36% Of People Wish They Could Have Seen This Iconic Concert

Live music is good for the soul, but as the global pandemic taught us in 2020, it's something that many of us have taken for granted. As Joni Mitchell once sang, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," and whether it's a full-blown stadium extravaganza or simply an open mic night at a local bar — or even just a busker in the street — the sound of music being made in the flesh was one of the biggest misses for those under lockdown.

So in the spirit of nostalgia, we at Grunge HQ decided to hit the mainline of the hive mind and ask you, our readers, in your infinite wisdom, to give us the lowdown on which iconic live music event you most wish in your heart of hearts that you could have been there to witness; the gig that most sets your pulse racing the moment its name is uttered.

Our resident musicologists ran the numbers to give you five choices: Woodstock (1969), Live Aid (1985), the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (1992), the U.S. Festival (1982/1983), and the Beatles' concert at Shea Stadium (1965). Hundreds of you hit us up with your pick ... and here are the results.

The Beatles aren't top (for once)

Every competition has to have a loser, or four, as the case may be. It's a sad fact of life — you can't win 'em all. In this case, the one-and-out last-place finisher is the U.S. Festival, which hoovered up just 5% of the votes. Over the course of two years, the festival hosted some of the biggest acts of all time, including David Bowie and Van Halen, but with each day of the festival themed to a different genre — i.e., "New Wave Day" and "Country Day," according to Rhino — the festival itself seems to have faded from our collective consciousness. 

The only silver lining to the inevitability of loss is that sometimes, the top dogs suffer an upset, and for one reason or another that is what we've witnessed in this humble survey. If we could tell the story of our results in headlines, the first would be this: "The Fab Four Fall into Fourth Place."

That's right, the biggest band in the world ever who, rightly or not, tend to take the top spot in every music-related poll ever conducted have not won this time. Here at Grunge we pride ourselves on being something of a left field media outlet, but really, we can't take the credit here — this was 100% your work. The Beatles' famously raucous Shea Stadium festival — with screaming so loud that the band couldn't hear themselves play —comes second-last with just over 18% of the vote.

Freddie's fighting on two fronts

Queen fans, at this juncture you might rightly point out that you have cause to feel aggrieved: How could you best vote to ensure that the creators of "Bohemian Rhapsody" are best represented in this competition? On one hand, you have the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, a memorial dedicated to the band and their late singer, with a lineup assembled of the band's friends and closest collaborators and dedicated to raising funds for AIDS charities combatting the disease that took Mercury from us so soon. On the other, you have Live Aid, the concert at which most fans agree Queen played their greatest gig, and in which Freddie gave his most fabulous, electrifying performance (according to Ultimate Classic Rock, Queen and Freddie "stole the show").

We're sorry we had to do this to you, but musicology is a fickle mistress, as our resident experts have repeatedly reminded us in heated editorial meetings. Both concerts simply had to be represented, they said, otherwise the whole endeavor would be null and void. So who was Grunge to argue?

Looking at the numbers, it is obvious that the fans were torn, with the two shows effectively tied at just over 18.5% each. However, the Freddie Tribute Concert just about edges it by a few micro percentage points, demonstrating the love Grunge readers have for the timeless showman.

Woodstock reigns

It may be a predictable result, but it's also a satisfying one. More than half a century on, one chaotic weekend when more than half a million hippies ran riot on a farm in Bethel, New York, is still remembered as the festival by which all subsequent outdoor concerts are judged. In a fine show of digital freak power, more than 36% of you decided to channel your inner flower child and name Woodstock as the one live concert that you really, really, really wish you'd have been at.

No matter that the tailback of traffic to get into the festival went on for miles or that there was just one toilet for every 833 people, according to Consumer Reports. Never mind that, contrary to popular belief, the headliner Jimi Hendrix actually managed to miss the weekend entirely, and finally only played for a diminished crowd of frazzled stragglers on the following Monday. The high point of the '60s counterculture still reigns supreme in the minds of Grunge's music-minded readership.

Yes, to be at Woodstock would have been awesome. But just in case your FOMO is getting on top of you, remember the old saying: "if you can remember Woodstock, were you really there?"