When you think of music festivals, the first that comes to your mind is likely Woodstock. What you may not know is that there was another music festival that was much bigger than Woodstock, but nobody remembers it.
Woodstock was a three-day event that was held from August 15th to the 18th of 1969. It was held on a dairy farm in upstate New York, and it turned out to be much larger than anyone expected. The traffic jams were so bad that people were abandoning their cars and walking the rest of the way. For three days, over 30 bands performed when the sun was shining and while it rained. Those who were there say that it was one of the most incredible times of their lives. Those who weren’t there regretted. This music festival has gone down in history.
Summer Jam At Watkins Glen
The festival was held on July 28, 1973, at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway. It was about 250 miles northwest of New York City. Unlike Woodstock, the concert was going to last just one day. There were three acts lined up to perform, The Band, the Grateful Dead, and the Allman Brothers Band. The concert’s organizers hoped that if they had just three bands on the bill, they wouldn’t have to worry about a huge crowd like the one at Woodstock.
Three Not 30
The Summer Jam organizers, Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik, booked only three bands, rather than the over 30 groups that were booked to play Woodstock. The organizers used what they learned from Woodstock to avoid making the same mistakes. They limited the number of tickets for sale to 150,000 at $10 each. They hoped that if they sold the right number of tickets, that the traffic jams and huge crowds of Woodstock wouldn’t be an issue. The three bands that they booked were very popular, and the two organizers underestimated the crowd that these bands would draw.
The Day Arrives
On the day of Summer Jam, over 600,000 people showed up. This was around 200,000 more than the number of people going to Woodstock. Many people showed up a day earlier and turned the soundcheck into a public performance. Like Woodstock, the weather for Summer Jam wasn’t great, but that didn’t stop the bands from performing until the early hours of Sunday morning. The traffic jams were insane, and more people showed up to Summer Jam, so why has it been forgotten?
Why Is Summer Jam So Unknown?
This festival was a bigger deal than Woodstock, but there’s an odd reason why no one remembers it. Writer, Rex Thompson wrote an article about Summer Jam and his theory of why it wasn’t recognized the way that Woodstock was. Rex blames it on the timing of the two concerts.
Woodstock was held at the end of the ’60s, which was a pivotal time in America. Activists were still in an uproar over the Vietnam War. While half of the country believed in free love and acceptance, they will busy fighting with those who agreed with the war. Woodstock was a safe space for free love, and it was held at a very poignant time in history. Summer Jam was held four years later, in 1973. By this point, people in the United States had moved on. The U.S. was no longer involved in the Vietnam War conflict, and people were moving on with their lives.
Summer Jam was more of a concert than an expression, which isn’t really newsworthy. Many concertgoers said that they were so far from the stage that they couldn’t connect with the bands. Rex believes that this is another reason why Summer Jam was forgotten. Finally, he believes that it has to do with the footage. There weren’t too many recordings of the concert, which doesn’t give us much to look back on. Woodstock, on the other hand, had plenty of cameras rolling and photographers taking pictures. Some of these photos are iconic.
No Story To Tell
Overall, it is believed that Summer Jam was the forgotten concert because there was no story to tell. Just three bands performing weren’t newsworthy. Thirty bands showing up via helicopter is newsworthy, and this was the case with Woodstock. Without photos and footage, it is impossible to remember much about Summer Jam. Even those who were there are so old today that they may not even remember the details. Those who attended Woodstock simply need to log onto the internet. The photos posted online can take them back to the days of Woodstock, keeping it in their memories forever.
Woodstock was so popular that in 1999, organizers tried to bring back the magic. This time, it would be held in Rome, New York, and MTV was there the whole time, capturing it all on video. Unfortunately, this version of Woodstock wasn’t about free love like the original. Woodstock 99 was marred by sexual assault, rape allegations, violence, looting, and fires. According to one of the original organizers, Michael Lang, the festival should have been called, MTVStock, because the network took over, and the organizers had no control at all. This is further proof that you cannot copy perfection.