Why We Gather For Music

Since well before humans started writing things down, people have been coming together in music. The reasons have changed over the millennia: celebrating a good harvest and the changing of the seasons, worship, and to honor the lunar cycles and other heavenly events, have given way to fun, having new experiences, and celebrating life.

Whether it happened at the ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, or Stonehenge in England, or Coachella in California, these communal gatherings, or “festivals” as we tend to call them today, have always been an important cornerstone of human life and forming new connections and bonds. They have shaped both cultures and generations around the world. People travel far and wide, on pilgrimages to share and take away something from these communal experiences.

The idea of community, of building relationships, expanding borders, and bringing people from different places together to share ideas, tastes, influences, and cultures, is at the very heart of why we have always gathered for music. And it’s why modern festivals have become so popular. The very concept of gathering together reinforces community and the idea of sharing.

In fact, modern festivals have taken over the role of filling this primal and historical need to gather together as a community. Festivals allow us to bring in an eclectic and diverse selection of not only music, but people to learn from. And this falls directly in line with the musical and communal gatherings of the past. As festival culture has continued to grow in recent years, a few questions are begged: why are festivals so popular? Why do we gather at these events, and seem to just “click” as a new community?

Gathering is Built into Us

To answer the first question, you’ve got to understand just how ingrained gathering together is for human beings. It’s built right into our very being; you could say it’s written into our very DNA. Ancient societies gathered to celebrate what they saw as supernatural movements of the heavens, to celebrate the changing of the seasons, as well as a good crop harvest. Life was harder and shorter, and people looked to celebrate wherever they could. It’s not really surprising that modern people flock to these events in droves. There’s much more than just fun to be had at music festivals; a much needed sense of community and self-expansion and -expression can also be found at each and every one of them.

Hundreds of years ago, the Mayan people would travel for months to arrive at Chichen Itza for a weeks long celebration of their gods and their common culture. Today, modern music fans will also travel hundreds and thousands of miles around the world to pay their respects and celebrate the art and music of their favourites, or even experience something new. But they also bring a piece of their community with them, to weave into the greater culture of the gathering, and the world at large.

When you boil it all away, gathering for music is a microcosm of the human experience as a whole. You get the opportunity to meet new people, expose yourself to new art, music, education, cultures, spiritualities, and experiences.

It’s not so much that music festival have become popular recently, so much as the primal need for humans to gather has found a new home.

Part of the Human Experience

So why do we gather at musical events today? There are as many answers to that question as there are people at festivals. Music fests are a reflection of the human condition. They are a special place for spiritual growth, communal growth, and self-growth, all framed against the backdrop of art, music, celebration, and a deep human history. Some people leave a 3-day festival with a lifetime’s worth of experiences. Others leave with their lives changed forever.

And these experiences run the entire spectrum from spiritual to physical. Many music festivals will engage participants spiritually through communal yoga classes, ceremonies, personal connections, and deep conversations. They also test and empower participants on a physical level through dance, movement, and exploration of your surroundings and environment. And all music festivals strengthen that important feeling of community as you interact with other revelers.

Today’s music festival literally have something for everyone. And if the one you’re at doesn’t, the next one will. And thanks to the recent rise in popularity and attendance, the barriers that used to be in place for such events, like overly expensive admittance tickets, or long travel distances, are starting to disappear. Now, every community has something to offer for everyone and every taste. But the gathering aspect stays the same, fostering growth and encouraging interaction that allows us to see ourselves and each other in a way we don’t usually in our day to day lives.

Festivals have been growing in popularity over the last decade or so, and it’s really not surprising. People have been pulled to gatherings since the dawn of human history; it’s written into the very code of our lives. We want to be around new, different, and exciting people, and to experience new thing to help us grow. The curiosity and exploration that is inherent in the musical gathering experience keeps us looking for new art, tastes, experiences, and people to expand ourselves and our understanding of others.

The rise in popularity of music festivals is a mirror to our society as a whole: the need we have to grow and interact with our family, and to share our story and our community with other beyond its small confines. Festivals and other musical gatherings fill that need we have to be with others, see how we fit into the puzzle, to live life out loud, and to explore our boundaries, both mentally and physically.

What are your plans this summer? Have any music festivals coming up that you want to visit? Maybe you’ve been to some and you want to share your experiences with community building. Tell us all about it in the comments section!