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Rock Concert v. Summer Festival? It's Like Catholics v. Protestants

A view from Italy, where the Protestant revival-style musical festival never had a chance...

Rock 'n roll masses
Rock 'n roll masses
Piero Negri

MILAN - The rock concert is really quite a recent invention, dating back just forty years to the 1970s. It is therefore no surprise that its basic form is still being interpreted in many different ways.

“We saw the greats of Black music,” Bruce Springsteen said recently, “and from them we learned how it is done. Who did they learn from? From ministers and preachers.” Indeed, the origins of the modern-day rock concert can be traced all the way back to the traditional church service.

Concerts – the successful ones at least – are often portrayed as an almost religious experience. And this time, that is not far from the truth. Maybe that’s the reason why we Italians never fell in love with the Protestant invention that is the music festival? We dislike it so much, in fact, that this year we’ve closed them all down.

Instead our live musical allegiance is clearly in the camp of the much more Catholic ritual of the stadium concert – everyone brought together by a single mass offered by our favorite rock god, where we are encouraged to participate by singing back the words of our favorite songs.

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Madonna concert in Milan - Photo: Aristotele Strobe

In the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and even in Hungary in recent years, the festival reigns supreme. You go in a group, you sleep in large camps which spring up for the occasion, you are there for three or four days, and you choose from 60-odd groups and artists per day (Coachella-style) or a handful of different stages on which a dozen bands take turns from Friday to Sunday (Glastonbury-style). You need an adventurous spirit, a willingness to try new things, and an eclectic and varied taste (especially in music).

Here in bella Italia, the closest we ever got to the Anglo-Saxon model was the Heineken Jammin’ Festival. However, it always needed a sponsor to balance the books, and the format was quickly adapted to suit our Catholic rites, with a great priest who took center stage and other smaller artists who played the altar boys. The kiss of death came when the festival was relocated to the new Fiera di Milano exhibition center – a venue that would kill even Woodstock – and that also witnessed the end of the Gods of Metal and Rock in IdRho festivals last year, which were removed from the 2013 calendar.

The festival concept is as good as dead in Italy, but it seems that the story of the rock concert is only just beginning. There can be no doubt that these musical gods will be performing their rituals in cathedrals of rock all over Italy for a long time to come.

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A Naturalist's Defense Of The Modern Zoo

Zoos are often associated with animal cruelty, or at the very least a general animal unhappiness. But on everything from research to education to biodiversity, there is a case to be made for the modern zoo.

Photograph of a brown monkey holding onto a wired fence

A brown monkey hangs off of mesh wire

Marina Chocobar/Pexels
Fran Sánchez Becerril


MADRID — Zoos — or at least something resembling the traditional idea of a zoo — date back to ancient Mesopotamia. It was around 3,500 BC when Babylonian kings housed wild animals such as lions and birds of prey in beautiful structures known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Ancient China also played a significant role in the history of zoos when the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) created several parks which hosted an assortment of animals.

In Europe, it wouldn't be until 1664 when Louis XIV inaugurated the royal menagerie at Versailles. All these spaces shared the mission of showcasing the wealth and power of the ruler, or simply served as decorations. Furthermore, none of them were open to the general public; only a few fortunate individuals, usually the upper classes, had access.

The first modern zoo, conceived for educational purposes in Vienna, opened in 1765. Over time, the educational mission has become more prominent, as the exhibition of exotic animals has been complemented with scientific studies, conservation and the protection of threatened species.

For decades, zoos have been places of leisure, wonder, and discovery for both the young and the old. Despite their past success, in recent years, society's view of zoos has been changing due to increased awareness of animal welfare, shifting sensibilities and the possibility of learning about wild animals through screens. So, many people wonder: What is the purpose of a zoo in the 21st century?

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