The First Great Music Festivals

Today there are many great (and some not so great) music festivals celebrated all over the world, the choice of music is vast, and the music festival is firmly part of modern day society, but this current trend is by no means new. Of course, festivals with music have been around for thousands of years, but in this blog, we will look at the festivals that helped form the Modern Music Festival as we know it today.

Newport Jazz Festival

Newport is part of Rhode Island and it has actively been holding a music festival since 1954. In the field of jazz, it is one of the most significant festivals in the world and luminaries of the jazz world have made the festival the success that it is today. Legendary artists, such as Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson have all performed at Newport. Ten years after its inception, Newport started to include newer rock groups, such as The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. But the festival was growing too big for its boots and in 1972 the whole thing moved to New York. After a most successful period traveling to other locations, the festival finally moved back home to Newport in 1981.

Monterey Festival

The Monterey Festival first took place over three days in June in 1967, it was the first truly rock / pop festival and was the founder of all subsequent rock festivals, such as Woodstock. The line-up for the inaugural Monterey Festival was exceptional with an international flavour, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and even Otis Redding. The 1967 festival will ever be remembered for Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his guitar during Wild Thing.


Simply known as Woodstock, this legendary event put the Music Festival onto the world stage. Woodstock took place in August 1969, and attracted over 30 acts that performed to half a million people live. Woodstock turned into a monster free concert as over double of the expected crowd turned up and the fencing could not restrain the crowd. The show stopping moment of Woodstock was again by Jimi Hendrix and his never to be forgotten performance of the Star-Spangled Banner. A documentary of Woodstock became a cult film in its own right, and it actually won an Oscar.


Originally named the Pilton Festival, Glastonbury is one of the most famous music festivals that exist today. Glastonbury as we know it today was first staged in 1971 and headline artists were David Bowie, Fairport Convention, Arthur Brown and Traffic. Glastonbury has always been associated with the environment and all things Eco-friendly, and is at the cutting edge of design. Glastonbury was the first festival to employ concept stages and areas, the Pyramid is a classic example of this. It has also supported the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Greenpeace and is a leading campaigner and money raiser for Oxfam and other veritable charities.

In this modern world the humble music festival is just as much about making a political statement in some way than featuring top live artists. However, they are now bigger and grander than ever before and appearing in one of these famous festivals could very much launch a career into stardom.