Our love affair with craft means that music festivals can always do more. We’ve grown used to pours and bites from a couple of major sponsors at typical sonic gatherings, but thanks to the food cart, some creative minds, and a general heightened interest in quality, we’re witnessing a new era of the outdoors rock ‘n’ roll weekend.
It’s a tightrope walk for certain, balancing the right lineup of tunes with vendors while still keeping the overall atmosphere approachable and maintaining the carefree spirit of the festival. Short-lived fests like Googamooga, Sweet Life, and Travelers’ Rest suggest that it’s not always the easiest code to crack. However, the below options take things to volume eleven, treating attendees to elevated food and drinks programs in addition to quality music.
Founded a decade ago by pioneering California winery Gundlach Bundschu, Huichica has since expanded to two other wine-centric locations. The mellow, kid-friendly gathering attracts fantastic talent like Yo La Tengo, Destroyer, and Fruit Bats. Even more, it keeps a healthy stream of local beer and grub flowing. And, being a brainchild of a sixth-generation winery and set in one of three remarkable appellations, there’s always plenty of good fermented juice on hand.
Next year, the festival will be making stops in Sonoma in June and Walla Walla in September. Dates for a Hudson Valley fest are in the works.
Set in Happy Valley, a short drive from Portland, this festival is pure rural paradise. A trail system connects several intimate stages, located in bucolic barns next to farm animals or deep in the woods. On top of one of the best curated musical lineups out there (you’re guaranteed to come away with a new favorite band, regardless of how big of a music nerd you may be), the fest is renowned for its assembly of farm-fresh food carts and overall sustainability.
While the vendor list changes some every year, there’s always a strong selection of local craft beers, alongside wines from the surrounding Willamette Valley. Past labels include wines from Harper Voit and Guild and beers from Base Camp and Pelican. Portland-area restaurants always make their delicious presence felt, such as Bunk Sandwiches and Pine State Biscuits. Musically, you can expect a diverse lineup, from indie to hip-hop, and a jaw-dropping international act or two, like Tinariwen or DakhaBrakha.
Most know Pitchfork for its reviews and news content but the Chicago-based outlet throws a mean party too. Held each summer, this festival showcases established and emerging bands coupled with food and drinks from some forty vendors. There tend to be more creative (and sometimes collaborative) offerings from hometown brewery Goose Island, along with cider and frozen cider cocktails from nearby Virtue, as well as solid grub from places like Chicago Diner and Puffs of Doom.
As a springtime gathering in perhaps the nation’s most famous winemaking valley, there had better be wine. More than a dozen producers officially poured their wares at last year’s festival, alongside beer from Hop Valley, Saint Archer, Lagunitas, and more. In addition to a bourbon bar and reasonable cocktail list, there are also generous food offerings — maybe the best in the circuit — from the likes of Morimoto, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc.
While the vendor list within festival grounds is generally strong, there are even more treasures to be found just outside. Sprawling Zilker Park plays host and is just a short walk from downtown Austin, where mouthwatering joints like Texas Chili Parlor and Iron Works await. Plus, with the many after shows that take place festival weekends, you’ll be looking for even greater off-grounds options like Stubb’s (treat yourself to a spirited gospel brunch) and The Roosevelt Room.
One of the granddaddies of the game, Jazz Fest turned 50 this year and proudly wears its bayou setting on its sleeves. The festival map touts New Orleans fixtures like frozen beverages, peanuts, and pralines. You can snack on crawfish bread, jambalaya, po-boys, freshly shucked oysters, and alligator pie and cool off with a mango freeze or homemade lemon meringue pie. Toast the festival’s roughly 500 acts with an Abita brew or rum punch or wander beyond the gates to the city’s many fine establishments, like Jewel of the South or N7.
This smaller indie fest used to call Big Sur home but is now a budding east coast tradition. Started by folk-rockers Woods, the event touts fantastic act’s from the band’s own label as well as food and drinks from a small, but thoughtful selection of Hudson Valley purveyors.
Long-running Seattle fest Bumbershoot had a doubtful future a while back but, after some tweaking and restructuring, will be back next summer. The lineup is always good and given the proximity to so much great Emerald City fare, you can count on a respectable cast of area restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. The fest is even known to incorporate some of the city’s most beloved local chefs via its B-Eats program.
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