When you think of rock and roll music festivals you may picture Lollapalooza, alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock and other rock and roll genres blasting their sound through Grant Park crowded with over 160,000 people in one weekend. If you’re a child of the 60s, you might imagine Woodstock, the 1969 gathering of 400,000 on a 600-acre farm in New York, rain often coming down creating a muddy mess, drug use running rampant, for what was billed as “three days of peace and music,” non-stop rock and roll by 32 bands. This spring music fans voted for the Top 10 rock festival performance moments of all-time on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum web site. The Top 10, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival and U2 at the 1985 Live Aid concert, are featured in a video montage that greets visitors at the entrance of the Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience.
The exhibit, spanning two floors of the museum, immerses you into the experience with floor-to-ceiling photographs of festival fans inviting you to be part of the crowd. Sounds of weather, bands tuning up, people talking, radio ads and news reports draw you in.
On the first floor, you’re taken through a fast-paced history of popular music festivals through photographs, artifacts and short documentary films. Topics range from the Birth of the Modern Festival to Modern Destination Festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo and include Festivals with a Purpose, like Live Aid and Wattstax.
On the exhibit’s second floor, which represents a festival performance tent, watch a 20 minute film of a fast moving day at a festival. The film moves through a cinematic mash-up of performances, sights, sounds, words and communal energy of iconic music festivals from the past 70 years, with lighting synchronized to evoke the feeling of day turning into night.
After you go through the Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience exhibit and the rest of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that takes you through the history of rock and roll music, from one-hit wonders to rock legends, you may be ready to attend a rock festival yourself, or at least to crank up on the volume listening to your favorite rock and roll music.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, located at 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard in downtown Cleveland on the Lake Erie shore, is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check the web site for hours and admission fees. Cleveland is about a five-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago or a little over an hour on a direct flight.
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Visit the author’s Midwest Wanderer blog for information on attractions, restaurants, accommodations and events all over the Midwest.