Music Festivals Blend Concerts, Camaraderie

"Those boxes you find in record stores -- black, white, old, young, girl, boy -- the 'dividing up' is blown apart at music festivals," she said. "No matter what the title of the festival -- whether it's a folk festival, jazz festival, blues festival or rock -- you never know what you are going to find, and that's so much fun as an artist. You get to experience other people's shows and juxtapose different muses. It's refreshing."

Blues guitar legend and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy says he likes the festival ambiance.

"Whenever I come to something that is this big, my thing is that somebody is going to hit a lick that I want to steal," he sayd. "I don't read music, and I taught myself to play. So I want to learn something from somebody else."

Among New Jersey's All Points West, Tenneesee's Bonnaroo and Colorado's Mile High Music Festival, 250 bands were featured over three weekends. Hundreds more can be seen at California's Coachella, Illinois' Lollapalooza, Michigan's Rothbury and Louisiana's Jazz Fest.

For $90 a day at Coachella, a fan can see 160 bands. A good time is free but, unlike Woodstock, today there are some rules. People are encouraged to separate their trash when they throw it away and be an overall responsible citizen of the planet.

Social Consciousness of Modern Festivals

There's also a philanthropic component to the modern festival. A group called Conscious Alliance asks ticket holders to donate 10 cans of food, preferably low-sodium and organic. The food is given to the festival home city's food bank. In return, the ticket holder is given an official festival poster. Fans can also score posters with a $10 donation that goes toward supporting food pantries on Native American reservations and emergency food relief during natural disasters.

Justin Baker, the founder of Conscious Alliance, said it isn't work to get the good work get done.

"We are just making it really easy for people to do a good thing," he said. "We get a great response from people. Everyone from teenagers to older people like to give."

Beyond the social consciousness of the modern festival lies the organization process.

Paul Tollett is president of Goldenvoice, which organizes and promotes 300 concerts a year. He is the mastermind behind Coachella and has organized shows in every corner of the country.

When asked about the anniversary of Woodstock, Tollett chooses to think about the present. "Life has changed. We have to put on a show that's for now," he said. "That specific show had a lot of ideals that were great and may never be improved upon. But you can't repeat it. You have to learn from all the festivals over the years."

For the fans, though, it comes down to enjoying the experience. The ticket might be a gateway to a front-row seat at your favorite band's show or a few minutes with someone you've never heard before.

Widespread Panic's Bell understands that and sees the musicians and the fans as one.

"If you get into a music thing that is reflecting what you are experiencing," he said, "well, that is why I guess there is still a farm out there creating people who like to come out and see rock 'n' roll."

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