Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience

An immersive and engaging look at the music festival

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Why do we gather in fields to hear music?

Music festivals didn't start with Willie Nelson's picnic, Coachella, Woodstock, or even Newport. People have been coming together for music festivals since ancient Greece. Festivals draw us out into the open air. Surrounded by fellow fans, the experience inspires us to believe that we can break through barriers of age, geography, race, and class to create common ground.

Based on the collections of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, artifacts and concert footage come together in this dynamic exhibition. Whether it's forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists – both old and new – or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music's powerful cultural impact around the globe.

Inside the Exhibition

Using online voting, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curated the Top 10 music festival performances of all-time, including Jimi Hendrix at Monterey, Queen at Live Aid, Bob Dylan at Newport, and Nine Inch Nails at Woodstock ’94 — to highlight in a video montage at the entrance of the exhibition.

Once inside, six thematic sections take you on a musical journey from the birth of the modern music festival to the festival as a destination and a staple of the live concert scene. See Muddy Waters' 1959 Martin Acoustic Guitar played at the 1968 Newport Folk Festival, a handwritten plan outlining the Woodstock concept from 1969, and Keith Emerson's Hammond organ. John Mellencamp's corduroy jacket worn at Farm Aid created in partnership with Willie Nelson and Neil Young sets the stage for festivals for a cause. From the European stage, artifacts include a Gibson guitar played by Chris Martin of Coldplay, a posterboard stenciled sign made by the artist Banksy, and a musical score for "Back on the Block" from the collection of Quincy Jones. Representing the festivals of the 1990s forward are the Quin sisters' guitars, Dave Navarro's Jane's Addiction stage outfit, handwritten set lists for the Dave Matthews Band, and Peaches' leather bodysuit.

This Exhibition was curated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio.

Support for the Bullock Museum's exhibitions and education programs provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.