Ever wondered who were the very first band to play your favourite music festival? Who kicked off the shenanigans at Glastonbury back in 1970, or who preceded all the greats at Monterey and Woodstock? And what ever happened to them? Did they achieve greatness or become a musical footnote just dragged out in features like this? Here are your answers.
1 Glastonbury – Stackridge
The first Glasto was back in 1970 and kicking off the proceedings (and ending it too) were an eclectic bunch of art school rockers Stackridge. Resolutely English sounding but incorporating all kinds of other weird elements including music hall, progressive jazz and even a touch of reggae, the band sounded like no one else at the time. The first track they played that day was Teatime from their second album and fortunately it is corker. A lovely swirling piece of psychedelic/progressive rock whimsy with a gorgeous extended solo. They went on to make some great albums, briefly morphed in to 80s hit makers The Korgis and then reformed, to considerable acclaim, in the 90s.
2 Monterey – The Association
Monetery pop festival back in 1967 might have become infamous for its drug addled rock star escapades, but the band that opened the Friday of the festival were the clean cut popsters The Association. The band, who went on to have a load of hits including Never My Love, Cherish and Windy appropriately enough started their set with the anthemic Enter the Young. If you like a bit of easy listening/sunshine pop their albums are highly recommended especially Birthday. Here’s how they sounded that day.
3 Coachella – A Perfect Circle
The first ever Coachella in 1999 boasted a stellar line up that included such pop luminaries as Beck and Morrissey. But kicking off the weekend’s festivities were A Perfect Circle, alt rockers with links to acts like Tool and The Smashing Pumpkins. Had they not turned up then history would have recorded that first act to ever play Coachella were Scottish indie curiosities Bis – now that would have been cool.
4 Donnington Monsters of Rock – Touch
The first Monsters Of Rock fest was in 1980 and the very first band to take the speakers to eleven were New York based rockers Touch. They managed a couple of albums which are apparently great if you like a touch of melodic rock. A live version of “Don’t You Know What Love Is” appeared on the compilation LP Monsters of Rock, documenting performances at the festival.
5 V festival – Edge Park
No, we had to look them up. Apparently the first V Festival in 1996 was opened by obscure New Yorkers Edge Park, a band so below the radar they don’t even have an entry on Wikipedia. They were followed by The Longpigs – featuring a certain Mr Richard Hawley and easy listening pop sensations Mike Flowers Pops.
6 Woodstock – Richie Havens
The US singer songwriter opened Woodstock and for his troubles got to play for nearly three hours. It certainly did his career no harm. Sadly Havens died earlier this year.
7 The Isle of Wight – Halcyon Order
The first IOW festival in 1968 was an absolute corker with the likes of The Pretty Things, T Rex and The Move supporting hot US psych rockers Jefferson Airplane. The festival’s openers are utterly obscure. Halcyon Order were apparently a local band and one festival goer recalls – ‘unfortunately the bass drum broke in the first number, and the resulting hold up seemed to take the edge of their set. This band had a lot of talent and some of the members are still gigging on the island scene.’ There’s more about them here.
8 Latitude – Vega 4
The East Anglian festival feels as if it has been around for ever but in reality its inaugural weekend was back in 2006 when the main stage’s first act were Vega 4 a London indie band who had just released their second album You and Others. Not many people know that the year before Henham Park had hosted the Latitude dress rehearsal, the Southwold Pop Festival, so in reality the fest’s first ever act were probably some pop and soul covers band from Lowestoft.
9 Benicassim – Athlete
The Spanish festival opened in 2005 with British band Athlete on the mainstage, the band recently finished touring their debut album Vehicles & Animals which was issued ten years ago.
10 Hyde Park – Jethro Tull
Long before Blur, Bruce and JLS invaded the park the inaugural concert in 1968 was headlined by the underground’s signature band The Pink Floyd. Before them though the day had started with the weird prog folk stylings of the slightly barmy Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull.
And if you have a spare few hours this history of British music festivals is loads of fun.