As a company specializing in music transport, we’ll never pass up the chance to talk about major music shows!
No discussion of music and music events is complete without the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. The legendary festival ran over four days in August 1969, with more than half a million people attending. But Woodstock wasn’t just a hotbed of musical talent. It was a cultural touchstone we’re still discussing, long after other festivals have faded from our memory.
Why exactly was Woodstock so impactful?
The lineup is certainly a part of it; it included amazing performers like Joan Baez (currently on her farewell tour with us helping out), Santana, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix, and boosted the careers of several musicians. But it stays in our cultural memory because of something less tangible than stages and celebrities.
The reason behind it
Woodstock was a response to contemporary issues like Nixon politics and the Vietnam War. It was an explosion of optimism and shared humanity in a bleak decade, aiming to promote values like freedom, love and basic human rights. The sheer mass of people attending created an atmosphere of acceptance and cooperation; people ate, bathed and lived together in celebration of life and music.
The brand of music
The ‘brand’ of Woodstock changed the way we marketed music; it acted as an umbrella for music we associated with mass cultural and political movements. It also catalysed the idea of ‘demographics’; distinct groups of people we could market products to, for better or worse. We continue to see Woodstock’s legacy in modern-day festivals like Glastonbury and Lollapolooza.
Woodstock remains popular because it’s an event that could only exist at a specific moment in time, and modern-day festivals can’t truly replicate the atmosphere. It was unpredictable and unconcerned with the ideas of branding and marketing it would eventually give birth to. In an era of meticulous planning and corporate sponsorship, Woodstock’s flash-in-the-pan spontaneity has made it the most legendary of music events.
Tupac Shakur’s Hologram
Many people consider Tupac Shakur one of the world’s all-time greatest rappers. Tragically, he died in a drive-by shooting when he was just 25 years old. But the Coachella music festival put his talent back in the spotlight, if not in the way we were expecting.
Why was the Holo-Tupac so impactful?
In 2012, Snoop Dogg was joined on stage by Tupac, or more accurately, a 2D projection of him that used theatrical techniques first outlined more than 430 years ago. It was the first time an artist was projected in front of an audience of 80,000 and performed ‘live’ with a co-star.
Tupac went on to perform ‘Hail Mary’ and ‘2 of Americaz Most Wanted’ with his fellow rapper before departing the stage again.
The hologram was created by the company Digital Domain, who had previously worked on CG marvels like Benjamin Button and X-Men: First Class. It was actually projected and staged by a company called AV Concepts, who have provided holographic visuals for artists like Madonna, the Gorillaz, Celine Dion and the Black Eyed Peas.
The technique is known as ‘Pepper’s Ghost’, which projects an image onto a piece of angled glass that is then reflected back on stage. This creates the illusion of the ghostly presence (hence the name).
The creators of Holo-Tupac had the consent of Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur (who died back in 2016). It took the Digital Domain team six weeks to truly bring back Tupac to the stage.
The reaction from people at the time wasn’t all positive though. Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz felt the hologram was unnecessary in a show packed with talented rap artists. The Atlantic was far less complimentary, describing it as ‘crass and exploitative, a mutually agreed-upon sham between performer and audience, the high-tech evolution of the Elvis impersonator.’
The future of holographic music stars?
The Tupac hologram is unlikely to rise again anytime soon; it was created as a Coachella exclusive and only Tupac’s estate has access.
It was also incredibly expensive according to Gizmodo it cost somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000 to produce. But it opened the doors more to resurrections of music legends; with enough money and willpower, we expect to see anyone from Elvis Presley to John Lennon take the stage in future shows.
It’s almost inevitable in an industry where resurrection is the order of the day.
The appeal is obvious: musicians who died before their prime can get a new lease of life for modern audiences.
But we don’t know how audiences will react to it on a mass scale, or if interest in a costly, finicky technology remains going forward. That said, the Jackson 5 are considering the use of a young Michael Jackson hologram in a future tour, with projections of the singer appearing as far back as 2009.
The idea of resurrecting (or reverse-ageing) stars isn’t unique to music. The Star Wars film Rogue One featured digital recreations of deceased actors Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher, while Jeff Bridges appeared as both his older and younger self in the Disney film TRON: Legacy. With CGI and holographic projection bound to improve, the potential they offer in music and beyond is truly endless.
Charitable giving has waxed and waned in popularity over the last few years, but Live Aid gave the idea a massive boost. Its repercussions were felt inside and outside the music industry, even if it wasn’t quite the success story we imagine it to be.
Why was Live Aid so impactful?
The stars and size of it
Live Aid was a 1985 dual-venue benefit concert organised by Bob Geldof, lead singer of The Boomtown Rats. It was the first of its scale as two concerts for the same purpose took place simultaneously; one in London and one in Philadelphia.
The satellite link-up (one of the first event satellite link-ups the world had seen) ensured a global audience of an estimated 1.9 billion across 150 nations.
To put the size of the global audience into perspective that’s the equivalent of 40% of the world’s population at the time.
The live concert in Wembley Stadium drew a crowd of 70,000 people and the John K Kennedy Stadium had around 100,000 people attending.
The goal was to raise money for sufferers of the Ethiopian famine, attracting an all-star lineup in both London and Philadelphia. Performers included Queen, David Bowie, The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin, with more than 1.5 billion people watching the concert. It raised over £110 million for its cause.
The future stars
Live Aid brought bands like U2 into the spotlight, helping them gain a foothold in the USA and establishing Bono as a top-class performer. It also gave a massive boost to other bands; Queen’s albums soared in the charts, and paved the way for a solo show at Wembley the following year. Later shows by the likes of Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones helped to transform Wembley into a top British music venue.
More generally, Live Aid aided the meteoric rise of many musicians who performed for it. As The Guardian reports, a combination of events helped boost the profile of Live Aid’s stars. Television coverage drove sales from fans with disposable income, at a time when cheap CD players were giving old music a new lease of life. This perfect mix of factors gave rise to similar music events like Concert for Diana, Nelson Mandela’s birthday concert and – of course – Live 8 in 2005.
The charity reality
Outside of the music industry Live Aid created the term ‘extreme poverty’, and arguably catalysed celebrity fundraising from Brad Pitt to Oprah Winfrey. But Live Aid itself wasn’t without its problems. American music magazine Spin published a damning article on Live Aid in 1986, which argued Live Aid’s efforts had contributed to Ethiopia’s troubles rather than fixing them. Meanwhile, Birhan Woldu, poster child for the Live Aid movement, has argued that her fame has adversely affected her, making it difficult to find employment or support her family.
For better or worse, Live Aid’s impact on the world is undeniable. It transformed the way we listen to music and donate to charity.
We will see echoes of it in concerts for years to come.
Beyonce at Coachella
Of course, industry-changing music events aren’t just in the distant past. Music is in a constant state of change, and this year one of its brightest stars revolutionised one of the world’s biggest music events.
Why did Beyonce have such an impact?
The first and her message
Earlier this year, R&B legend Beyonce became the first black woman to headline Coachella; one of the USA’s largest, most prestigious music festivals. Her 27-song set included more than 100 dancers and marching band members, set against a whirlwind of black history and culture. Her costumes and music choices drew inspiration from many different sources including ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, the Black Panther Party of the 1960s and even her own fans (via a black bee motif to symbolize her fans who are known as the Beyhive).
The message of empowerment was rolled into the outfit choices, the stage symbolism and the performances overall.
Needless to say, her performance has been rapturously received. Rolling Stone’s Suzy Exposito described it as 2018’s Woodstock, while Rebecca Haithcoat said ‘it might be the most inspired, singular, thoughtful and downright beast of a stage show we’ll ever see.’ DJ Khaled was similarly effusive, proclaiming the festival should be renamed Beychella in recognition of her performance.
In the long term Beyonce could inspire more diverse, innovative festivals at a time when some people think they’re too homogenous. The New York Times refused to cover Coachella altogether a couple of years ago, arguing that smaller festivals had a narrower focus on theme and music. Her 2018 performance has certainly countered that.
But what does this mean for festivals going forward? In the short term, it sets an incredibly high standard for future Coachella performances. Beyonce’s show was the product of intensive rehearsal, passion and coordination; TMZ reported she was rehearsing 11 hours a day in the run-up to the festival. It will take a performer of rare talent and dedication to unseat her as the festival’s queen.
Beyonce could be just the start of a new breed of performers; ones that take festivals in a more original and meaningful direction. There’s no telling what could happen next, but now is a golden opportunity for festivals (and their stars) to stand out from the crowd.
The Reading and Leeds Festival
A little closer to our own home is the annual Reading and Leeds Festival. Like Live Aid this is a dual-venue event. It started as the National Jazz Federation Festival in Reading alone. The 70s brought on the progressive rock and hard rock line-up that the festivals are renowned for today; and it wasn’t until 1999 that Leeds actually joined the festival. Now both festivals have a mix of indie rock, Brit pop and rap.
Why was Reading Festival so impactful?
Genre begot genre
Although it started as a one music genre festival (namely jazz), it soon opened its doors to related genres, which then encouraged an ever-increasing expansion of acts. The 60s were jazz based, which then led to rhythm & blues acts like The Rolling Stones performing. Rhythm & blues led to progressive rock with acts like The Jam coming in the 70s which then led to Jethro Tull, Nirvana, The Stone Roses, The Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill making their mark at the festival in later years.
Amongst all the world-famous musicians, one’s band impact on the festival still shines through today. In 1991 the band Nirvana performed twice at Reading and it was their first appearance at the festival. Lead singer Kurt Cobain caused a stir by arriving on stage in a wheelchair and wearing a medical gown, which was his own parody of the rumours of his mental state within the press at the time.
Their second and last performance at Reading was released as a live album and DVD in 2009 called ‘Live at Reading’.
The album holds a universal acclaim score of 93 out of 100, further helping to boost the festival’s global appeal.
Although the festival lured many big music names to Yorkshire, the council wasn’t always 100% behind the events. Between 1984 and 85 Reading lost council permission to use the fields for the festival and it wasn’t until 1986 that Reading Festival returned to its original location (well, the field adjacent to the original ones, but it was practically home).
The 1987 festival had a record attendance.
Although there’s been some location drama at Reading and various venue changes for the Leeds based festival (originally at Temple Newsam Park before moving to Bramham Park) the Reading and Leeds Festival remains popular. It continues to attract top line-up acts with, Fallout Boy performing on the main stage this year. It’s nice to have a top music event that shaped the music industry just on our doorstep!
As you can see, music events past, present and future offer plenty of exciting lessons and opportunities. We at Stagefreight use our know-how and skills to make your next live event a smash hit.
Stagefreight’s staff brings dedication and passion to every single show. We’ll sort the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient route for your music transport plus our drivers support on-site too.
Get a team of pros to help you put on a fantastic live event.
And you never know; your next music event could well be the next to shape the music industry!
Give us a call on 0113 238 0805, or visit our Contact Us page for more options.