Top 5 Music Festivals

A fan sings along with Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros at South by Southwest 2009 in Austin, Texas.  See more music festival pictures.
Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Woodstock's 1969 muddy debauchery certainly stamped a perception of music festivals on the American psyche. But music festivals date back long before Janis Joplin and The Who, or even America. The earliest evidence of a music festival was around 6th century B.C., during the Pythian games, which threaded music and singing into the lineup of traditional athletic events.

The thing about a music festival is that it's all music all the time over a period of days. That amount of featured bands leaves plenty of room for big name musicians along with newcomers. In fact, many successful festivals limit the number of times any one band can perform at the event. This keeps the lineup fresh and relevant each year.

Some music festivals require that attendees stay in hotel or motel accommodations, but at many festivals, camping is part of the experience. So are portable toilets, drink stations and public showers where demand frequently outpaces supply. Not every music festival is an outdoor event, however. For example, you'll learn that South by Southwest, one of the largest music festivals in the United States, hosts acts in venues throughout its home base of Austin, Texas.

In fact, why don't we get right to that famed Texas festival on the next page?