The Rise of the Fest
Music festivals have become the go-to summer concerts.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: July 12th, 2012
“We play to a lot of people who wouldn't normally go to the places we usually play, either because they're too young or don't like going to bars.” — Brian Costello, Outer Minds
hen some of us were growing up, the only way to see our favorite bands was to go to some bar, club, concert hall, or arena and see them and maybe one or two opening bands. Then once a year, Lollapalooza would roll through town and it was a huge deal. Then, someone got the bright idea to do Woodstock again, and again, and again, and now there are nearly 100 different festivals all across the country.
Whether it’s Bonnaroo or Langerado or Bikelahoma or Mucklewain, if you have favorite band, be they up-and-comer or old-and-tired, chances are they’re playing at a music festival. But why are festivals so ubiquitous now, when 20 years ago there were but one or two a year?
In Europe, large festivals have never gone away. But here in America, we kind of shied away from huge outdoor rock concerts after Altamont, the infamous festival headlined by the Rolling Stones at which one of the Hell’s Angels (who were hired as security for the festival) got a little bit stabby and killed someone. Three other people suffered accidental deaths at Altamont, and just like that, rock festivals were kaput in America.
Jazz, folk, and bluegrass festivals continued throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it wasn’t until Neil Young’s Farm Aid concerts began in 1985 that large outdoor rock festivals began to reappear on the landscape. Lollapolooza came in 1991, and toured the country, showing people throughout America that there was indeed an audience hungry for large outdoor rock and roll gatherings.
Festivals are now big business, and they thrive not only because kids love a big outdoor party, but because there’s money to be made all around. Host cities clean up in taxes, and promoters, vendors, and scalpers all rake in the rock and roll dough.
Fans get to have a massive party, with their favorite bands providing the soundtrack, and many of the bands get to play to audiences that dwarf the usual weeknight-at-a-bar crowd they usually play to.
“The good thing is you get to play to a lot of people, people who wouldn't normally go out to the places where we usually play either because they're too young or don't like going to bars,” says Brian Costello, drummer for Outer Minds, a Chicago band playing this year’s Pitchfork Festival. “It’s pretty much a win for everyone involved—bands get the chance to play for wider audiences, audiences get to see a variety of bands, cities make money, and the port-a-potty industry gets richer.”