Going to a music festival is much more than just seeing your favorite artists perform in expanded venues for enormous crowds. Although the music itself is an integral component, music festivals are also based on the fundamentals of relationships and togetherness. From April 7th to the 11th the 66th Conference of World Affairs came to the University of Colorado, Boulder. One special event, entitled From Woodstock to Coachella: Common Threads in Festival Culture, featured four musicians whose passion for music and musical culture could be felt throughout the room. Lillian Boutté, Gooding, Vasti Jackson, and John Roderick have all had the opportunity to play many festivals, and came to share their experiences and feelings about the beautiful festival culture from an artist’s perspective. The intimacy of festival customs was illuminated throughout the event, delivering an emotional connection from the artists to the audience that accurately portrayed the passion of festival lovers.
From smaller festivals to crowds of 60,000 people, music somehow has the ability to move strangers as one. Gooding noted, “No one can explain why music does what it does,” but somehow it has the ability to majorly change any environment. Within the festival walls individuals transform from outsiders to friends; an air of acceptance circulates throughout, “It’s like a family affair,” said Boutté. Any festival goer understands the indescribable, yet universal, feeling between people when entering the festival gates. Although hard to put into words, it is as though any differences, worries, and darkness are left outside the door, leaving interaction and acceptance to flourish within.
Vasti Jackson had some very interesting points to make about the culture that summarized the essence of a festival unlike anything I have ever heard, exclaiming, “Music is a component, but we are really talking about human festivals, the factor of love and exchange is what we come for…Listening [itself] is really a human attraction because music is a product of the human being. Either way, no matter what it is, when you go to a festival you are supporting people, yourself, the artists. The main thing is [really] the spirit of festivity, the positive choice to exchange positive energy with the people you meet. That’s what the festival experience is about; you open yourself up to the exchange of positive energy. [This is] what we’re celebrating, it’s a festival, [we’re] aligning ourselves with people of the same cultural vibes.” Pointblank, festivals are from people and for people. With each day, festivals bring a new form of peace into the world that is spread by the loving energy of the crowds throughout the event and beyond. Those who have experienced such a feeling are forever changed, as Woodstock quoted in 1969, “No one attending will ever be the same.” It is as if the amount of indiscriminate, unquestioning tolerance and harmony enlightens people to realize the relationships capable between complete strangers. This festival knowledge has the ability to make a difference in how people view and interact with one another. However, as festival popularity begins to grow so do the festivals themselves.
Regarding the controversy of festivals changing in mentality as they become larger, John Roderick had an interesting point to make, “People realized festivals were a way to get a lot of money out of people,” increasing in price, size, and impact, “[But I realized] as I moved up to the bigger stages I was much further away from the audience,” the size of the crowd completely changed the connection of the people. To clarify his argument, Roderick used the example of the Grateful Dead, explaining that in the beginning of their career everyone who attended their shows understood the rules; it was expected that an effort would be made for mutual enjoyment. However, as the Grateful Dead became more popular, an increase in size led to decreases in inclusiveness and family; all of the sudden it was as though not everyone had the same understanding. Roderick stated, “No one has stopped to think we shouldn’t turn Coachella into an orgy of musical money,” no businessman waits to understand how size can change the cherished core of a festival. Roderick explained that with growth comes new responsibility for festival throwers and attendees to educate the audience of the expectations. In a time where festivals are constantly growing, Roderick instills hope of maintaining the festival mentality that is loved by many.
This summer as we travel the country and the world to hear music and be with the kind of people we love, it is important to make an effort. If we remain conscious of the positive energy and peace we desire it can be possible to spread our message throughout the enlarging festival community. Instead of discouragement, it is important to remember what we love about music and others. With the wise words of Boutté, Gooding, Jackson and Roderick, we will revive the festival attitude within the future of musical production.
Written By: Andrea Inscoe