This famous festival brought us some of the world’s best known songs, among them Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying and disturbing version of The Star Spangled Banner. However, what many people don’t know is that while this was a huge concert very few people were there to see Hendrix send out his message (whatever the heck it was) at 9am on a Monday morning. Still, at least he was there. John Lennon was in Canada and was refused a US entry visa, while Bob Dylan was looking after one of his children, who was in hospital over the Woodstock weekend. It is estimated that a groovy 90% of the audience smoked marijuana, but strangely only 33 of the 400,000 hipsters present were arrested on drugs charges. When the food ran out a local Jewish community made hundreds of meat and pickles sandwiches, sending them over to the hungry hippies with the help of nuns.
Isle of Wight Festival
This is the biggest concert ever in the UK and it is actually an annual event, which started in 1968, with a relatively modest show. The island’s population grows by 40% when this festival is on. The festival was stopped in 1970 when an act of Parliament outlawed events with more than 5,000 people gathering on the Isle of Wight. It started up again in 2002.
Giant Concerts in Rio
The free Rod Stewart New Year’s concert in Rio in 1994 is ranked as the largest concert ever, although the estimate of 3 and a half million spectators for the veteran Scots rocker’s show sounds suspiciously high. The same venue saw the Rolling Stones play their first ever free concert in Brazil in 2006. Over a million people went there and the stage was seven stories tall, with a special walkway leading to the group’s hotel. Rock and roll, eh?
Steve Wozniak 1982/3 US Festivals
The idea of giant concerts in the US had somewhat died away after the troubled ones held in the early 70s. This changed with these festivals, which were intended to celebrate computers, TV and people as well as music. The technology on display was no doubt breathtaking at the time, as was the artificial rain installation designed to beat the heat. Wozniak is said to have lost up to $20 million because of these two festivals. This figure is easy to believe when we see that David Bowie got paid $1 million for the 1983 show and Van Halen got $1.5 million to drink whiskey on stage and badmouth The Clash.
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
This is the event which is more famous for the violence and the deaths surrounding it than the music. In the end, the main group, the Grateful Dead, didn’t even get to play due to the problems in the crowd. Three people died there but in a strange twist of fate four were born, proving that rock and roll, like God, works in mysterious ways.
The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen
At the time (1973) this rock festival was the largest concert ever and arguably the biggest crowd of people ever gathered together in the history of the US to that date. Skydiver Willard Smith was the only reported casualty, as his flares ignited while he plummeted to Earth and he died in a ball of flames. It has been estimated that 1 out of every 350 people in the country was at this event, and 1 out of every 3 young dudes from places like Boston and New York was there.