Festivals have become synonymous with summer, attracting thousands of music fans - tents in tow - and lining up the biggest rock and pop stars. The biggest are in Europe, where many music fans go on an annual pilgrimage to their preferred festival. We've assembled the 20 biggest by attendance.
The festival began the day after Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. Attendance was 1,500 and entry was £1 including free milk from the farm. In 2010, more than 175,000 festival goers attended each of the three days it was held. Heavy downpours have become synonymous with the festival, at which model Kate Moss has been photographed in hotpants and Wellington boots. News of Michael Jackson's death reached the crowd and tributes celebrated his music throughout the weekend in 2009. 2011 tickets have already sold out.
Now a four-day festival preceded by a four-day “warm-up”, attendance at Roskilde swelled from around 25,000 when it first started in 1971 to 71,000 all-week tickets and 4,000 one-day tickets in 2010. Bob Marley played at Roskilde Festival in 1978, U2 in 1982, Metallica in 1986 and Radiohead in 1997. 1975 saw Swedish bikers spend Friday night lighting big bonfires and ploughing the neighbors’ strawberry fields on their motorcycles. Kings of Leon is among this year’s highlights.
Set up in 1975 on the grounds of a local youth movement in Werchter, Belgium, attendance was more 100,000 by 1984 when the festival was a double act, twinned with the town of Torhout. From 2000, the festival returned to just one location, Werchter, attracting 80,000 people on each of the four days it was hosted in 2010 and a further 30,000 one-day visitors.
Rock al Parque, South America’s largest rock music festival attracted crowds of 266,000 over three days in 2010. The festival, held in Bogota, Columbia celebrates rock music from all over Latin America and is renowned for hosting local rock bands and promoting Colombian rock music.
Scotland’s biggest and most successful outdoor music event is now more than four times its original size. The festival was launched in 1994. Tickets for the 2011 edition have sold out. Fancy dress Friday has become a tradition at the festival and sees the weird and wacky come out to play in a range of different outfits.
Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city hosts this annual festival at its Petrovaradin fortress. The fortress, built between 1692 and 1790, and its surrounding land is flooded with 250,000 to 350,000 people every year over the course of four days.
This festival which takes place in California saw 225,000 attendees over 3 days in 2010, the biggest ever event in its 11-year history. It covers a range of musical genres from mainstream artists to alternative musicians.
Concerts are held simultaneously in Reading and Leeds, England, with both festivals sharing the same bill. The Reading Festival, the original leg of the two, has been going since 1961 when it was a jazz event. Nirvana performed at the festival in 1992. Attendance at Reading was 87,000 on each of the three days, while Leeds saw 75,000 festival-goers on each of the three days.
This six-day music festival in Budapest, Hungary, started in 1993 and saw 390,000 visitors in 2010. This year, British band Pulp will be among headliners, as well as the Chemical Brothers and heavy metal band Motörhead. The festival has its very own “party train” to transport attendees from Amsterdam to Budapest, including DJs and champagne.
Some 200 acts play on one of the 8 Pukkelpop stages in Kiewit, near the city of Hasselt in Belgium each year. The festival attracted 62,500 visitors on each of the days it was held in 2010. The festival hosts both big names and relatively unknown new talent. Iron Maiden, Queens of the Stone Age and The Prodigy were among big names playing at last year’s festival.
This festival is the Netherlands’ longest running and best known music festival. Staged at Landgraaf, south of Amsterdam, the festival hosts around 180,000 people across three days. Running for its 42nd year it will be held in June with 39 bands expected to appear across its three stages.
The festival stops off at the key cities in Australia and New Zealand and attracted 337,248 revellers in Auckland, the Gold Coast, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, across the two-week period in 2010 – its highest figures since the event started in 1992. The event is known for showcasing new talent, but also includes established music acts from around the world.
This annual art and temporary community project stages a week-long event in the desert in Nevada. It is not a traditional music festival with acts on a stage performing for fans. Instead, organizers describe the event as the creation of "Black Rock City’ " the name given to the temporary community. The festival takes place each year for a week prior to and including the Labor Day weekend. The Man – a wooden figure - is usually burned on the Saturday night before Labor day.
This music and arts festival is a Burning Man offshoot held in Tennessee in the US and regularly attracts around 80,000 fans.
Visitors flock to the Naeba ski resort in Japan to participate in the 3-day annual Fuji Rock festival which stages both Japanese and international bands. The festival has been cancelled for 2011 after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March.
Germany’s Hurricane festival is an annual rockfest staged at Scheessel, northern Germany. It runs for three days and is attended by around 40,000 visitors a day. Foo Fighters, The Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian are among this year’s line-up.
Arguably the festival most dedicated to rock, this three-day festival held at Donington Park in England last year hosted AC/DC, Aerosmith and former Guns ‘n Roses guitarist Slash in 2010. About 111,000 people attended the festival in 2010.
An annual four-day music event held in Benicassim on the east coast of Spain between Valencia and Barcelona. The event usually includes well established music acts as well as alternative and new music acts playing their first-ever festival. About 127,000 people attended the festival in 2010.
The Wireless festival takes place at London’s Hyde Park and showcases some of the biggest names in music over three days. Some 15,000-20,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event.
Essaouira Gnaoua Festival is held annually in Morocco in the port resort of Essaouira and is known as one of Morocco’s leading festivals. The festival celebrates the music of the Gnaoua’s combining African rhythms with Islamic rituals, with up to 500,000 visitors every year over four days. Numbers are boosted by the fact that many of the performances can be viewed for free, which complicates comparison with other festivals.