From the cultural flashpoint in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, to the mass proliferation of today that has given us more sensory overload than the hippies at Woodstock ever could have imagined, the music festival has become a rite of passage required for all those who call themselves music fans.
A lot has changed since the days of Woodstock, perhaps the most significant change being that it’s easier to actually get to a music festival. Californians, for instance, may have had to travel 3,000 miles to get to Woodstock in ’69, but now they have one major festival in Southern California (Coachella), two further up north in Napa Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area (Bottle Rock and Outside Lands, respectively), and still others coming and going nearly every year. Even some jazz festivals, which were happening more than a decade before Woodstock, now regularly program rock and pop acts into their lineups!
Just getting one’s head around the details and logistics of even one festival can be a dizzying experience. But before you dive deep into the fine print, here are ten festivals happening now through August, from east to west, to check out this year before you decide where you’ll be dropping your dollars. They range very widely in age, size and location, so there’s bound to be one here to suit your own idiosyncrasies.
1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Would you like some contemporary pop with your jazz and heritage? In much the same fashion as the Newport Folk Festival (see 8), the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival plays loosely with its name, this year due mostly to audience draws from contemporary pop and rock like John Mayer, Maroon 5, Andrew Bird, Dave Matthews Band, and Phoenix. But then again, this is a huge festival, spanning seven days and presenting dozens of bands. So one could very easily spend so much time taking in jazz acts like George Benson, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and plenty of others without having any energy left to take in all the pop, R&B, bluegrass, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, and blues on the bill. After all, this is New Orleans we’re talking about. You’ll need to budget plenty of time for exploring the local culture, perusing the crafts marketplace, partying, and gorging on Cajun food.
Dates: April 26-28, May 2-5, 2013
Location: Fair Grounds Race Course, New Orleans, LA
Price: $50 (advance tickets through May 1) for any one day; $65 at the gate for any one day
Key artists: John Mayer, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Wayne Shorter, George Benson, Joshua Redman
More info: http://www.nojazzfest.com
2. Bottle Rock Napa Valley
At 60 bands over four days, the new Bottle Rock Napa Valley is starting off big. Not only that, the names they’ve snagged for their inaugural festival are a grab bag of major players from a variety of genres, including classic rock (
Furthur, Jackson Browne), punk (Bad Religion, X), country (Dwight Yoakam), reggae (Michael Franti & Spearhead), pop (Train, the Wallflowers, Joan Jett, Brandi Carlile, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), contemporary indie rock (Dirty Projectors, the Shins, Andrew Bird), original stars of the Lollapalooza nation (Jane’s Addiction, Primus)… after a while, reading the full lineup actually starts to feel like some random person’s radio dial surfing experiment translated into a huge live event. And there’s comedy too! Not only that, with copious opportunities to taste some of the area’s best food and wine, Bottle Rock ends up being a just as much a forum for Napa Valley to show off its primary exports as it is a huge new music festival.
Dates: May 8-12, 2013
Location: Napa Expo, Napa, CA
Price: 4-day passes are $399 and include admission to May 8 preview show with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Furthur, The Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, Kings of Leon
More info: http://www.bottlerocknapavalley.com/
3. Hickey Fest
No, it’s not *that* kind of party. Seriously though, as far as new festivals go, Hickey Fest has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the 30+ bands in the lineup represent a sunny and homegrown vision of California indie pop and rock, Bay Area style. In fact, several of these artists (Quinn DeVeaux, fpodbpod, The Blank Tapes, Michael Musika, and festival curator Ash Reiter) have featured here at Popdose in the Parlour to Parlour video interview and performance series, so part of that vision is already familiar to you, the Popdose audience. Secondly, it’s more like Woodstock than any of the other festivals on this list in that the whole experience is built upon a weekend of camping out in the elements. The festival grounds are located at Standish Hickey State Park in Leggett, California, “where the South Fork of the Eel River shimmers against the backdrop of the majestic redwoods.” If camping out in the woods with like-minded people for 3 days of sun, swimming and fresh California indie music sounds like your idea of paradise, grab yourself an outrageously affordable 3-day pass in advance and head on over to Hickey Fest.
Dates: May 24-26, 2013
Location: Standish Hickey State Park, Leggett, CA
Price: Advance 3-day passes are $45; $60 if purchased on-site; single day advance passes are $15 for Friday and $25 for Saturday or Sunday ($25 onsite for Friday, $35 onsite each for Saturday and Sunday)
Key artists: Mark Matos, The Blank Tapes, KillBossa, Ash Reiter
More info: http://hickeyfest.wordpress.com/
4. SF Offside Festival
Although the SF Offside Festival is in its second year now, it’s still the baby of this list in terms of size, with only eight bands spread across three days. But this relatively small package of music packs a punch, and offers a refreshing shot in the arm to all those who have bemoaned the emergence of established pop, rock, and crossover vocal acts at jazz festivals. With its singular focus on emerging jazz talent in the San Francisco Bay Area, Offside positions the Bay Area region – and the jazz genre – as a living, fire-breathing being that is, if anything, even more exciting today than it was back during jazz’s heyday in the first half of the 20th century. In other words, this ain’t your grandpa’s jazz. Don’t expect to hear tired museum music – be prepared for cutting edge ensembles, hungry young lions, and a bounty of new original compositions. Not only that, Offside has expanded into Oakland as well, bridging a divide between sister cities that, although different in many ways, share a common musical heritage that is impossible to ignore.
Dates: May 23-25
Location: Awaken Cafe, Oakland, CA (May 23); Duende, Oakland, CA (May 24); Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA (May 25)
Price: sliding scale $10-20 at the door, or $25-45 in advance for a festival pass.
Key Artists: Dave Mihaly & The Shimmering Leaves Ensemble, Howard Wiley Trio, Wiener Kids Family Band
More info: http://sfoffside.com
5. Orion Music + More
The Metallica-curated Orion Music + More festival enters its second year with yet another overwhelming lineup that, again, brings metal and non-metal acts together in the same field. It was an experiment for the band that apparently worked well enough to repeat this year, despite whatever minor controversy there was last year. The testosterone-heavy lineup does potentially present another audience clash with Red Hot Chili Peppers playing second to Metallica (last year Modest Mouse had that honor), and one wonders whether fans of Rise Against, Dropkick Murphys, Tomahawk, or Dillinger Escape Plan will have the patience for a funk-metal band that doesn’t have Cyco Miko as its lead vocalist – after all, Infectious Grooves is part of the line-up too. But who knows, maybe everything will be fine. Only one way to find out.
Dates: June 8 & 9, 2013
Location: Belle Isle, Detroit, MI
Price: $150 general admission, $750 VIP
Key artists: Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Deftones
More info: http://www.orionmusicandmore.com
California’s Burning Man may be *the* communal art project, but Bonnaroo – out in the wilderness of Tennessee – has way better music. And given just how much music there is, and things to do, and people to see, and camping to be had, four days doesn’t really seem like enough. Then again, I haven’t ever been there, so I can’t really say. But reading through the site’s info certainly gives that impression. The musical lineup itself is beyond overwhelming. Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty, Bjork, Wilco, R. Kelly, Wu-Tang Clan, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Nas, Animal Collective… and those are just some of the most well-known acts playing this year! And with David Cross leading the comedy contingent, there will be plenty of laughs too. Much like Burning Man, you might want to schedule some personal downtime after you get back from this one just to decompress before re-entering the “real” world.
Dates: June 13-16, 2013
Location: Great Stage Park, Manchester, TN
Price: $269.50 general admission; $1449.50 VIP package for 2
Key artists: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Bjork, Wilco
More info: http://www.bonnaroo.com
7. Pitchfork Music Festival
Say what you will about Pitchfork’s music reviews – I’ve had plenty of criticism for that particular site myself – their music festival is one of the best out there, and one of the most affordable too. Held in Chicago’s Union Park, it’s a glorious weekend of indie (and other) music in the sweltering hot summer sun, and this year’s lineup is a particularly good one. Beyond the established big name draws like Bjork, Belle & Sebastian, and MIA, there are a few other coups here. For one, the recently reunited Breeders will be there. So will post-punk pioneers Wire, and L.A. indie darlings of the moment Foxygen. But wait – there’s more! Headlining on the festival’s third and final day is none other than R. Kelly. Seriously! There’s more R&B at the festival beyond R., with Beyonce’s younger sister Solange playing second to Belle & Sebastian on the second day. And as usual, there’s a bevy of bands early each day that you’ve never heard of, and you know what? Most of them are probably going to bring it pretty hard. The crowd at this festival is so nice and chill, how could one not work one’s ass off for them?
Dates: July 19-21, 2013
Location: Union Park, Chicago, IL
Price: $120 for a 3-day pass, $50 for single day passes
Key artists: Yo La Tengo, Bjork, MIA, R. Kelly, Solange, Belle & Sebastian
More info: http://pitchforkmusicfestival.com
8. Newport Folk Festival
Bob Dylan may have had some issues at Newport Folk when he first went electric back in 1965, but the audience and equipment today are exponentially more accommodating. Much like most of today’s jazz festivals, Newport Folk arguably works outside its genre to put butts in seats. But certainly all of the artists lined up this year have roots and elements of folk music woven into their overall tapestry. This year’s lineup is also reflective of the fact that folk and Americana music in general continues to be a going concern for a young audience, and a vital link between generations. Audiences of all ages can enjoy the likes of Feist, the Avett Brothers, Beck, Jim James, Beth Orton, and Old Crow Medicine Show. And being that it takes place in the middle of summer by the Narragansett Bay at Rhode Island’s historic Fort Adams State Park, one can count on a pleasant outdoor experience. Even if it rains a little, it will likely be warm rain.
Dates: July 26-28, 2013
Location: Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI
Price: Friday tickets are $49; all other single day tickets and multi-day passes are SOLD OUT
Key artists: Feist, the Avett Brothers, Beck, Jim James, Father John Misty
More info: http://www.newportfolkfest.net
When the whole “alternative” thing was blowing up in the early ’90s, it was Lollapalooza that went a long way towards stoking the cultural flames that have kept the music alive to this day. Of course, now it’s just a once a year thing in Chicago, but back then it was a traveling festival, inspiring similar traveling festivals for “women in rock” (Lilith Fair), metal (Ozzfest, Tattoo the Earth), and hip hop (Rock the Bells). The cultural importance of the current incarnation of Lollapalooza isn’t very great – now it’s just another festival in a crowded field. But the name still carries a lot of weight and history. This year’s lineup, on the surface, may not look like one that will make it stick out as a particularly noteworthy event. But still, with Grizzly Bear, The National, Vampire Weekend, and Queens of the Stone Age on the bill, one has a handful of great established bands to look forward to while checking out a shit ton of others that may or may not be just as awesome. It’s sold out too, so odds are if you get in, the buzz and the music and the beautiful city of Chicago will make it one for the memory banks. And who knows, maybe history will be made again at Lollapalooza. After all, those kinds of special moments are not exactly something anyone can plan or predict.
Dates: August 7-4, 2013
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Price: $235 for 3-days passes, $95 for single days (all are SOLD OUT)
Key artists: The Cure, Mumford and Sons, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend, Queens of the Stone Age
More info: http://www.lollapalooza.com
10. Outside Lands
This is one festival that, much like San Francisco’s other festivals, tends to be hit-or-miss depending on the year. This year looks as if it will be a BIG hit, enough so that I’ve actually decided to attend it for only the second time ever. For one, Paul McCartney is headlining. Paul McCartney! He may not be doing marathon world tours anymore, but the shows he has been playing since then have all been staged as *events*. Paul’s presence alone makes Outside Lands an Event with a capital E. As if that weren’t enough, D’ANGELO. No explanation needed there. With Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs beefing up the star power quotient, San Francisco’s love of diversity gets extra nods this year with the inclusion of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Willie Nelson, Bombino, Ivan Neville, and… Hall & Oates? Yes, that’s right. Let’s all hope John Oates grows his mustache back for the occasion, ’cause you gotta have all the hair you can grow, facial and otherwise, if you’re gonna blend in with a crowd at Golden Gate Park.
Dates: August 9-11, 2013
Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Price: $249.50 regular 3-day pass, $545 VIP 3-day pass
Key artists: Paul McCartney, D’Angelo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, Hall & Oates
More info: http://www.sfoutsidelands.com