Before Woodstock and Coachella, the earliest recorded festivals date back to ancient Greece. The Greeks honored the gods by organizing competitions in drama, poetry, music and athletics. To honor Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy, the Greeks held the festival of Dionysus, which consisted of performances of tragedy and comedy. Well-known Greek playwrights, such as Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, participated in these festivals.
Fast forward to modern times, and festivals have survived the test of time to become a mainstream enterprise. Since music is virtually free with minimal subscription fees through streaming services, artists can struggle to make money from record sales. Instead, they depend financially on ticket sales for live shows. This also works in favor of fans, as more and more people look to spend their money on experiences like travel and festivals rather than material possessions.
Perhaps the most sought-after music festival experience was at Woodstock in 1969. To this day, producers and festival organizers attempt to recreate the peaceful atmosphere of love and music. This event directly shaped the way we experience music: attending a music festival has become a cultural phenomenon and a right of passage that serves as a time stamp for popular music of the moment.
Stacker has compiled a gallery of 50 historic music festivals, linked to video coverage of the shows when available. Read on to see if any of the music festivals you’ve attended (or wish you had) made the list.
You might also like: The original Woodstock, in numbers