Words and Photos by Bradley Darby
It is an interesting time in the music world right now. Concert ticket sales are way down, yet prices seem to be up. Massive tours have been forced to cut dates due to slow ticket sales. With the music industry in disarray and the future leaning towards digital music (and quite possibly the return of the vinyl!!) the multi-day music festival made famous by Woodstock has made a strong return.
There is something unique about being able to see multiple bands from different genres while having the ability to indulge in as many tasty beverages as you wish and stumble back to a camp site just a few hundred yards from the action, only to wake up the next morning and do the whole thing over again. Not to mention hanging out with 7,000 – 70,000 of your closest friends; enjoying bonfires, drum circles, costume contests and villages filled with vendors offering a wide array of food from gyros to NY style pizza to dank nachos and portobello wraps. I have heard the 2 Sisters Corn Dogs are the things that legends are made of….. You can buy a hand knitted koozie cup with a string to hang it from your neck, or a grilled cheese for $1 after a 3am late night Perpetual Groove, Umphreys McGee or Dirtfoot set.
Everyone has heard of Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Coachella, and Lollapalooza but I want to introduce you to some other festivals that you may want to consider checking out this summer. Some of these are in their first or second year, while some of these are established but maybe just not as well known or large. There are more festivals popping up each year now, and some such as 10,000 Lakes and Rothbury not returning, leaving space for promoters to start new festivals such as Hangout Music Festival and the Yonder Mountain String Band Harvest Festival.
Here’s a quick peek at a few festivals happening this summer, and links to get more information. Please note that all artists are subject to change. Also, I have not attended all of these… but I know a guy that dated a girl who knows a guy that once met a guy who has been to quite a few of them. Gas up the VW minibus and get out your tie-dye, the music festival is back! Click the title of each festival for the official site with more information.
A truly unique festival experience , the Hangout Festival enters its second year ocean side in Gulf Shores. Offering one of the more diverse lineups over three days, the Hangout Festival will feature artists from Widespread Panic to Paul Simon to the Foo Fighters, it is easy to find something for everyone at Hangout. Late night get your freak on with sets from Bassnectar, Pretty Lights and Big Gigantic. Other acts over the weekend include The Black Keys (pictured), Ween, STS9, Motorhead, Cee-Lo Green, Primus, Medeski Martin and Wood, Matisyahu and Old Crow Medicine Show. Since you are on the beach you can relax with some sand in your feet and wind in your hair, and there is no need to bring your tent or shower shoes as they offer condo VIP packages. Tickets start at around $174
Summercamp – May 27-29 at Three Sisters Park – Chillicothe, Illinois
This one is heavy on the jam bands, but in a damn good way. Enjoy sets from Widespread Panic, STS9, Bassnectar, The Avett Brothers, Girl Talk, and Yonder Mountain String Band. In addition to their three sets, Umphrey’s McGee will serve as the backing band to Huey Lewis for his set which is being billed as Huey Lewis and the rUMors. New Yorks moe. also has three sets. Do yourself a favor and catch Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile who will slay dragons with his mandolin. Also don’t forget a hefty dose of Tea Leaf Green, and the 7 Walkers featuring drummer Bill Kreutzmann from the Grateful Dead, Papa Mali on guitar and vocals, and bassist George Porter Jr. Tickets will run you $180 plus fees but do NOT include the late night sets, those must be purchased separately.
Born in 2004, Wakarusa originally took place in Lawrence, Kansas until moving to the current location about an hour outside of Fayetteville in the stunning Ozark National Forest in 2009. With 6 stages, 140 bands, 170 sets of music and 24-hours of endless music and activities throughout 4 days including My Morning Jacket, Ben Harper and Relentless 7, Mumford and Sons, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Umphreys McGee, Budos Band, Split Lip Rayfield (pictured), Cornmeal and Galactic. Late night the festival is overtaken by the Interstellar Meltdown, where for no additional cost you get to catch late night sets from STS9 (2 sets), Bassnectar, Ghostland Observatory, Shpongletron, and Thievery Corporation in addition to many other DJs and electronic acts. Dont forget to stop by the Chompdown on Friday morning in the campground and meet up with nearly 1000 of your closest friends for a communal breakfast. Thats right, going on its 5th year at Wakarusa, the Chompdown is a gathering of people coming together to prepare and serve a FREE breakfast. Campers donate everything from bacon and eggs to juice and supplies for mimosa’s and bloody mary’s to cure that hangover from the previous night. You can even get fried oreos and PB&J for the kids and music will be provided by Dirtfoot, who also kick the festival off on Thursday afternoon and close it down on Sunday evening. Mix this all together with one of the more beautiful festival sites around and you have the makings for an epic extended weekend. A full event pass will cost you $169 plus camping, and both camping passes and event passes are selling fast!
Mountain Jam – June 2-5 at Hunter Mountain – Hunter, New York
The Seventh Annual Mountain Jam, created by Warren Haynes who will also perform with Gov’t Mule and the Warren Haynes Band, takes place at Hunter Mountain, a world class ski resort in the Catskill Mountains. Other than host Warren Haynes, you can also catch performances from My Morning Jacket, Avett Brothers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Bela Fleck, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, as well as Umphreys McGee making dreams come true by performing with John Oates. Attendance will be capped at 15,000 people, with a very limited number of camping packages also available. A full event pass will run you $187.50 and includes camping.
Dave Matthews Band Caravan – 4 Stops – Atlantic City, Chicago, New York City, The Gorge
It was announced last year that for the first time in their 20 year history, the Dave Matthews Band would be taking some much deserved time off. It was widely known that there was no chance of Dave Matthews sitting back and not getting together for a Dave & Tim tour, or maybe even a Dave & Friends festival appearance. But DMB decided to go a whole different route and play four weekends, in a festival like setting, and to call it the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. The four city trek will hit Atlantic City, NJ June 24-26 before stopping in Chicago on July 8-10. After that its off to New York City August 26-28 and finally in typical DMB fashion, The Gorge in Washington for Labor Day Sept 2-4. Every stop features different acts, but each will feature the DMB performing a full set each night. In both Atlantic City and Chicago you can catch Ray Lamontagne, O.A.R., The Flaming Lips, and David Gray. Atlantic City also throws in Budos Band, Punch Brothers, and Bassnectar. If you decide to wait for Chicago in July then you will get Drive By Truckers, Ben Folds, and G. Love. Recently reunited jam band Dispatch joins The Roots and Gogol Bordello for the last two stops in New York City and The Gorge, with the west coast getting Australia’s John Butler Trio and NYC getting moe. Three day tickets start at $195 for each stop.
The worlds largest music festival attracts between 800K – 1 Million people annually at the Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee. Featuring 700 bands spread out across 11 stages, including the 23,000 seat Marcus Amphitheater, the festival runs for 11 days from noon-midnight. This year you can see Peter Gabriel, Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates, and Heart if you are not into the whole 80s thing, or you can watch legends like George Clinton, Wanda Jackson, and Taj Mahal…. and that is just in the first two days! Maroon 5, Kid Rock and Ben Harper will also appear, along with Florence + the Machine, The Black Keys, O.A.R. and Peter Frampton. The possibilities are endless at Summerfest! American Idols Danny Gokey, teenage dream Katy Perry, and the Yonder Mountain String Band (pictured) or Goo Goo Dolls, Dropkick Murphys, and the Flaming Lips. Do you like country? How about Sugarland, Toby Keith, and Jason Aldean? Finally 311 and Hollywood Undead close it out on Sunday July 10. If you cant find at least one or two artists each day that you would like to watch, then you just don’t like music.
LouFest – August 27-28 at Forest Park – St. Louis, Missouri
This will be the 2nd year for St. Louis’ LouFest featuring two days of music on two stages at the Central Fields in Forest Park. Last years lineup featured She & Him and Jeff Tweedy, this years lineup is headlined by The Roots and TV on the Radio. Other performances will include The Hold Steady, Deerhunter, Cat Power, Das Racist, and !!!. Another great aspect of LouFest is that it offers St. Louis’ own local bands a chance to play in front of crowds they typically wouldn’t draw, including Troubadour Dali, Jon Hardy and the Public, and Old Lights. Last years festival was a great success, and this years is shaping up that way already with both levels of Early Bird pricing selling out in a matter of days. The festival also carries a very strong ‘green’ message, offering recycling, composting, free valet bike parking, and a refillable water station for those Nalgene bottles.
Sure I said summer festivals, but this one is too good to not mention. One of the highlights of the year, Yonder Mountain String Band overtakes Mulberry Mountain in October, the same site that holds the Wakarusa Festival in June, for a much more intimate vibe when they bring us their Harvest Festival. Featuring four days of bluegrass, newgrass, folk and americana music this is quickly becoming a must attend festival. Last year was the first installment and featured Keller Williams, Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Martin Sexton, Leftover Salmon, Split Lip Rayfield, Dirtfoot and of course two nights of Yonder. It is still early for the specific lineup, but the stars are pointing towards a great weekend when you see the leaked rumored artists on Pollstar and Jambase including Bela Fleck, Todd Snider, Leftover Salmon, Great American Taxi, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Steep Canyon Rangers, and of course Dirtfoot (pictured) and Yonder Mountain String Band. The OFFICIAL lineup should be coming out in the next few weeks, but this one is limited to only 7,000 tickets sold so don’t hesitate to get your tickets early! Plus the Ozark National Forest is in its prime during the middle of October. Right now tickets are only $99 plus fees.