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Half a Million Strong: Crowds and Power from Woodstock to Coachella
by Gina Arnold
University of Iowa Press, 2018
Paper: 978-1-60938-608-5 | eISBN: 978-1-60938-609-2
Library of Congress Classification ML3917.U6A76 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 781.6407873


From baby boomers to millennials, attending a big music festival has basically become a cultural rite of passage in America. In Half a Million Strong, music writer and scholar Gina Arnold explores the history of large music festivals in America and examines their impact on American culture. Studying literature, films, journalism, and other archival detritus of the countercultural era, Arnold looks closely at a number of large and well-known festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival, Woodstock, Altamont, Wattstax, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and others to map their cultural significance in the American experience. She finds that—far from being the utopian and communal spaces of spiritual regeneration that they claim for themselves— these large music festivals serve mostly to display the free market to consumers in its very best light. 

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