We’re starting a new feature in the Style Blog, a play on ‘Throwback Thursdays,’ (better known as #TBT) in which we will dive into The Washington Post archives in search of past features and photos that pertain to current events.
The opening of Bonarroo Music Festival, which starts today around noon, felt like a perfect starting point for our series.
The constant stream of Instagrams and Tweets and Vines from modern day festivals (which we have been compiling in our 2013 Music Festivals grid) leave no mystery to what these multi-day extravaganzas look like.
But we found ourselves asking: How does the current atmosphere and style stack up to the hey-day of festivals in the late 1960s and ’70s?
“While waiting for the music to start, some of the 200,000 youths at Goose Lake Park in Michigan engage in blanket tossing. Aug. 9, 1970 (AP).”
Are we overtly self-referential to the few but iconic images of Woodstock that have been seared into the minds of younger generations as the pinnacle in festival culture? Or has electronic dance music and other relatively new genres played a part in adding new fashions to the mix?
Aside from the mustaches and long middle-parted hair (worn unironically), many of the best archive images feel remarkably current.
“Rock singer Pat Benatar sings before her largest audience ever at the US Festival rock concert Saturday night near San Bernardino as her guitarist keeps the beat of the music going. An estimated 200,000 attended the festival Saturday. Sept. 5, 1982 (AP).”
The giant crowds are decked in cut-off jeans, rolled Levis, Wayfarers, handkerchiefs and tees, Keds, tube tops, plaid and fringe — all of which will undoubtedly appear in the fields of Tennessee this weekend, likely paired together.
“Festival participants and spectators join for an impromptu bluegrass session at the 100-acre Fairfax Park in Virginia, Sept. 9, 1972 (By Harry Naltchayan, The Washington Post).”
Perhaps the most notable difference is the scale, and relative acceptance of dirt. No “glamping” or running back to hotel rooms. It was old-school camping along with hundreds of thousands of your closest new friends, before trash consciousness was made into PSA’s for children.
“Isle of Wight: Some of the expected 150,000 rock fans relax in their campsite 8/29 in anticipation of a rock music festival, featuring Bob Dylan, to begin 8/30. This English Channel island is but the latest mecca of the long-hair crowd gathering for tribal-like music festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Aug. 31, 1969.(United Press International)”
“Early arrivals at England’s Isle of Wight Pop Festival gather around a fire. The five day festival may be Europe’s biggest, and officials estimated that fans were arriving yesterday at the rate of 1,000 an hour, Aug. 25, 1969 (United Press International).”
Another revelation? Parents are correct when they say younger generations weren’t the first to partake of rebellion and drugs.
“You can get anything you want at the Sky River Rock Festival north of Portland, Ore. According to this sign, watermelon, LSD or Mescaline are for sale, for a dollar each. The management says the melons sell best. Aug. 30, 1970 (United Press International).”
Festivals on the Mall likewise appear wilder, making the current iteration of Jazz in the Sculpture Garden feel incredibly tame.
Crowd dances to the Caribbean music and keeps the coolers close by to beat the heat during the “Caribbean Summer in the Park,” July 17, 1983. (By Sharon Farmer, The Washington Post).
Keep up with the best social media from Bonnaroo with our Music Festival grid.
Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.