April 07 2018 – Mercantile London
With the festival scene continuing to grow, it's clear to see how much we love to gather together outdoors to celebrate in the Summer months. Yet community coming together en mass in nature, to celebrate with music, wine and good food is nothing new, dating back to ancient times with various festivals lasting for days and even weeks at points in the calendar.
With Coachella kicking off the festival season in April, we are gathering inspiration for our summer plans by looking back over the history of the festival and how it's evolved to those we recognise today. Taking a moment to remember the spirit of those performances that changed rock and roll history and established some of the most iconic bands and performers in the world.
The Originator - The format we recognise today, of outside performances and multiple acts, began over sixty years ago with the 1954 Newport Jazz Festival in the U.S. The festival, which still continues today, sort to bring jazz to the small resort town and showcased performances by icons such as Billie Holiday and later Miles Davies.
Billie Holiday at The Newport Jazz Festival c.1957 image via Pinterest
The Protest One - Beginning in 1959, The Newport Folk Festival appear ed alongside the jazz festival and became a motivating part in the civil rights movement. The acts that appeared reflected the atmosphere of peaceful protest, and included stars such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who chose to take his music in a new direction with his infamous 'plugged in' performance.
Joan Baez at The Newport Folk Festival, Newport Rhode Island 1968 image via Pinterest.
The Peace and Love One - 1967 saw the organisation of the three day celebration that was the Monterey International Pop Festival, with thousands gathering under the banner of celebrating love and peace. The line up included fresh talent such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin, and The Who.
Poster advertising Monterey International Pop Festival image via Wikipedia
The Iconic One - Think of festivals and everyone references Woodstock, which came a year after Monterey, in August 1969. Around half a million descending on the tiny town of Bethel, outside of Woodstock to watch over thirty five acts including Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat, and Sly and the Family Stone perform to the massive crowds.
Photo by Frank Habicht image via Pinterest.
The Rock History One - Attracting even more people than Woodstock, and hailed as 'one of the greatest rock festivals of the seventies' the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 saw acts including Free, Joni Mitchell, Sly and the Family Stone, Jethro Tull and Jimi Hendrix take to the stage to perform
Joni Mitchell performing at Isle of Wight Festival 1970 image via Pinterest.
The Muddy One - Glastonbury has become symbolic for the British weather and inevitable rain. Massive downpours in 1997 resulted in the festival being dubbed 'The Year of the Mud' and acts were cancelled and substitutions called in. However, revellers didn't care and embraced the conditions as part of the fun experience. As a result, British festival go-ers have adopted the now standard festival uniform of waterproof jacket and rain-boot combo as a precaution. With Kate Moss putting a fashion spin on it when she was first spotted at the festival in 2005 in a lurex dress and pair of wellingtons.
1997 Glastonbury Festival image by Steve Weaver via Glastonbury Festival
The Celeb One - First of the festival season, Coachella Valley Music Festival takes place in Idaho, California in the Colorado Dessert. Originating after Pearl Jam played a 1993 gig in the area, over the years Coachella has grown to showcase Rage against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Beck, Iggy and the Stooges and The Beastie Boys.
Incorporating the visual arts, Coachella has become as much a celebrity fashion show as a live music event, even inspiring it's own bohemian festival dressing aesthetic captured by style photographers the world over.
Coachella, April 2017 image via Coachella
The Hardcore One - Beginning in 1986 when two friends lit a small figure alight as part of a celebratory summer solstice bonfire on a San Francisco beach. Burning Man Festival has evolved into over 67,000 people arriving at Black Rock City, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock desert of Northwest Nevada, to party amongst the incredible art installations, and pay homage to the now 70ft tall 'Burning Man'. With eco credentials and a spirit of the original festivals, attendees are encouraged to and maintain ten principles that include: gifting, inclusion,communal effort and leaving no trace. All of this takes place amongst high winds, dust storms and the near freezing temperatures of the desert.
Burning Man Festival 2016 by Duncan Rawlinson via Duncan.co