While the big-time festivals are a hellavu good time, the thought of going to Bonnaroo or Governor's Ball for another year in a row may feel a bit lackluster. But the number of festival fans continue to grow, and every year there are new music extravaganzas tailor-made to suit niche tastes. Whether you’re looking to get lost in the mountains with the sounds of bluegrass, or you fancy something more cosmopolitan, there’s a musical paradise for you.
Imagine Music Festival 2014 — Photo courtesy of Alex G. Perez
Imagine Music Festival
Hello, electronica fans, and welcome to your new favorite weekend. Dropping beats in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, Imagine blends world-famous DJs (The Crystal Method, Griz, sets by Lil Jon and Chromeo) with circus acts for a trippy, dance-heavy celebration.
Landmark Music Festival
Part of an ongoing effort to restore and reenergize the National Mall, this inaugural event features five stages with crowd-favorites including Drake, The Strokes, Ben Howard and Band of Horses on America's Front Lawn. Tickets start at $150 for early-bird passes and profits go toward supporting the Landmark Campaign.
Blue Ox Music Festival
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Named after Paul Bunyon’s big blue ox, this new bluegrass jamboree brings the best of classic and up-and-coming toe-tappin’ bands to a wooded 75-acre campground in Northwest Wisconsin, just 1.5 hours from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jam out with Justin Townes Earle, The Infamous Stringdusters, Pokey LaFarge and Trampled by Turtles. If camping isn't your thing, there are hotels nearby with shuttle service to the fest throughout the day.
Sloss Fest joins all-stars of the South's fledging music scene–St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Manchester Orchestra and Sturgill Simpson to name a few–at the 1800s iron factory the Magic City was built on. Honoring the city's roots and traditions, the fest also features a BBQ arena hosted by Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ and hands-on iron-pouring demos.
Wayhome Music Festival
Yes, this newbie fest is in Canada, but it's totally worth the trip for the chance to party with Neil Young, St. Vincent, Kendrick Lamar and Sam Smith. Wayhome is produced by the folks who put on Bonnaroo, and is held at the Burl's Creek Event Grounds, about 1.5 hours from Toronto.
NIFI Music Festival
For those who like their country music with a healthy dose of alt-rock, check into NIFI Music Ignited at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, near the Kentucky-Illinois border. Here, Top 40 artists of years past and present like Miranda Lambert and Green Day, rock out with up-and-comers like Nikki Lane and reputed instrumental-driven acts like New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Laid Back Festival
Wantagh, New York
If a music festival only lasts one day, does it count as a music festival? It does when it’s Greg Allman putting it on and headlining along with friends like the Doobie Brothers and Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers. Avid jam-band fans should splurge for the Get Baked VIP Package, which includes close-up seats, a clambake on the beach and signed special-edition poster.
Firefly Music Festival
In its third year, the Mid-Atlantic's best emerging fest continues to grow with acts like Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Kid Cudi and Morrissey headlining this year. Big brands get on-board too: Dogfish Brewery sponsors the craft beer bar and TOMS is there selling and customizing its philanthropic line of shoes. When you hit a slump, cruise between The Coffee House (where you can listen to tunes while refueling with caffeine) and the nap-friendly Hammock Hangout.
KAABOO Del Mar Music Festival
Del Mar, California
If the idea of a muddy camp-out and portable bathrooms makes you cringe, KAABOO is for you. Held at the Del Mar Race Track near the Pacific and about 30 minutes from San Diego, this fest is all about the finer things in life: clean restrooms, 70-degree weather, craft cocktails, chef-driven food offerings and waterside cabanas. And the music? It’s about as varied and star-studded as your sophisticated taste requires (think No Doubt, The Killers, Snoop Dogg and Zac Brown Band).
Eaux Claires Festival
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Another heavy-hitting fest in small-town Eau Claire. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner team up for this dreamy music-and-mixed-media art hybrid. With sets designed by Michael Brown, the production designer for the two bands, you can expect haunting beauty and mesmerizing oddities. Other acts on the lineup include Boyz Noise, Tallest Man on Earth, Sufjan Stevens and Jon Mueller.