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If you stage it, they will come. It was but one lesson learned from Woodstock. Sure, the masses came for the music, but they stayed for what quickly became a legendary event. It’s a lot for the music fests that have followed to live up to. Yet in the 40 years since Woodstock, festivals championing every genre of music and targeting every social niche have popped up, from the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival (1972) to Live Aid (1985) to Ozzy Osbourne’s ongoing OzzFest and Sarah McLachlan’s female-friendly Lilith Fair (1997 to 1999). The list goes on. Here, a glimpse into some of today’s most popular festivals.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis hadn’t heard of Woodstock when he decided to mount a music fair at his family’s farm in 1970. Instead, he was inspired by the nearby Isle of Wight Festival and the 1970 Bath Festival of Blues. “It had all the best bands in the world — Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane,” says Eavis. “It had a massive impact on me. I was just a Methodist, going to chapel in the village.” Eavis produced his first event several months later, rigging a stage from a tarp-covered farm trailer and charging a mere pound for admission. “It was a farmer’s attempt,” he says. “It was all tied up with string and stuff. It wasn’t a proper job at all.” What his first go lacked in sophistication, it made up for in “the charm of the farm,” as Eavis calls it. “We gave away cow’s milk for free.”
Thirty-nine years later, Glastonbury is one of the largest festivals in the world. More than 170,000 fans flock annually to Eavis’ Worthy Farm in Somerset, England, many camping on-site for six to seven days. And at 73, Eavis is still very much involved in creating the lineups. “I do write a personal letter and follow it up with a phone call,” he says. “I try to deal with the headliners myself.” As for that style arbiter Kate Moss, whose Glastonbury getup — Hunter Wellies and short shorts — launched a major trend when she was photographed traipsing the grounds in 2005, Eavis acknowledges that “young hippie girls are very well dressed.”