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Bucket List Music Festivals that Put Coachella to Shame

Posted by Harry Stewart on
The Best Music Festivals in the USA

As we sail into summer, the celebrity hype and surprise A-list performances of Coachella become little more than a hazy memory.

Not to mention the tattoo-clad gym bros, the picture-perfect Instagram influencers, and those floral sundresses coupled with questionable headdresses.

(Perhaps these were better off forgotten).

But I digress.

Fear not, fellow music lovers, for you can find a plethora of other amazing festivals right throughout our fine country, many of which are ready to rock the sweltering summer months ahead.

And depending on what floats your boat, these may even put the superficiality of Coachella to shame.

But before we get started, you’ll need somewhere to crash. Take it from us, few tents on Earth are as funky and functional as Chillbo Cabbins.

Ultra Music Festival – Miami, Florida: March

For the ultimate E.D.M. experience, Ultra ticks all the beatboxes. Widely considered North America’s biggest and best electro fest, the mammoth Miami event attracts tens of thousands of loved-up revelers who come to boogie to headliners such as Tiësto, David Guetta, and Major Lazer, just to name a few.

It’s so epic, in fact, that the festival has spread to dozens of other cities worldwide.

ultra music festival miami florida

Armin van Buuren at the Ultra Music Festival 2014. Miami, Florida, USA | © Rutger Geerling / Flickr

Sasquatch! Music Festival - George, Washington: May

Taking place over the Memorial Day weekend, Sasquatch offers a laid-back vibe to ease into the madness of the summer festival season ahead. A variety of different genres grace the stage, with indie and acoustic singer-songwriters making up the majority of the star-studded line-up.

Fittingly, these chilled out tunes perfectly complement its picturesque location which overlooks the stunning Columbia Gorge Canyon.

Modest Mouse and Bon Iver performed this year, so you can bet 2019 will be a banger.

South by Southwest (SXSW) – Austin, Texas: March

For something with a little more cultural cache, it’s hard to look past Austin’s incredible SXSW. More than just a music festival, an estimated 300,000 attendees come to watch the latest in independent cinema and participate in a multitude of interactive arts-based events such as conferences and workshops.

Of course, music is an integral part of the action, with some 2,000 up and coming artists as well as a selection of big names performing throughout the event.

South by Southwest SXSW austin Texas festival usa

The streets come alive at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin | © Davidlohr Bueso / Flickr

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – New Orleans, Louisiana: March

Jazz, blues, rock, and roots aficionados won’t find anywhere better in the world to indulge in their chosen genre than the New Orleans Jazz Fest. About half a million fans congregate in the city for the monumental ten-day event, the biggest of its type on Earth.

Lollapalooza – Chicago, Illinois: August

Since its humble beginnings as Jane’s Addiction’s touring festival, Lollapalooza has become one of the biggest and most sought-after musical events in the United States.  

Nowadays, it permanently resides in Chicago’s Grant Park, which temporarily transforms into a musical wonderland as some 100,000 revelers descend on the grounds. Ever intent on being as widely accessible as possible, the festival hosts everything from rock to pop and the latest in RnB.

Lollapalooza Chicago, Illinois August festival USA

Steve Angello lights up the stage at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago | © swimfinfan / Flickr

Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, Illinois: July

Not so keen on the crazy Lollapalooza crowds? Then check out Pitchfork instead; the perfect place for Chicagoans who yearn for a festival with a more laidback vibe.

Manageable crowds of around 20,000 mean there is ample space in the city’s Union Park for festivalgoers to meander between their favorite Indie rock and hip-hop bands. Up and comers often take center stage, although there will be a few established acts such as Pusha-T and Dreezy to suss out this year as well.

Afropunk Fest - New York, New York: August

More of a cultural movement than a mere music festival, Afropunk began as a countermeasure to combat social marginalization in the Afro community. These days, some 60,000 partygoers make their way to Brooklyn to celebrate African American culture through art, music, and activism.

Afropunk Fest, New York, New York August, festival USA

Some outrageous crowd surfing action at the Afropunk Fest in New York | © Versus And Company / Flickr

Bonnaroo - Manchester, Tennessee: June

Initially the plaything of folk and jam bands, Bonnaroo may well be the funkiest longstanding festival in the land. But “the times they are a-changin',” as former headliner Bob Dylan would say, due to a more diverse range of artists such as Childish Gambino and Post Malone taking center stage.

Nevertheless, the hippie/folk vibe remains well and truly alive at this classic Tennessee shindig.

Electric Zoo - New York, New York: August

As New York’s premier EDM extravaganza, Electric Zoo turns Randall's Island Park into a no-holds-barred danceathon each August in the stifling summer heat. The folks behind the epic international event Tomorrowland put on the show, so you know it’s got to be good.

Electric Zoo New York August Festival USA

The Bloody Beetroots take the stage at the Electric Zoo Festival in New York | © digboston / Flickr

The Governors Ball Music Festival - New York, New York: June

Another awesome event to grace Randall's Island Park, Governors Ball is an NYC institution famous for the broad range of musical genres on display. Bop along to the big names in hip-hop, rock, indie or folk before kicking back on your Chillbo Shwaggins to dine on a variety of multicultural cuisine or catch up with friends amid its spacious open areas.

Electric Daisy Carnival - Las Vegas, Nevada: May

Some of the biggest names in EDM descend on Vegas each May to provide ecstatic punters with a euphoric assault on the senses.

Relentless laser beams and an overload of LED lights combine with non-stop electro beats to whip the crowd into a rapturous frenzy, an atmosphere the promoters have attempted to replicate overseas.

This year saw Armin van Buuren, Eric Prydz, and Hardwell take the stage. As for 2019? Who knows?

Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas, Nevada, Electronic Music Festival

The hectic main stage at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas | © Insomniac Events / Wikipedia

Electric Forest - Rothbury, Michigan: June

Electric Forest provides jubilant revelers with precisely that, an actual forest teeming with trippy electronic illumination.  

Bust some shapes to a variety of E.D.M tunes in this remote wooded region while surrounded by technicolored laser shows.

Burning Man - Black Rock City, Nevada: August

If you haven’t heard of Burning Man, you might be living under a rock. Definitely not Blackrock, though, a temporary tent city in the Nevada desert that welcomes tens of thousands of liberated merrymakers who come to partake in a cultural experiment of anti-consumerism and radical self-expression.

Burning Man Festival, Blackrock City, Nevada, USA

A crazy revolver themed float cruising the Blackrock Desert at Burning Man | © jon collier /Flickr

Joshua Tree Music Festival – Joshua Tree National Park, California: May and October

Looking for a fun, family-friendly festival with a meditative vibe? Then book yourself a ticket to this October’s rendition of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, a vibrant celebration of music, art, culture, and radical self-expression that takes place in the barren deserts of this beloved Californian national park.

Let the youngsters run wild in Kidsville while you unwind with a soothing yoga session. Later, dance the night away like a mofo to any number of alternative gigs.


Ephemerisle, Mandeville Point, California: July

Landlubbers might want to give this one a miss.

Taking place on a river to the south of Sacramento in July, Ephemerisle is a community run homage to the sacred art of seasteading: the process of living on a permanent (or in this case, deconstructable) dwelling at sea.

There’s no central organizer thus tickets are free, although you will need to sort out a spot in a seaworthy vessel to participate in the week-long floating extravaganza.

Naturally, Chilbo’s Don Poolio would make the perfect companion to these waterborne festivities.

Ephemerisle, Mandeville Point, California, Festival, USA

A floating seasteading armada at the Ephemerisle Festival | © Ben Chun / Flickr

Some of these have come and gone, although many wondrous events still lie ahead. So start saving and jump on those early bird specials because this year’s festival season is destined to be off the hook.

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