Woodstock and Other Music Festivals of the World

guitarsBy PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

A mainstay of World Hum and the Matador Network, Eva Holland went to Woodstock’s 40th anniversary bash in upstate New York. Born 13 years after the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, Holland admits to liking the music of her parents’ generation better than her own, especially the Woodstock album. It was the siren lure of those musicians that inspired her to attend the commemorative version of the legendary happening. In a piece titled “Back to the Garden?” she describes the journey, which was almost in the nature of a pilgrimage:

At one point, I noticed a homemade peace sign by the side of the road. It read, “40 Years: The Message is Still the Same.” I wondered if it was intended as a hopeful or a cynical comment…For a moment, trapped in my own, much smaller patch of gridlock, I felt closer to those legendary half-a-million hippies than I ever had before.

After idling in traffic for too long, Holland arrived at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, parked, and bought a ticket. She mentions the extensive police presence, and the copious amount of Official Merchandise. Original Woodstock bands Ten Years After and Canned Heat were satisfying. What emerges as the important thing about the four-decades-ago festival is its significance as a social phenomenon and a political statement. Why did so many people show up for this thing, back in the day? And what brought the people who showed up this time? (Feel free, by the way, to send us your own interpretation of the significance of these questions.)

One of the nicest things about The Third Tower Up From the Road is that Kevin doesn’t only describe the sights, and the history, and whoever happens to be hanging around on the scene with the spare time to humor a foreigner who specializes in off-the-wall conversational gambits. Everywhere he visits, if any kind of music is audible, we are sure to hear about it. His awareness extends to the musical nerve center of a given city, the place where the real musicians buy their reeds and strings and try out attractive new percussion instruments. During trips by automobile, particularly in America, matching the music to the landscape is a preoccupation of his. He embraces the universal truth that “mornings are particularly hard on bluesmen.”

Don’t you love being reminded of events you missed? A slew of music fests were conducted over the summer, any one of which might someday turn out to be as legendary as Woodstock, or the 1963 Newport Folk Festival (when Bob Dylan “went from zero to hero in the course of a weekend,” in the words of Rowland Scherman.)

It wasn’t all youth culture material, either. The Copenhagen Summer Festival consisted of twelve nights of chamber music. There was the Byblos summer festival in Lebanon, and the Istanbul Jazz Festival and International Music Festival. People flocked to Lyon, France, for the National Music Festival, while Aix-en-Provence hosted a festival with the theme of ancient mythology, featuring Götterdämmerung. Amsterdam had its Dance Event (which also encompasses electronic music), and presented the week-long Grachtenfestival of classical music.

This one is coming up in October and it sure sounds interesting: the Rajasthan International Music Festival in Jodhpur, India, whose mission is to:

…revive dying folk musical genres of the state and will promote the traditional music of the European gypsies, who are said to have migrated from Rajasthan at least 1,000 years ago… A delegation of musicians from Spain’s biggest institute of gypsy music Instituto Gitane will take part in the festival.

One last word: Jeremy Kressmann of Gadling has compiled a stunning list of desirable music-oriented destinations, including both festivals and ongoing music scenes that are not to be missed.

And here’s another question. What music event in the coming season do you consider essential?

photo courtesy of Patti Haskins, used under this Creative Commons license

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