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The Forgotten ’70s Festival That Was Actually Bigger Than Woodstock

The 1960s

The 1960s are remembered as a time of peace and love. Hippies were everywhere, people were “falling out” to move to communes, and just about everyone was wearing bell bottoms. The 60s were also known for the frequent use of LSD and marijuana. Something else that comes to mind when you think about the 60s is Woodstock. Woodstock is one of the most iconic music festivals in history. What you may not know is that there was another music festival a few years later. The forgotten ’70s festival that was actually bigger than Woodstock.

Summer Jam ’73

Four years after Woodstock, concert promoters, Jim Koplik, and Shelly Finkel planned a music festival that was to put Woodstock to shame. The concert would be held at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway in Watkins Glen, New York. Summer Jam wasn’t going to be a three-day festival like Woodstock was, and there were only three bands who were set to play. The promoters brought in The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brother Band, and The Band.

July 28th

The concert was scheduled for July 28, 1973. Music fans all over the country were marking their calendars, ready to had to New York. The promoters were selling 150,000 tickets, and they sold out quickly. Although they sold 150,000 tickets, many more showed up. A crowd of 600,000 people arrived, which clogged roadways. Many people left their cars behind and walked to the Raceway. Compared to the crowd of 400,000 that attended Woodstock, this was huge.


According to the tour manager for the Allman Brothers, the streets looked like a nuclear attack had just occurred. Cars abandoned on the side of the road looked like Armageddon. Many of the fans didn’t show up on the day of the concert. Instead, they started arriving the day before. The bands who showed up the day before for sound check had to warm up in front of thousands of screaming fans.

Butch Trucks

Butch Trucks, the drummer with the Allman Brothers, remembers that sound check fondly. When he and the band went out on stage, it was still daylight. He said that seeing 600,000 people standing in front of the stage was a fantastic sight. He says that bands never got to play for a crowd this size, and to see everyone waiting and cheering in broad daylight was one of the most amazing moments of his life.

The Rain Came

People slept that night in tents, sleeping bags, and just right out on the ground. They were all looking forward to the concert the next day. Finally, the day arrived. The Grateful Dead started off the concert and played some of their greatest hits. When The Band hit the stage, the skies opened up, and a two-hour rainstorm began, causing the band members to leave the stage. The only band member who remained was keyboardist Garth Hudson. He stayed on the stage and jammed out. When his bandmates saw how much fun he was having playing in the rain, they joined him back onstage. This really made the crowd go wild.

The Allman Brothers

When The Band completed their set, The Allman Brothers came out. They played new songs and some of their classics. They played into the early morning hours on July 29th. The crowd never got tired, and the energy remained high the whole time. The crowd’s energy is people believed was keeping the crowd going.

Jam Session

After all three bands played, they all got on stage together for a huge jam session. The crowd went wild, and all three bands played well past 3 am. When asked after about the jam session, Butch Truck says that he and all of the other band members were completely strung out. They thought that they sounded great together, but when they heard the tape, Butch realized how horrible they really sounded. Fortunately, the crowd didn’t notice, and they loved the performance. Just the fact that three bands joined together on stage to give the crowd the performance of a lifetime was all that the fans cared about.

Less Popular

Most people have never heard of Summer Jam 73, and even those who went barely remember. Many people believe that Summer Jam isn’t as well-known as Woodstock because the counterculture in America was just about over when Summer Jam came around. The Vietnam War was about to end, and people were ready to leave their flower power days behind them. Drugs were everywhere at Summer Jam 73, but they were uppers such as LSD that were plentiful at Woodstock. At Summer Jam, the drugs were downers, such as marijuana and alcohol. The festival may have been bigger than Woodstock, but it will never be as famous.

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