By RAYNE H. ELLIS Spring initiates the start of music festival season, from small venues like Piedmont Park in Atlanta, to huge ones like a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. With 32 million people going to at least one music festival a year, “music festivals are becoming one of young American’s favorite pastimes,”
according to a study done by Eventbrite. And with over a billion dollars being spent on these events in 2014 alone, choosing where to spend your money can seem overwhelming.
It is true that some festivals have gained a kind of cult-following, because the events themselves have gained such notoriety that they’ve become cultural events. However, the hype behind a festival should never be the leading cause for attending one. The process of determining which music festival is best for you should be based on three practical points: location, lineup, prices.
For all festivals, no matter the size, the price of travel and stay should always be taken into consideration, especially if the festival takes place in a larger city. Warmer weather brings tourists and hiked up hotel prices.
In combination with that, it’s always smart to know what you’re into, even if you’re unsure where to find it. Student at Georgia Southern University, and small festival frequenter, Lizzy Geddy, said the trick is doing your research, “I look at venues for more than just space or comfort, do they have other stuff you can experience? Is there art there? Is it known to be a positive experience? These are things you’re going to want to know.”
So we broke down all of the reasons you should (or shouldn’t) attend America’s most-talked-about music festivals.
Set in a park just 65 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, Bonnaroo has a rural backdrop and a lot of space. If you have your eyes set on this festival, get ready to camp. Not only does Bonnaroo win for largest outdoor space, but it is also estimated to be one of America’s largest camping event. So skip on the $324 tickets, if camping is not for you. The lineup is never without its stars. However, this festival tends to be more alternative rock, than anything else. The 2017 lineup features the likes of Flume, Lorde, and Chance the Rapper. If you miss them here, not to worry, these artists headline other music festivals throughout the year. So unless you live within a few hours of this event, love camping, and rock n’ roll, Bonnaroo is not for you.
Although it’s one of the most expensive music festivals in the country, Coachella usually provides a lineup to back it up. At $375 for general admission, you get to see 200 artists which boils down to less than $2 dollars per artist. The average price of a ticket to see Beyoncé, just one of its headliners, is $353, and that is without the concert fees. But prices aside, Coachella is set in the desert, with an average high temperature of 90 degrees. “I don’t think I’d survive in that desert,” New York University sophomore Stephanie Mao said. Chiefly because Coachella is also a camping festival and weather in deserts is unpredictable. So she trades in this festival, for a smaller one called Outside Lands set in San Francisco, with cooler temperatures and less people.
3. Governor’s Ball
Set on Randall’s Island, Governor’s Ball is a contender for one of the most smartly run music festivals. Beyond the lineup, and relatively low price, there’s the tourist experience. New York City is the number one selling point of this music festival. At around $300 for all three days, Governor’s Ball offers a variety of headliners to satisfy most music lovers, but also relies heavily on EDM and rap to fill up the smaller spots on the lineup. But Gov Ball is one of the most buzzed about festivals, and since it’s set in a large city, it’s hard to have an intimate experience with the music. So maybe trade in this festival for a newer festival in New York City, called Panorama, where the headliners are just as big, but the public hasn’t caught on yet, giving you more space to enjoy the music.
Boasting some of the same features as Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza takes place right in the middle of Chicago. However, at $275 for the 4-day event, those who go to Lollapalooza are only paying about $2 per artist to see all of the 142 artists in the lineup. Like Coachella, this event has a cult-following. Lollapalooza has established itself as a force in the music industry by incorporating well-known headliners with up-and-comers. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Future both headlined the 2016 festival. But if this huge event isn’t your style, maybe try Pitchfork music festival, also set in Chicago with huge headliners, where the attendance is only 20,000 people, compared to Lollapalooza’s 400,000.
The festivals mentioned above are huge in every sense of the word: venues, attendance, hype, cost.
The downside: The crowds at individual performance can be impossibly packed into tight spaces. The cost of buying the “right” clothes to match the mood of the event can be pretty steep, with magazines like Elle and InStyle suggesting outfits that cost over $200. So maybe none of the large festivals are for you.
Maybe a smaller festival is right for you? Small doesn’t mean in size, but in national reputation. Every region of the United States has its go-to music festivals, with similar caliber headliners and less crowds. So here are some of each region’s most important festivals.
- Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival has featured the likes of The Lumineers or Imagine Dragons. Panorama in New York City, though pricing at $325, has a much smaller crowd following, therefore creating spacious environment, but still has major headliners.
- Out in San Francisco, Outside Lands is a well-known music festival, but apart from those in the area, not many are aware of the huge event, making it a mostly locals in attendance. Set in the San Francisco Bay Park, this festival draws a more mature crowd.
- Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware actually has one of star studded lists of headliners, however it’s in Dover, making it hardly accessible to people outside of the area. It’s basically the less hot version of Bonnaroo.
- MusicFestNW is a five-day EDM and rock heavy event in Portland, Oregon that could take the place of the much larger Sasquatch Music Festival in Quincy, Washington.