, including blues-rock, folk rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock styles.
Shiraz Arts Festival 1967- 1977  IRN Shiraz and Persepolis, in central Iran An experimental international festival, a number of electroacoustic works were presented during its run, with artists such as Dave Tudor and John Cage performing in 1971.
Miami Pop
Festival I

Miami Pop
Festival II
1968  US Hallandale, Florida An estimated 25,000 people attended the May event, which was promoted by Richard O'Barry and Michael Lang, later famous as promoter of Woodstock. The December event drew an estimated 100,000 people, was the first major rock festival on America's east coast, and was produced by Tom Rounds, who had previously produced the seminal Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. MiamiPop.png
Isle of Wight Festival 1968-'70, 2002–present  UK Isle of Wight, England Progressive rock counterculture event. The 1970 event was by far the largest of the early ones, and led, in 1971, to Parliament passing the "Isle of Wight Act" preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special licence. Isle ofWightFestivalLogo.gif
San Francisco
Pop Festival
1968  US San Francisco, California Held Saturday October 26 & Sunday October 27, 1968. The groups playing at the festival included The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.
Los Angeles
Pop Festival
1968  US Los Angeles, California The dates were December 22 and 23, 1968, with groups such as Blue Cheer, The Box Tops, Canned Heat, etc.
Pop Festival
1968-'69  US Costa Mesa, California The first music concert ever to have more than 100,000 paid attendees. Also held the following year.
Northern California Folk
RockFestival I
1968-'69  US San Jose, California The first festival featured notable bands such as Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Janis Joplin, The Youngbloods, Electric Flag, Kaleidoscope, Taj Mahal, etc. The second festival featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, etc.
  • Sky River Rock Festival & Lighter Than Air Fair (Aug 31-Sep 2, 1968; Aug 30-Sep 1, 1969; Aug 28-Sep...1970)
  • Hyde Park Free Concerts (1968–1976, Hyde Park, London, UK—single-day events)

1969: Year of Woodstock[edit]

Name Year Location Notes Picture
Aquarian Family Festival 1969  US San Jose, California Free three-day music festival, which was held in San Jose, California on May 23, 24, and 25, 1969. Some of the performers included Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Moby Grape, etc. Independent sources estimated attendance at 200,000 people
Pop Festival
1969  US Denver, Colorado Three-day music festival promoted by rock promoter Barry Fey (Feyline) on June 27-June 29, 1969 which was largely overshadowed by Woodstock two months later. With the full support and local resources of Denver, the peak attendance was estimated at 50,000.
Atlanta International Pop Festival I/ II 1969- 1970  US Hampton, Georgia A rock festival held July 3at the Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, Georgia, twenty miles south of Atlanta, on the July Fourth (Friday) weekend, 1969, more than a month before Woodstock.[11] AtlantaPopFestival1969.jpg
Laurel Pop Festival 1969  US Laurel, MD A music festival held at the Laurel Race Course in Laurel, MD on July 11–12, 1969. The festival featured Buddy Guy, Al Kooper, Jethro Tull, Johnny Winter, Edwin Hawkins and Led Zeppelin (on July 11); and Jeff Beck, Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, The Mothers of Invention, Savoy Brown and Guess Who (on July 12).[12]
Midwest Rock Festival 1969  US Milwaukee, Wisconsin A music festival held at the State Fair Park on the July 25–27, 1969. The festival featured Led Zeppelin, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The First Edition, Sweetwater, Pacific Gas & Electric, SRC and Shag (July 25); Blind Faith, etc.
Pop Festival
1969  US Woodinville, Washington Twenty-six musicians and groups performed at the festival, including Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Bo Diddley, The Doors, etc. July 25–27.
Atlantic City Pop Festival 1969  US Atlantic City, New Jersey took place in 1969 on August 1, 2 and 3rd at the Atlantic City race track, two weeks before Woodstock Festival. Attended by some 100,000+ people, the festival featured the following performers: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, etc.
Woodstock Music & Art Fair 1969  US White Lake, New York This historically and culturally notable festival as known to have served as a defining moment for baby boomers. Performers included Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix and Santana among many others, with genres such as acoustic music, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock. August 15–18, audience of over 400,000 young people. Woodstock redmond stage.JPG
Pop Festival
1969  CAN Squamish, British Columbia Canadian rock festival held on August 22, 23 and 24, 1969. It was produced by Candi Promotions. The groups playing at the festival included The Chambers Brothers, Chicago, Alice Cooper, etc.
Texas International Pop Festival 1969  US Lewisville, Texas It occurred two weeks after Woodstock. The site for the event was the newly opened Dallas International Motor Speedway. The festival was the brainchild of Angus G. Wynne III, son of Angus G. Wynne, the founder of the Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park. Artists performing at the festival were: Canned Heat, Chicago (then called Chicago Transit Authority), James Cotton, etc. The Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey's group, was in charge of the free stage and camping area. Attendance at the festival remains unknown, but is estimated between 120,000 and 150,000. TexasIPF.jpg
New Orleans Pop Festival 1969  US Prairieville, Louisiana This festival occurred at the Louisiana International Speedway in Prairieville, Louisiana on August 30 - September 1. The festival featured 26 bands, including seven veterans of Woodstock which was held two week prior. The headliners included the Youngbloods, Country Joe and the Fish, the Byrds, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. Peak attendence was estimated by promoter Steve Kapelow as 35,000.
Rock and Roll
1969  CAN Toronto, Ontario One day, twelve hour music festival held on September 13, 1969. With a number of popular musical acts from the 1950s and 1960s, it featured an appearance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 1969 toronto festival poster.jpg
Altamont Free Concert 1969  US Altamont Speedway, California Genres included Rock and folk, including blues-rock, folk rock, jazz fusion, Latin rock, and psychedelic rock styles. The concert featured, in order of appearance: Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, etc. December 6, 1969,
  • Palm Springs Pop Festival (April 1-2, 1969)[13][14]
  • Toronto Pop Festival (June 21–22, 1969)
  • Newport 69 Pop Festival (June 20–22, 1969)
  • Aquarian Family Festival (May 23–25, 1969)
  • Big Rock Pow Wow (May 23–25, 1969, Seminole Indian Village, Hollywood, FL)
  • First Annual Detroit Rock & Roll Revival (May 30–31, 1969, Michigan State Fairgrounds, Detroit, MI)
  • Midwest Rock Festival (July 25–27, 1969)
  • Saugatuck Pop Festival - Second Annual (July 4–5, 1969)
  • Vancouver Pop Festival (August 22-24, 1969, Paradise Valley Resort, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Laurel Pop Festival (July 11–12, 1969)
  • Atlantic City Pop Festival (August 1–3, 1969)
  • Denver Pop Festival (June 27–29, 1969)
  • Toronto Rock and Roll Revival (September 13, 1969)
  • Palm Beach Pop Festival (November 28–30, 1969)
  • Miami Rock Festival (December 27-29, 1969, Hollywood Speedway Park, Pembroke Pines, FL)

1970s: International spread[edit]

Name Year Location Notes Picture
Aachen Open Air Pop Festival 1970  GER Germany The "Soersfestival", as it is most commonly called, was the initiative of three local students. Some 50,000 visitors attended.
Piedra Roja 1970  CHI Chile between 10 and 12 October 1970 in the eastern area of Santiago. Among others, the following bands performed in the festival: Aguaturbia, Los Blops, Lágrima Seca and Los Jaivas.
Super Concert '70 1970  GER Berlin, Germany A one-day music festival held at the Deutschlandhalle on September 4, 1970. The festival was headlined by Jimi Hendrix. Other artists on the bill included Canned Heat (whose harmonica/guitar player and vocalist, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, died the day before). A notable fact about this festival is that it was Hendrix's next to last performance. He appeared on stage once more at the Open Air Love & Peace Festival in Fehmarn, Germany, on September 6, 1970.
Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970  UK Shepton Mallet, Somerset A DJ played records for early arrivers from the Friday evening and continued to do so between many of the sets until the end. The festival featured a line-up of the top American west coast and British bands of the day, including Santana, The Flock, Led Zeppelin (headlining act), Pink Floyd, etc. Bath Festival 1970 stage.jpeg
Phun City 1970  UK Worthing, Sussex Featuring alternative rock and rock, it was organised by the UK Underground anarchist Mick Farren, the festival was notable for having no fences and no admission fees.
Kralingen Music Festival 1970  NED Rotterdam, the Netherlands Performing bands included The Byrds, T. Rex, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and the headlining Pink Floyd. Approximately 150.000 attended. Festival posters show that the festival was billed in Dutch as 'Pop Paradijs' and 'Holland Pop Festival 70', and that the main investor was Coca-Cola.
Strawberry Fields 1970  CAN Bowmanville, Ontario Although accounts vary, the audience has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000 people. Bands such as Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper performed.
Ruisrock 1970–present  FIN Turku, Finland Second oldest rock festival in Europe and the oldest in Finland. In recent years, the number of visitors has fluctuated around 70,000. However, the all-time record was set in 1971, when there were about 100,000 visitors, with artists such as Canned Heat playing. Apocalyptica on stage of Ruisrock.jpg
Pinkpop Festival 1970–present  NED Landgraaf, Netherlands a large, annual pop music festival held at Landgraaf, the Netherlands. Incoproates many genres, and early on was known for focusing on progressive rock. Pinpop 2010.jpeg
Glastonbury Festival 1970–'71, '78- present  UK Pilton, Somerset In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts. It is organized by Michael Eavis on his own farm land. The first ever opening act was the English progressive rock group Stackridge. Early Sunday afternoon crowd at the Pyramid (323784473).jpg
Vortex I 1970  US Oregon a week-long rock festival sponsored by the Portland counterculture community with help from the U.S. state of Oregon. The music at the festival was primarily performed by local acts Milo McIver SP Clackamas.jpg
Roskilde Festival 1971–present  DEN Roskilde, Denmark Denmark's first real music-oriented festival, originally towards counter-culture music such as psychedelic rock. 2013 had more than 180 bands and around 130,000 festival goers. Roskilde Festival - Orange Stage - Bruce Springsteen.jpg
Bumbershoot 1971– present  US Seattle, Washington One of North America's largest annual international music and arts festivals, held in Seattle, Washington every Labor Day weekend. It features a large amount of rock and experimental artists and genres, which in 1990s included the local grunge genre, and recently has included indie rock. Audience at Bumbershoot, 1973.jpg
Ilosaarirock 1971– present  FIN Joensuu, Finland The second oldest rock festival in Finland still active, and one of the oldest in Europe. Progressive rocks bands featuring electronic features frequently perform. Ilosaarirock Festival 2007.jpg
Mar Y Sol Pop Festival 1972  PRI Manatí, Puerto Rico An estimated 30-35,000 people attended the festival. An arrest warrant was issued for promoter Alex Cooley, who avoided arrest by leaving the island before the festival was over. Artist includes Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc. Opening band at Mar Y Sol - Rubber Band.jpg
Windsor Free Festival 1972-'74  UK Windsor Great Park, England A British Free Festival organised by some London commune dwellers, notably Ubi Dwyer and Sid Rawle. The event was brutally suppressed by the police, which led to a public outcry about the tactics involved. In 1975 both Ubi Dwyer and Sid Rawle were imprisoned, for attempting to promote a 1975 Windsor Festival.[15]
BOOM Festival 1972-'78  YUG Yugoslavia a former Yugoslav rock music festival. The festival was held for the first time in 1972 in Ljubljana, and for the last time in 1978 in Novi Sad. The festival featured numerous prominent acts of the former Yugoslav rock scene, and five various artists live albums were recorded on various editions of the festival.
Summer Jam at Watkins Glen 1973  US Watkins Glen, New York once received the Guinness Book of World Records entry for "Largest audience at a pop festival." An estimated 600,000 rock fans came to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway outside of Watkins Glen, New York on July 28, 1973, to see the Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band perform.
Stonehenge Free Festival 1974-'84  UK Stonehenge, England Important free festival that happened during the month of June, and culminating on the summer solstice on June 21. A celebration of countercultures, with New Age Travellers and the Wallys attending. Hosted bands including Hawkwind, Gong, Doctor and the Medics, Flux of Pink Indians, Thompson Twins, etc. Stonehenge84.jpg
Village Fair 1974– present  AUS Bathurst, Australia Annual community festival that began in 1974 with increasingly expanded performances such as local indie music acts and Australian headliners. Nnew venue in 2007, and a music festival almost double in size of any previous years.[citation needed] Village Fair 04.jpg
Nambassa 1976-'81  NZ New Zealand A series of hippie-conceived festivals held between 1976 and 1981 on large farms around Waihi and Waikino in New Zealand. They were music, arts and alternatives festivals that focused on peace, love, and an environmentally friendly lifestyle. The January 1979 three-day event attracted over 75,000 patrons making it the largest arts, multiple cultural and popular music event of its type in the world.[9] Nambassa 1979 Main Stage, Negative Theatre.jpg


Traveling festivals[edit]

A recent innovation is the traveling rock festival where many musical acts perform at multiple locations during a tour. Successful festivals are often held in subsequent years. The following is an incomplete list.

Current festivals[edit]

The following is a list of some notable rock festivals that take place on a regular basis. Most are held at the same location on an annual basis. Some, like Farm Aid are held at different venues with each incarnation. For a full list of festivals, see the external links at the bottom of the page.

North America[edit]


United States[edit]

Latin America[edit]








The Netherlands[edit]




United Kingdom[edit]

Rest of Europe[edit]

Australia and New Zealand[edit]


New Zealand[edit]


Middle East[edit]


No fixed location[edit]

Most famous and biggest festivals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  2. ^ Jazz Bilzen history Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  3. ^ Santelli, Robert. ‘’Aquarius Rising – The Rock Festival Years’’. Pg. 16.
  4. ^ Browne, David. (2014-06-05). “The Birth of the Rock Fest”. Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ Kubernik, Harvey and Kubernik, Kenneth. A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival. 2011. Santa Monica Press LLC. Pg. 54.
  6. ^ Mankin, Bill. We Can All Join In: How Rock Festivals Helped Change America. Like the Dew. 2012.
  7. ^ Santelli, Robert. Aquarius Rising - The Rock Festival Years. 1980. Dell Publishing Co., Inc. Pg. 259.
  8. ^ "Swamp Pop History". Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  9. ^ a b "In praise of ... the Reading festival". The Guardian (London). 25 August 2006. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  10. ^ Reading Rock Festival.Reading 1978
  11. ^ Roberts, Scott. (July 2011). "42 Years Ago This Month: The First Atlanta International Pop Festival". Atlanta Magazine.
  12. ^ Laurel Pop Festival
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Hudson, Mark (28 June 2004). "The forgotten festival - I was there". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  16. ^

External links[edit]