It’s almost that time of year again to start stuffing the station wagon and pulling out the lawn chairs for another season of music festivals. Festival culture is bigger than ever now, and there are way more to choose from. So before you go and spend all your money on one that looks tempting, it would be prudent to weigh all of your options. That’s a tall order, but here are seven things to keep in mind when choosing the summer festival that’s right for you.
|Go local and save the travel expense|
A number of new festivals have been welcomed to the Boston area within the past few years. In the city alone, Boston Calling is the perfect way to both kick off and cap off the summer with some of the biggest and most up-and-coming names in touring music. This spring’s festival (May 23-25) features headliners like Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, and Modest Mouse, and while tickets are a bit pricey, the concert includes all ages, and travel and lodging expenses aren’t necessary if you live close enough to the city. For a very different option, check out Together (May 11-18), now in its fifth year. The festival, which can be seen as Boston’s answer to SXSW, in that it takes place in different venues throughout the city over the course of a week. It includes panels and workshops as well as performances, and celebrates art an technology along with music. Those with an allegiance to guitars may feel a bit lost at Together, but those with an open mind will definitely be able to explore new things and experience innovation in music. Acts like Mos Def, Chet Faker, and SOHN have already been announced, and passes will be on sale soon. Unfortunately, Outside the Box Festival will not continue this summer, but keep an eye out for events like BUFUFEST to check out new music at a low cost (Apr. 25-26).
|Go regional and remain within a reasonable driving distance|
Looking to get out of the city, but don’t want to pay up for a plane ticket? No worries, New England has plenty to offer within driving distance. Kahbang in Bangor, Maine, (Aug. 7-10) and The Nines in Devens, Mass., (dates TBA) are affordable and eclectic options for early August. While neither festival has announced a 2014 lineup yet, The Nines is a good option because it is located just an hour outside of Boston, and Kahbang is noteworthy for including a film, art, and brewing festivals. For smaller options, check out the Thing in the Spring in Peterborough, N.H., (June 5-8) featuring acts like Joan of Arc, Magik Markers, and Pile. Or if you’re equally as into yoga as you are into music, don’t miss the Wanderlust Festival in Bondville, Vt. (Jun. 19-22).
|Go camping and save the hotel expense|
Summer camping music festivals are such an old tradition that some of your parents may have conceived you at one (gross). The concept of these sleepover fests have only expanded over the years, and today, it doesn’t get much bigger than the experience of Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn. (June 12-15). The 12-year-old event has always put together the most diverse and big-time list of talent in both music and comedy. It will announce its initial lineup tomorrow. Camping festivals don’t have to just be about the lineup either. Sometimes it’s nice to just get away and see some new terrain. Sasquatch in George, Wash. (May 23-25 and July 4-6) is the best of both worlds. The event, which takes place on two separate weekends throughout the summer, is located at The Gorge, known as one of the most beautiful natural amphitheaters in the world, and features acts like Outkast and Neutral Milk Hotel. High Sierra (July 3-6) is another scenic option, taking place in the mountains of Northern California and including some the best in the jam band world.
|Go genre specific if you really love that genre|
If you are really looking to find likeminded music fans, head to a festival that features only your favorite musical styles. Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I., (July 25-17) is conveniently located just a couple hours outside of Boston and features some of the best names in modern acoustic music at an unbeatable location. If you’re looking for something almost completely the opposite, electronic music festivals are starting to pop up right and left, like Camp Bisco (dates TBA) and Electric Zoo (dates TBA) in New York, Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas (June 20-22), and Electric Forest in Rothbury, Mich. (June 26-29). For the best in bluegrass, find your way out to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June 19-22), or down to Maryland for DelFest (May 22-25).
|Go to a jam band festival and experience the most authentic festival vibes|
Nobody does the American music festival better than the jam band crowd. A gathering of bands and hippies can quickly turn into a marketplace for beads, burritos, bowls, goofballs, beers, and the finest strands of weed our country has to offer. You also won’t be judged no matter how bad of a dancer you are. Close enough to Boston, Connecticut’s Gathering of the Vibes (July 31-Aug. 3) was started after Jerry Garcia’s passing to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead, and Hunter, N.Y.’s Mountain Jam (June 5-8) takes place in the Catskill Mountains and features acts like Gov’t Mule, the Avett Brothers, and Bob Weir & Ratdog. Beyond the northeast, Illinois’ Summer Camp (May 23-25) includes some of the best noodlers in the business, like moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and the Trey Anastasio Band, and even hosts a sunrise kickball game with members of the different bands. If for some reason you’re looking for an excuse to visit Ozark, Ark., head to Wakarusa (June 5-8) and catch sets from String Cheese Incident, STS9, and more.
|Go big or stay home|
A music festival is a way to treat yo’self, basically like a vacation. So why hold back? Save up enough cash and you could attend a premier festival in a unique location and have enough money for travel and lodging. Classics like Lollapalooza in Chicago (Aug. 1-3) are good bets, but newer options like Governor’s Ball in New York (June 6-8), would also give you the chance to see Outkast and then explore the nightlife of the best city in America. Hear live music right on a beautiful beach at Alabama’s Hangout Festival (May 16-18), explore San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park at Outside Lands (Aug. 8-10), or see the best burgeoning indie bands at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival (Jul. 18-20). Shit, if you’ve got enough extra money laying around, plan a trip to Europe and see the Reading or Leeds Festivals in England (Aug. 22-24).
|Do NOT go to Gathering of the Juggalos|
Unless of course you’re a Juggalo. Whoop Whoop!
[Photo Credit: Michael Weintrob/Globe archives]