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Four of the oldest music festivals from around the world

Heading off to a music festival is one of the stages of growing up for young people today. Every summer teenagers around the world join the throngs of people of all ages as they descend on a field, beach, castle, or other out-of-town destination to hear a host their favourite artists and have a great time with their friends.

However, music festivals are a relatively new phenomenon, with even the oldest music festivals of today only able to trace their ancestry back half a century. Here are some of the oldest around the world that are still going today.

Montreux Jazz Festival (1967)

Before becoming an outdoor festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival was first held in one of the French casinos on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The original building burned down in the 1970s, but the festival saw the opportunity to expand to attract a larger audience by both moving to outdoor stages and opening up the lineup to embrace a wider selection of acts from rock to soul.

Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd headlined the festival back in its heyday, but the stages remain a popular venue for a variety of musicians today, with next year’s lineup including the like of Lana Del Rey, Muse, and Neil Young.

The Montreux Jazz Festival will happen on the Lake Geneva Shoreline, Switzerland on 3-18 July 2020

Summerfest (1968)

Summerfest once held title of the world’s largest ever music festival (that crown now goes to the Danube Island Festival), and still attracts between 850,000 and a million people to its stages each year. It was founded back in 1968 as Milwaukee’s answer to Oktoberfest by then Mayor Henry W. Maier and today boasts 12 stages spread over 75 acres of land and more than 1000 performances from a variety of artists ranging from Billie Eilish to Def Leppard to the Weeknd.

Summerfest will happen in Henry W. Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee, USA on 24 June – 5 July 2020

Glastonbury Festival (1970)

Glastonbury is probably the best-known music festival in the world, and certainly finds the most television coverage with the BBC sending hundreds of presenters and technical staff to film and broadcast every performance from each of the festival’s stages.

The festival started out as a free hippie subculture festival in a similar fashion to Woodstock, but whilst Woodstock disappeared Glastonbury has pushed on and still attracts some of music’s biggest names every year, from Stormzy to Radiohead to Beyonce, and next year will be its 50th anniversary so people are expecting and even bigger line-up than usual.

Glastonbury 2020 will happen in Pilton, Somerset, UK on 24 – 28 June 2020

Roskilde Festival (1970)

The Danish Roskilde is another festival which marks its 50th birthday in 2020. Also inspired by the hippie movement and originally launched by two senior school students, Roskilde is known for the broad spectrum of acts it attracts from electronica to hip hop and the international nature of its crowd, with people heading to its location on the Danish island of Zealand from all over the world, including many Germans, Brits, and Australians and just like the online casinos that accept US players – Americans. Recent headline highlights include Skepta and Foals as well as Wiz Khalifa.

Roskilde will be held in Animal Showgrounds, Roskilde, Denmark from 27 June – 4 July 2020.

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One Response to “Four of the oldest music festivals from around the world”

  1. Re: Danish Roskilde Festival (and maybe the others?), it started in 1971, which means this year’s (cancelled) festival would’ve been the 50th one. That’s NOT the same as celebrating 50 years, sice 1971 + 50 = 2021 – this is simple math, yet few people get the difference.

    It’s like counting the year you’re born as year 1. So when I was 59 years this September, it was my 60th year STARTING…don’t you remember the m2k at all? There is no “Year Zero”…

    Roskilde (30 mins. wst of Copenhagen) used to be the 3rd oldest, ANNUAL ROCK (ie. continous, unlike – for instance – UKs Glastonbury and Reading…) festival, beaten only by the one month older, Dutch Pinkpop, and by maybe 2 weeks by the first Ruis Rock Festival in Turku, northwestern Finland. Ie. that was until Roskilde was seen as a Music Festival, not a Rock Festival, anymore – which it never was.

    I was there 1983-2005, with the exception of 1994 when I spent 6 weeks traveling by train, plane and atomobile in and through 25 US states, following Sweden (we ended up 3rd place) in the WC in football – soccer to you heathens – and should know…

    Swiss Montreux Jazz Festival started in 1967, there’s an older, American c&w Festival, and there’s a 250-year-old Baroqe Music Festival in Germany (it’s all on Wikipedia if you don’t believe me…)…of course corona has effectively killed the lists of the world’s oldest/largest ANNUAL festivals…

    /Jörg, Sweden (2½ hrs by 2-3 trains from Roskilde with the July 1, 2000, inaugarated bridge between our countries)