The 12 Most Kick Ass Music Festivals of all Time

Do you like to party AND do you love music? I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of going to one of the many hot music festivals that go on every year, but some are considered legendary due to their turnout and who performed.

1. Live Aid 1985

On July 13, 1985, one of the biggest events in music history took place. They had this massive concert in two cities simultaneously: JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wembley Stadium in London. The concerts were broadcast live in about 60 different countries and thus were viewed live by about 400 million people.

Over 50 different groups and artists had come together to perform at these two concerts and raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia in Africa. This included U2, Dire Straits, Queen, and Elton John in London and Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys, and Led Zeppelin in Philadelphia.

Queen in London

Led Zeppelin in Philadelphia


2. US Festival 1983

Don’t confuse this festival with “U.S.” as it’s pronounced like the pronoun “us”. This event took place in Glen Helen Regional Park near San Bernardino, California during Memorial Day weekend; May 28th through the 30th and then the following Saturday (June 4th). This was the first year that they had a different theme (or genre) for the music each day.

The festival started Day 1 (Saturday, May 28th) with “New Wave Day” and had popular bands perform such as Oingo Boingo, Stray Cats, and INXS. Sunday was “Heavy Metal Day” and they had Quiet Riot, Van Halen, Judas Priest, and others perform. Monday, Memorial Day brought U2, Stevie Nicks, and David Bowie among others as it was simply dubbed “Rock Day”. The following Saturday, the festival ended with a bang as they kicked off “Country Day” and hosted artists such as Hank Williams, Jr., Willie Nelson, and Alabama.

INXS at the US Festival 1983


3. Summer Jam at Watkins Glen 1973

In Watkins Glen, New York on July 28th, 1973, a little over 600,000 people showed up to watch and listen to three of the greatest bands of this era: Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers Band. If it doesn’t sound like much, understand this. Grateful Dead played for five hours straight, The Allman Brothers Band for four hours, and The Band played for three hours; a twelve hour party!

4. Isle of Wright Festival 1970

Some say that the greatest music festivals don’t even take place in the United States. In this case, they’re absolutely correct. The Isle of Wright is located just off the mainland of England. Over 600,000 people showed up for this five day bash and so did many awesome artists. Starting on Wednesday, August 26th and ending on August 30th, the days were filled with musical sounds from Kris Kristofferson, Chicago, Free, The Doors, The Who, Jimi Hendirx, Joan Baez, and several others.

Free (All Right Now) at the Isle of Wright Festival 1970


5. Woodstock 1969

Okay, so here’s the one a lot of you were waiting for. In fact, some may argue and say that this was the best musical festival ever. It may be the most talked about and the most famous, but to say it was the greatest is a bit of a stretch; although, I do have it here as number 5. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair happened in a rural town in New York called Bethel (about 40 miles outside of Woodstock) on August 15th through the 18th. Over thirty bands and solo artists were at this historical event including legends like Santana, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The four day concert ended with Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner (Woodstock 1969)


6. Lollapalooza 1992

Just look at the line-up for the second annual Lollapalooza tour: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam, Lush, Archie Bell, Porno for Pyros, Basehead, Cypress Hill,Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Ice T & Body Count, Luscious Jackson, Tool. For fans of the 90’s music scene it doesn’t get any better.

Soundgarden – Outshined (Lollapalooza – 1992)


7. Vans Warped TourĀ 2003

This awesome series of events has been going on since 1995 and is a tour of festivals that not only include music, but also extreme sports; mainly skateboarding. It’s great for the music lover, extreme sport adventurer, or for those that are both. So far, 2003 was the best year. The bands toured 41 cities starting with Bois, Idaho on June 19th and ending in Asbury Park, New Jersey on August 10th. With over 50 bands, the attendees got to hear music from groups like Atmosphere, Rancid, and Glassjaw.



8. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2009

Many people say that New Orleans is one of the best places to visit if you love music. Well, that’s certainly true. So, in the spirit of that, I give you #6 on the list. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been running every year since 1970 and each year it gets bigger and better. So, it would stand to reason that so far this year’s festival was the best; they had a record 400,000 people attend. The festival spanned over the course of two long weekends: Friday, April 24th through Sunday, April 26th and Thursday, April 30th through Sunday, May 3rd.

What’s great about this festival is that it’s not just all jazz music. Since it’s also a “heritage” festival, it includes all of the genres that are associated with the city of New Orleans such as R&B, gospel, rap, rock, and country music, just to name some. There are six different stages and in 2009, artists such as the Neville Brothers, Bon Jovi, and Tony Bennett graced the stage. If you want to hear some awesome jazz and New Orleans, culture, check out the Midnight Disturbers in this video.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2009

9. Blockbuster Rockfest 1997

June 21, 1997 was the day that Fort Worth, Texas really rocked. The huge concert event was held at Texas Motor Speedway with about 385,000 fans and 16 of the best rock groups of that time period such as No Doubt, Collective Soul, and Counting Crows.

No Doubt at Rockfest

10. US Festival 1982

Wow! The US Festival made it on the list again; and why not? With an attendance of over 375,000 people, it’s worth mentioning. Only the hottest groups from the early 1980s were there. This concert was held of Labor Day weekend (September 3rd through the 5th) in California. Groups performing included The Cars, The Ramones, The B-52’s, Pat Benatar, the Kinks, and Fleetwood Mac. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were there too.


11. Ozark Music Festival 1974

This great festival took place on July 19th through the 21st in 1974 at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri. Performers such as Jefferson Starship, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bob Seger & the Bullet Band.

12. Cal Jam II 1978

Cal Jam was held at the Ontario Speedway in Ontario, California. The wasn’t a yearly event as the first one was in 1974 and the one with the biggest turnout (about 250,000 to 300,000 people) was the second one in 1978. This one was held on April 18th and featured musical groups such as Aerosmith, Santana, and Foreigner.

Heart at Cal Jam II


Honorable Mentions:

Woodstock; Woodstock, New York 1999
Atlanta Pop Festival; Atlanta International Raceway in Atlanta, Georgia 1970
Mt. Pocono Rock Festival; Pennsylvania 1972
Cal Jam 1974; Ontario Speedway in Ontario, California
August Jam 1974; Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina

Leave a Comment

  1. guest says:

    Funny but the greatest rock festival of all isn't even mentioned here: Monterey Pop . Peace !

  2. Dave Ash says:

    You forgot the Summer Festival for Peace @ Shea stadium in 1970. Creedance, Steppenwolf, JJjanis, Johny Winter, Edgar Winter, James Gang, Poco, ShaNaNa, & a whole bunch more. Then the party mooved to the World's Fair Grounds till morning.