Music festivals have become an art form of their own, born from the counterculture and anti-war sentiments that arose especially between the 1960s and 1990s. Think Woodstock and Free Tibet. Below is a round-up of the top five music festivals in the US that still capture this spirit.
1. Pitchfork Music Festival
Award: Best City Festival
Location: Union Park, Chicago
Pitchfork Music Festival happens every July in Union Park, known for its grand cityscape views. While mainstream artists do play at Pitchfork, they are not as commercial as those who play at the neighboring Lollapalooza. Mike Reed, a longtime Chicago talent buyer, and producer, runs the event and is known for booking acts that challenge the audience, bringing a laid-back vibe to the festival.
2. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Award: Best Camping Festival
Location: Bonnaroo Farm, Manchester, Tenn.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival began as a jam band festival on a 700-acre farm, aiming to draw in the Grateful Dead and Phish fanbase. Today, Bonnaroo is known for its camp-centric festival vibes as visitors roll in with truckloads of gear. Many jam-centric bands like String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic headline, but more mainstream artists also make appearances. You will get dirty at this festival, and you will like it, especially for the community spirit.
3. Stagecoach Festival
Award: Best Country Music Festival
Location: Empire Polo Fields, Indio, Calif.
Stagecoach Festival takes place the week after Coachella on the same site, and it’s known as the biggest country music celebration worldwide. Nashville acts take over the stage, and you’ll hear all kinds of country and country-adjacent music, including alternative country, Americana, bluegrass, and roots music. The festival also hosts multiple barbeque pits and other Western attractions.
4. Newport Folk Festival
Award: Best Folk Festival
Location: Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.
Newport Folk Festival began in 1959 as a complimentary festival to the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. Over the decades, it’s become known as the go-to folk music festival. In the 1960s, Newport Folk Festival headlined Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf. Between 1970 and 1985, the festival unfortunately closed, but today, it’s a premier destination for fans of bluegrass, country, blues, and folk acts. The beauty of the festival is how truly folk it is: Many artists simply show up and play.
5. Float Fest
Award: Best Scenic Festival
Location: Private ranch, Gonzales, Texas
Float Fest allows its audience to view the festival right from the water, and it’s the Best Scenic Festival. Arrive, park, and then, float miles down the San Marcos River in Texas to the festival site. The festival features such musical tastes as indie-pop, electro, hip-hop, and progressive rock.
However big or exciting that music festivals become, the two main attractions are always the people and the music that create an unforgettable synergy. Attending a music festival at least once in your life should definitely be on your bucket list. And a tip from the pro-goers: Admit you’re a newbie–you’ll get more freebie memorabilia.