Rock Music Festivals in California

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

California is known for its amazing rock music festivals. Here is a list of the best rock festivals in California that you won’t want to miss!


Music festivals have become increasingly popular in recent years, with people of all ages and musical tastes attending events all over the world. For fans of rock music, California is a veritable playground, with a wide variety of festivals to choose from throughout the year. Here are just a few of the many rock music festivals that California has to offer.

What is a rock music festival?

A rock music festival is a music festival focused on rock music. It is typically an outdoor event, with stage and other production set up in a permanent location, such as a park or race track. The first rock festivals are often credited to the Newport Jazz Festival and Monterey Pop Festival in 1958; both of which showcased popular rock acts of the time. festivals became a regular occurrence in the 1960s and 1970s, peaking in popularity in the last two decades with the rise of alternative rock and grunge.

Most festivals feature multiple stages with different bands playing sets of varying length. Some festivals hosting camping facilities and others are day-long events. Music festivals are often held during the summer months, when school is out and people have more free time for travel.

History of rock music festivals

While the roots of rock go back to the 1950s, the rock music festival did not gain widespread popularity until the 1960s. The first large-scale rock music festival was held in 1967 in Monterey, California. The Monterey International Pop Music Festival was attended by over 200,000 people and featured performances by some of the biggest names in rock, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding.

The success of the Monterey Pop Festival led to a wave of similar festivals being held across the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of these festivals were attended by hundreds of thousands of people and featured multiple stages with a diverse lineup of musical acts. Some of the most famous rock festivals from this era include Woodstock (1969), Altamont (1969), and Watkins Glen (1973).

The 1980s saw a significant decrease in the number of large-scale rock music festivals being held. However, there was a resurgence in popularity for such festivals in the 1990s, with events like Lollapalooza and Ozzfest becoming widely attended annual events. Today, rock music festivals are held all over the world and continue to be popular among music fans

The first rock music festival

The first rock music festival was the Monterey Pop Festival which was held in 1967. This festival featured many now-legendary performances, including those by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who. The Monterey Pop Festival is widely credited with helping to spread the popularity of rock music throughout the world.

Since then, California has been home to countless rock music festivals, including the well-known Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival. These festivals attract tens of thousands of music fans each year and feature performances by some of the biggest names in rock music.


Woodstock was a music festival held August 15–18, 1969, on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Woodstock. Culture writer RickOME writing for Gulf News said, “Although the music festival was billed as ‘An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music’, it was actually four days of anarchy punctuated by brief periods of tranquility, violence and sleep.” Billed as “the Woodstock Music & Art Fair”, it attracted an audience of more than 400,000 people. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll and labeled it the crowning moment of the Counterculture Era.

The musical lineup included many notable performers including Crosby, Stills & Nash; Jefferson Airplane; The Who; Jimi Hendrix; Santana; Sly and the Family Stone; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Arlo Guthrie; Joan Baez; Country Joe McDonald; John Sebastian; Richie Havens; Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring special guest set by Steve Miller Band.

The Monterey Pop Festival

The Monterey Pop Festival was a rock music concert held June 16 to 18, 1967, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. The inaugural festival was organized by singer-songwriter Lou Adler, record producer Alan Pariser, and publicist Derek Taylor on behalf of the owners of the then-new Pauley Pavilion arena at UCLA. It drew approximately 200,000 spectators over the course of three days and featured over thirty musical acts from around the world. The not-for-profit event was called the “Pop Prom” by Adler and Pariser and is widely regarded as one of the watershed events in the history of rock music.

In October 1966, Billboard magazine published an article titled “California’s Newest Monument: A Giant Pop Prom”, which announced that a number of businesspeople were planning a three-day music festival to be held at Monterey in June 1967. The promoters intended to use the festival to showcase popular music acts from a wide range of genres, including folk rock, world music, and bluegrass; they also hoped to prove that such an event could be profitable. The festival was announced in December 1966; its organizers raised $50,000 to cover expenses, with additional sums coming from ticket sales and contributions from musicians.

The Monterey Pop Festival is particularly notable for its impact on popular music; it helped spark a renewed interest in folk rock and singer-songwriter acts and served as a launching pad for several musical careers, most notably those of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. The success of the event also paved the way for larger scale rock festivals such as Woodstock.

Altamont Speedway Free Concert

The Altamont Speedway Free Concert was a rock music festival held on Saturday, December 6, 1969, at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. The event is best known for the death of Meredith Hunter, who was killed by Hells Angels hired as security.

The concert was organized by the Rolling Stones and featured performances by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Approximately 300,000 people attended the concert.

By all accounts, the atmosphere at the concert was tense. There were reports of widespread drug use and violence. The Hells Angels were reportedly drunk and high on drugs, and they reacted violently to disruptions in the crowd.

In the early hours of December 6, Meredith Hunter was stabbed and beaten to death by Hells Angels security guards. His death was captured on film by photographer Robert Altman.

TheAltamont Speedway Free Concert is widely considered to be a low point in 1960s counterculture. The event is often cited as an example of the dark side of the hippie dream.

The Los Angeles Forum

The Los Angeles Forum is a rock music festival that takes place every year in the city of Los Angeles, California. The festival is organized by the Los Angeles Times and features a variety of rock music genres, including alternative rock, indie Rock, metal, punk rock, and more.

The Los Angeles Forum has been taking place annually since its inception in 2005, and it has become one of the most highly-anticipated rock music festivals in California. Every year, the festival features a different lineup of bands and musicians, which has included some of the biggest names in rock music. Some of the past headliners of the Los Angeles Forum include Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, and many others.

In addition to featuring a diverse range of musical acts, the Los Angeles Forum also offers a variety of other attractions and activities for attendees to enjoy. The festival grounds feature a number of food and drink vendors, as well as merchant booths selling arts & crafts and other merchandise. There are also usually carnival rides and games set up on the grounds for attendees to enjoy.

If you’re looking for a truly unique rock music festival experience in California, then be sure to check out the Los Angeles Forum.

The Fillmore

concert hall located in San Francisco, California that is known for its historic role in the American music scene. The Fillmore was opened in December 1965, and over the years has been home to a number of iconic bands and musicians, including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Santana. Today, the Fillmore remains a popular venue for rock concerts, hosting both local and national acts.


We hope you enjoyed our guide to rock music festivals in California! Whether you’re a fan of classic rock, alternative rock, or anything in between, there’s sure to be a festival on this list that’s perfect for you. So go ahead and start planning your trip – we’ll see you at the show!

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