Top 10 memorable moments from festivals
We’ve been organising successful festivals across the UK for years, so we’ve seen our fair share of memorable moments. With this festival season drawing to a close, we thought we’d take a look back over some of the most memorable festival moments of all time.
Tragically killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996, Tupac Shakur (2Pac) was – and is – considered one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. So if you were going to choose someone to be resurrected on stage as a hologram, 2Pac is a pretty solid choice. At California’s Coachella in 2012, artists including Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa took to the stage with a holographic 2Pac for a goosebump-inducing set that was significant both musically and technically.
Sadly, some festival moments become memorable not because they were breathtakingly good, but because they were breathtakingly bad. At Reading Festival in 1996, The Stone Roses delivered a set which has gone down in the annals of rock history as one of the worst of all time. Having lost their drummer and guitarist the previous year, they were a shadow of their former selves, and frontman Ian Brown’s horrendously off-key vocals put the cherry on the top of a very bitter-tasting cake.
Live Aid was a benefit concert and the brain-child of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, following their Christmas charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984. On 13th July 1985, thousands of people flocked to Wembley Stadium to see an impressive lineup including the likes of Dire Straits, U2, David Bowie and The Who. But the most memorable and defining performance of the day came from one of the greatest frontmen of all time and his band. Freddie Mercury and Queen performed six songs including the iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but the most epic moment was surely hearing 72,000 people singing “We Are the Champions”.
At the very peak of their popularity, Nirvana headlined Reading festival in 1992. A hotly anticipated act ahead of the festival, Kurt Cobain arrived on stage in a wheelchair and wig – a cheeky nod to the press controversy surrounding his relationship with Courtney Love. The performance is often cited as Nirvana at their best, but unfortunately it was made all the more significant as it turned out to be their last appearance in the UK, as Cobain died 2 years later.
“I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.” were the words of Oasis’ Noel Gallagher following the announcement that Jay-Z would be headlining the 2008 festival. In response, Mr Carter walked out onto the Pyramid Stage and opened with a cover of “Wonderwall” and lead seamlessly into “99 Problems”. The performance became one of the most written about in Glastonbury history, as well as being considered one of the best appearances at the festival. Glastonbury has since embraced hip-hop more readily with Jay-Z’s wife – who you might’ve heard of – delivering a similarly blistering headline set in 2011.
While we’re on the subject of Glastonbury and unprecedented appearances, we feel this list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Labour party’s leader being brought on stage at this year’s Glasto, to chants of “Ooooh, Jer-emy Cooorbyn!”. In the run up to the election, and in stark contrast to his opponent Theresa May’s prim and proper public image, Corbyn cemented his reputation as a man of the people. He delivered an impassioned speech to a record crowd which, although didn’t win him the election, certainly was a memorable moment both in festival and political history.
These days, the concept of a Kanye West rant isn’t a particularly new one. He’d already delivered his infamous “I’ma let you finish” speech, but at Hertfordshire’s Big Chill festival in 2011, West reached a new level when he came on stage 30 minutes late, and then launched into an epic rant after a band member made a mistake. The rant, in which Yeezy compared himself to Hitler, cemented his reputation as a controversial and volatile live artist, and was the first of many onstage rants. Later on in the summer of 2011, however, he did go on to deliver “one of the greatest hip-hop sets of all time” at Coachella, so as Kanye West fan, I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.
- Rage Against the Machine go naked
Protest is built right into their name, so a controversial move by funk metal pioneers Rage Against the Machine isn’t a particularly surprising one. But the rockers reached new levels when at Philadelphia’s Lollapalooza in 1993, they walked out onto the stage naked, with tape over their mouths and the letters “PMRC” written on each of their bodies. They played no music for 10 minutes, before the crowd became restless and they had to be escorted off by police. The memorable moment was designed as a protest against the Parents Music Resource Center, a pressure group who sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music considered to have violent, sexual or drug-related themes. Many artists, included RATM, thought this to be an unjustified attack on the right to free speech.
By 1965, Bob Dylan was leading the American folk music revival, and he was considered “the spokesman of a generation”. Up until then, he had only ever appeared live with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. On Saturday 24, 1965, the day before his appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, Dylan made the last-minute decision to perform with a fully-amplified band. The performance on Sunday split the audience, and he was met with equal parts booing and clapping. He didn’t appear again at Newport for 37 years, and at the 2002 festival cheekily appeared in a wig and fake moustache. Outraged folk fans may have disapproved of his new sound, but it launched a new era of Dylan, and he’s not done too badly out of it really.
We could’ve picked so many moments from the most famous music festival of all time to go on this list, but Jimi Hendrix’s appearance has to be the most closely associated with 1969’s Woodstock. Jimi Hendrix and the Experience walked on to the stage at 9am on Monday 18th of August, and played to a crowd that probably hadn’t slept for about 4 days. Their set produced one of the most notable moments not just in festival but in rock history; Jimi’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, which went on to pretty much define Woodstock. Despite numerous delays leading to a dwindling crowd, this is an electrifying festival moment worth remembering.