‘This Is Pop: Festival Rising’ on Netflix Examines The Evolution Of The Modern Music Festival

Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, Christians being fed to the lions on the Colosseum in Rome, non secular pilgrimages all through historical past, Santacon, humankind has at all times had a proclivity for mass gatherings the place a whole lot to tens of millions converge, surrendering themselves to the bliss of being a part of one thing, a part of the group. The music competition is the trendy manifestation of this impulse, whether or not it’s EDM followers in Europe or hipsters at Coachella. The historical past and significance of the music competition is the topic of “Festival Rising,” a part of Banger Films’ new documentary collection This Is Pop, which premiered final month on Netflix

The competition expertise produces “God-like moments,” in keeping with the episode, making a shared area the place folks blow off steam from their “increasingly pressurized existence” to come back collectively and kick out the jams. This Is Pop traces the up to date music competition to the hippie counterculture of Nineteen Sixties San Francisco. “The heyday of hippies and bikers and radicals and freaks.” Actually, it began in 1959 with the arrival of Rhode Island’s Newport Folk Festival however there’s little doubt the West Coast’s hippie explosion would perpetually go away its stylistic mark.  

Before promoters began charging entrance charges and promoting flavored soda water, San Francisco bands just like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane put on large free concert events in locations like Golden Gate Park and Haight Street. Airplane bassist Jack Casady says the town was a haven for these searching for an alternate mode of existence within the face of the violent upheaval of the instances, a time of protests, assassinations and a quickly evolving drug tradition that had begun to take its toll. January 1967’s Human Be-In organized the proceedings, making a stand alone occasion which drew as much as 30,000, an astonishing determine on the time. 

The Human Be-In planted the seed for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival six months later. If it was extra business in intent, its various lineup expanded the thought of a pop competition to incorporate every thing from exhausting rock to Southern soul and the Indian classical music of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. In its wake, got here myriad pop and rock festivals which positioned the hippie counterculture entrance and heart, most famously 1969’s Woodstock. “Festival Rising,” nevertheless, contends that only a few of those occasions made a lot cash moreover those who have been in a position to monetize the expertise within the type of dwell albums and live performance movies. 

Inspired by like-minded festivals of the time, Michael Eavis launched England’s Glastonbury Festival in 1970, internet hosting it on his household dairy farm. Over the years Glastonbury developed to make dwell music only one aspect of the expertise, making a carnival-like ambiance with a pronounced political consciousness, a nod to its counter-cultural roots. On the opposite aspect of the world, Southern California’s US Festival, boasted innovative lineups that includes punk, new wave and heavy steel acts and tried to bridge the chilly battle divide with a satellite tv for pc hyperlink with the Soviet Union. Though it solely ran for 2 years within the early ‘80s, it pointed a approach ahead, and together with Glastonbury would affect festivals to come back.  

Taking the teachings of all those who got here earlier than it and updating them for the choice rock ‘90s, Lollapalooza breathed new life into the music competition format and took it on the street. It featured cool music, political data cubicles, cultural curios and supplied live performance goers a yearly expertise with which to mark the passage of time. To many, nevertheless, probably the most enduring lesson was that it made cash. As the last decade progressed, the search for income took priority over neighborhood and good will. Woodstock ‘99 was the final word perversion, as promoters overcharged for water and meals below an unforgiving August solar. Tempers finally boiled over leading to riots and looting.

Rising from the ashes of the bonfires that set Woodstock ablaze, festivals similar to Bonnaroo and Coachella aspire to create a local weather that’s pleasant for live performance goers and displays a real love of music. Of course, their survival can also be predicated on their skill to earn cash. “Festival Rising” ends by pondering the enduring enchantment of music festivals. Is it the music, the shared expertise, the selfies, the medication? A bit of every it concludes.   

While “Festival Rising” reveals the identical present for storytelling and manufacturing values as different episodes of This Is Pop, it additionally omits details or frames them to suit its chosen narrative. Yes, music festivals convey folks collectively to partake in a shared expertise that fosters a way of neighborhood. They’re additionally advertising stunts which have been clinically refined over the previous 30 years to maximise income, their final by-product not world peace however buzz. The neighborhood they promise is an phantasm, a short lived salve to alleviate the alienation of the trendy world, the person swallowed by the mass, a coloured dot inside a crowd shot, like ants seen from above.

Benjamin H. Smith is a New York primarily based author, producer and musician. Follow him on Twitter:@BHSmithNYC.

Watch the “Festival Rising” episode of This Is Pop on Netflix

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