Top 10 Most Iconic Festival Sets


There’s so much more riding on a festival set than a tour stop; the audience is massive (even more so if it’s televised) and journalists will critique your every move. What’s more your audience will remember your set for the rest of their lives and pass the tale through generations of family members to go down as the stuff of legend. Here we take a look back at some of the most iconic festival moments of all time, whether good or bad iconic.

1. Nirvana at Reading Festival (1992)

Dave Grohl has described their appearance at Reading as a pivotal moment for the band. Widely regarded as one of their finest performances, the accompanying record is arguably one of the best ever live albums.


2. Rolling Stones at Altamont Speedway (1969)

During the winter following the Summer of Love the Rolling Stones played an eagerly anticipated free concert at Altamont Speedway in Northern California. The Hells Angels had been hired as security for the event and began getting violent with the crowd before the band’s set had even begun. Rumoured to be under the influence of hallucinogenics, their violence increased and resulted in the death of teenage attendee Meredith Hunter. This tragic event was seen as the end of an era and the hippy dream.


3. Janis Joplin at Monterey Pop Festival (1967)

Two years prior to her untimely death, Janis Joplin came to public attention with her phenomenal performance as vocalist for the Big Brother Holding Company at the Californian festival, Monterey Pop. In the DA Pennebaker film of the set Mamas & Papas’ Mama Cass can be lip read as saying “Wow, that’s heavy”.


4. The Prodigy at V Festival (1997)

It seems appropriate that Braintree’s most famous sons’ most famous gig was at V Festival in Essex. Liam Howlett has talked about its importance in many interviews. Hot off the release of their biggest album to date, ‘Fat of The Land’ their set was so busy that they had to pause for fifteen minutes at one point to stop fans getting crushed.


5. The Smiths at Glastonbury (1984)

Michael Eavis has said that the band’s appearance “changed the whole event” but it was also a big moment for The Smiths. Up until their Glastonbury appearance Marr, Morrissey, Rourke and Joyce had exclusively played for devoted fans; their controversial appearance at the festival which at this point wasn’t known for surprising moves opened up their audience.


6. Orbital at Glastonbury (1994)

They would go on to make three consecutive appearances including a promotion to the Pyramid Stage in 1995, but Orbital’s 1994 appearance is regarded as a key moment in Glastonbury history. Whilst rave culture was being suppressed by the UK government one of dance music’s biggest acts played the UK’s biggest festival.


7. The Who at Woodstock (1969)

Billed as three days of peace and music, Woodstock Music & Art Fair is the stuff of legend for a plethora of reasons including music, fashion and politics. Despite their disinterest in hippy culture The Who provided one of its most memorable sets. Due to a series of delays they ended up playing at 5am on the Sunday as the sun rose.


8. Tupac at Coachella (2012)

Despite being founded three years after his death, in 2012 Coachella played host to rap superstar Tupac. Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg welcomed Tupac to the stage in hologram form during their headlining set. Inevitably the appearance divided opinion.


9. Iggy & The Stooges at Lollapalooza (2007)

Banishing the distance between Rock Star and fan, Iggy Pop invited his audience to share the stage with him at 2007’s Lollapalooza. Iggy is known for his exuberant performances but this set saw him take it to a new level.


10. Led Zeppelin at The Bath Festival (1970)

Led Zeppelin’s epic three hour long set included five encores and saw the band perform ‘Immigrant Song’ live for the first time.


Written by Laura Thomas

Social Media and Marketing Executive at Vocalzone. The Simpsons, The Wicker Man (original!), real crime shows, metal, punk and the new punk (grime)