9 Books To Rouse Your Rock 'n' Roll Spirit During All Those Summer Music Festivals
As the days grow longer, and all that grass outside is just begging you to take off your shoes and wiggle your toes around, everyone’s favorite time of year is just heating up: the season of outdoor music festivals! And OK, if this isn't your absolute favorite season, (Christmahanakwanzika is pretty cool too) you have to admit attending a festival or two falls high on your summer to-do list.
Ever since I watched the entire unedited Woodstock documentary in my 9th grade U.S. History class (that wasn't only my teacher, was it?) I've been seriously obsessed with music festivals. From Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza, if you're a music-lover like me, you're probably getting ready to toss your sandals into your tie-dyed boho bag, and dance your way across at least part of the United States. Or even the globe: did you know, for example, that the largest music festival in the world, Donauinselfest, takes place every year in Vienna, Austria? That’s definite bucket list material. But whether you and your favorite fringe vest are trekking across your city, or across the world, these nine rocking reads will have you ready for festival season in no time. Check ‘em out!
Oh, and don’t forget to put on your daisy crown.
Barefoot in Babylon by Bob Spitz
Ever wonder what it takes to pull off a great music festival, let alone the MOST ICONIC music festival of ALL TIME? This book lays out all the dirty details for you. Barefoot in Babylon takes you all the way back to the origins of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, when organizer Michael Lang first came up with the idea, through the trials and tribulations of assembling 500,000 hippies in the not-entirely-liberal landscape of upstate New York, circa 1969. Journalist Bob Spitz has a knack for writing about the festival in a way that'll put you right in the middle of the action, so for anyone who is still pissed about not being born in time to attend in real life, this is your go-to book.
Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe
This screenplay, about every music fan's fantasy: to work as an on-the-road reporter for Rolling Stone , is just as guilty a pleasure as the movie it was written for. Almost Famous tells Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical story, about 15-year-old William Miller, an aspiring although inexperienced writer, whom Rolling Stone miraculously sends on tour with the Led Zeppelin-based rock group Stillwater. From New York to San Francisco and Miami, William gets to observe, and sometimes experience first hand, all the highs and lows to be had in a life dedicated to sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. While the character of waif-like, lovable groupie, Penny Lane, will be indelibly imprinted in your brain, William Miller is the one you'll secretly want to be.
Our Band Could be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
For those of you just learning to walk at the end of the Reagan-era, you probably missed the indie rock revolution that took the music world by storm around that time. But fear not, music journalist Michael Azerrad has a book just for you. Our Band Could Be Your Life encapsulates a decade's worth of musicians who shook America awake from their lackadaisical-'80s stupor, and challenged the status quo. So the next time you want to throw an '80s-themed party in your dorm room, skip the oversized ponytail holders and day-glo leggings, and host an indie punk celebration instead.
The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross
Get ready to be totally awestruck, because this book is a music aficionado's bible. Taking you around the globe, through both world wars and to the musicians who dared to defy dictatorships, (unlike, say, some artists of today) all the way to 1960s and '70s America, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Rest is Noise chronicles the sounds that defined a century. So when you're shaking your hair around at Summerfest, raise a Solo cup to all those great musicians who paved the way for the tunes you're rocking out to today.
Rocking the Wall by Erik Kirschbaum
Anyone who doubts that music has the power to change the world needs to read this book. In the spring of 1988 musical messiah Bruce Springsteen traveled to a still-divided Berlin to play a concert on the east side of the Berlin Wall. During the show he offered up some controversial words against the Wall, to one of the largest crowds ever assembled for a live concert in Berlin's history. Rocking the Wall , compiled from interviews, video recordings, and even files from the German secret police, tells the story of how The Boss' words acted as a rallying cry for the German people, who began tearing down the wall just over a year later.
Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang
Before heading to Pitchfork this year, or even Jay Z's newer Made In America festival, you should definitely pick up this book. Writer Jeff Chang digs into the history of hip hop in a really expansive way, which few other music journalists have yet done for the genre. Compiled from interviews with DJs and gang members, graffiti artists and self-proclaimed hip hop activists, and of course, musicians, Can't Stop Won't Stop is your one-stop-shop to learn about the global origins of hip hop, and the social and political influences the genre has today.
A Perfect Haze by Harvey Kubernik and Kenneth Kubernik
In music festival history the Monterey International Pop Festival tends to play second fiddle to Woodstock (although the festival itself occurred a full two years before New York's weekend of peace and music). However, Monterey deserves way more credit: featuring the breakout performances of music icons Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, this festival was THE EVENT of 1967's Summer of Love. Festival coordinators and musicians like Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, and Jefferson Airplane were interviewed for A Perfect Haze , which also includes a collection of festival photography and memorabilia.
On the Road with Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cooke
I don't care what anyone else says: Janis Joplin is the ultimate girl-crush of any festival-lover's fantasy. She performed at Monterey, Woodstock, and on the Festival Express tour — basically the trifecta of music festival lore. Writer John Byrne Cooke first met Joplin as her manager when she played with the band that was at the center of San Francisco's music scene back then, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later followed her when she broke off as an independent artist, until her death in 1970.
What You Want is in the Limo by Michael Walker
This book tells the story of how rock 'n' roll tour culture transformed from that of a DIY-road-trip to a multi-billion dollar industry. Chronicling three infamous tours that took place at the start of the 1970s, by Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Alice Cooper; and the origins of the first-ever formal "entourage," What You Want is in the Limo might make you feel a little snarky about where all your hard-earned festival spendings are going. But don't worry, it won't be enough to keep you from hitting the festival circuit this summer anyway. Or you could just throw your own mini music festival. If you do, I want an invite.