Coachella is over, which means music festival season is in full swing. Many music fans are already planning their trip to Chicago for this year’s Lollapalooza or buying their camping gear and flip-flops for Bonnaroo, but we think it’s time to take a look at a few of the more under-the-radar festivals.
Some of these fests will connect you to your surroundings, whether it’s the beaches of the Gulf Shore for Hangout Fest or the best local eats at Brooklyn’s Great Googa Mooga. Others will take you to unlikely locations, like the Gorge in Quincy, Washington for Sasquatch or the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Southeast Ohio for Nelsonville Music Fest.
Here’s our list of 10 festivals that should be on your radar (if they’re not already) for this summer and many summers to come.
Sweetlife Festival – May 11 – Columbia, Maryland
This one-day festival mixes music and food, but prides itself on its do-gooderness. Held by Sweetgreen, Washington, D.C. eatery started by three friends in 2007, the fest gives back to the local community by teaching them about the importance of healthy eating and green living. Now in its third year, the fest is preaching sustainability by keeping things carbon neutral, offsetting the power generated at Sweetlife through the use of solar panels on their main stage, which will feature performances from Phoenix, Passion Pit and Kendrick Lamar. In order to keep the Merriweather Post Pavillion clean, they’re stressing the motto “no bottle or cup left behind.” As incentive, they’re even asking fans to trade in their recyclables from the festival for Sweetlife swag like custom sunglasses, a festival poster or a skateboard.
Hangout Fest – May 17,18 & 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama
Find a spot under a palm tree, perhaps next to a turtle, and just relax to the sweet sounds of this eclectic three-day festival. This year’s fest boasts headliners like the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Stevie Wonder and Kings Of Leon. The lineup also features acts of every genre from Baauer and his “Harlem Shake” to Trey Anastasio and his jam band ways. Did we mention that you’d be watching all of this go down while lounging on a white sandy beach? Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Great Googa Mooga – May 17-19 – Brooklyn, New York
Now celebrating its second year, this festival from Bonnaroo promoter Superfly is ideally for the the music-loving foodie – the type of person who is there for the bands as much as the gourmet gluttony. Set in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, attendees can see more than 20 bands including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Flaming Lips (who kick off the festivities), while enjoying local eats from 85 different restaurants (and even more breweries) set up in charming hand-painted booths that are reminiscent of the good ol’ days of New York. Best part is, Saturday and Sunday, featuring performances from acts like Matt & Kim and Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings, are free to those who register. So pack your loosest pair of pants ’cause it’s gonna be a good time.
Sasquatch Festival – May 24- 27 – Quincy, Washington
Whether you’ve heard of this festival or not, you have to see it to believe it. Especially, since it’s not very often that you see a show in a venue that is carved into a basalt cliff, but that’s what happens when you go to The Gorge. The four-day Sasquatch Festival, taking place this Memorial Day weekend, features the usual suspects on the festival scene (Mumford & Sons, the xx, The Postal Service and Vampire Weekend), but the scenery is hard to beat, with five different stages located high above the Columbia River. Best part is, you get to end the night camping underneath the Pacific Northwest sky, which we can assure you is much more comfortable than Bonnaroo’s unbearable heat.
Nelsonville Music Festival – May 30- June 2 – Nelsonville, Ohio
This is the little festival that could. Back in 2005, it was a one-day event that took place in the downtown Nelsonville Historic Arts District, located in the small Southeast Ohio town amidst the Appalachian foothills. Now eight years later, the fest grown to three days and multiple stages, with a wide variety of past headliners ranging from the Flaming Lips to Loretta Lynn and this year including Wilco and Cat Power. Though it has grown, the folk, indie rock and country-tinged festival still prides itself on the intimacy of its setting. In addition to the main stage, they have a “porch” stage (which is literally on a porch of a cabin) as well as a performance space inside of a 19th-century school house cabin. The town’s vibrant culture is also on display, with local artisans selling their wares throughout the fest. Maybe Chan Marshall can even pick herself up some homemade soup before she takes the stage.
Summerfest – June 26-30 & July 2-7 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
While Milwaukee certainly doesn’t have a reputation for being a musical mecca, with 11 stages, over 800 acts and 10 days of music, Summerfest rightfully earns its title as the world’s largest music festival, though it feels more like the world’s most epic county fair than anything else. Since its inception in the ’60s, the lakefront fest has always featured a diverse array of bands, with the Eagles, Jason Aldean, Rush, John Mayer, LL Cool J, Pitbull, Tim McGraw, fun., The Avett Brothers with the Violent Femmes, Diplo, MGMT, New Kids on the Block and many, many more playing this year. Each of the headlining sets include special guests and openers, functioning more as full concert stops than typical festival sets (and with separate admission prices). All in all, it’s essentially one big, epic county fair. While there, play around with the interactive exhibits set up by some of the nation’s biggest brands looking to show off some of their new products, and catch the comedians also performing.
Kanrocksas Music Festival – June 28- 29 – Kansas Speedway
Dorothy had it right. There’s no place like home when you live in Kansas. This Midwest fest has a few well-known names in its lineup — like Tiesto, Kendrick Lamar, fun. and Yeah Yeah Yeahs — but rounding out the rest are up-and-comers to know and old favorites you may have forgotten about. This festival prides itself on its artistic spirit, which translates to there being a lot of carnival-esque activities. Hang out in Beer Island (that can’t be bad, can it?) or take a ride on the Ferris Wheel Of Lights. Need to cool off? Head over to the giant 200-foot high water slide, or maybe go check out the hot air balloons run by proud Kansas native John Petrehn, the No. 1-ranked balloonist (we didn’t even know they ranked balloon artists).
Editors Note: On May 28, a month before the fest, the promoters announced on their website that this year’s Kansrocksas festival was cancelled due to “insufficient ticket sales.” There are no plans to reschedule at this time. Music lovers/hot air balloon enthusiasts will now have to visit Kansas on their own time.
Forecastle Festival – July 12-14 – Louisville, Kentucky
Head down to Kentucky for this nautically-themed, activism-slanted festival, which started in a local park and now takes over the downtown Louisville waterfront that runs along the Ohio River. Last year’s fest, an expansion in partnership with Bonnaroo co-producer AC Entertainment, was curated by hometown heroes My Morning Jacket. This year, MMJ frontman Jim James returns, alongside Robert Plant (his only U.S. festival appearance this summer), the Black Keys, Big Boi, the Flaming Lips, Alabama Shakes, The Avett Brothers and more. Free water available on-site, or just go straight to the Bourbon Lodge. You are in Kentucky, after all.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – October 4-6 – San Francisco, California
Founded by billionaire and bluegrass enthusiast Warren Hellman in 2001, this free festival was created to celebrate the best that bluegrass has to offer. Yes, the whole thing is free. Set in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the three-day fest has featured headliners like Elvis Costello and Steve Earle. Last year’s festival — the first to take place after Hellman’s death — featured over 80 acts including The Lumineers, Emmylou Harris and Civil Wars. This year’s lineup is yet to be announced, but it’s as much about the experience as the music.
Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit – October 25-27 – Asheville, North Carolina
For those that are upset Moog Fest isn’t happening this year (don’t worry, they’ll be back in 2o14), there’s a new festival taking place the same weekend that Moog used to happen, in the same city where Moog takes place, by the same concert promoters that used to be a part of Moog. But don’t be confused, this really is a different festival. Mountain Oasis is a celebration of electronic music from the same team that produces Bonnaroo, highlighting artists who cleverly use technology in their art. The inaugural lineup includes Nine Inch Nails, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Animal Collective, Jessie Ware and Neutral Milk Hotel.
Fun Fun Fun Fest – November 8-19 – Austin, Texas
Austin is certainly a musical festival town. They’ve got South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, but Fun Fun Fun Fest has to be the most, well, fun. This fest truly exemplifies the city’s endearing weirdness by celebrating a varying music scene from well-known acts like Run DMC to those artists on the brink of stardom. Last year’s lineup featured A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Atlas Sound and Icona Pop. Set in the Texan city’s downtown area, FFF also celebrates all the food, fashion and comedy this city has to offer. Plus, it’s set at a time of the year — Thanksgiving, practically — when you may not actually be sick of going to music festivals. Keep an eye out for this year’s lineup announcement, we bet you’re gonna want to go.
(Additional reporting by Jillian Mapes, Radio.com)