As this eerily long winter has finally receded into hibernation, we're left to embrace the always too-short summer. But for us music lovers, the warmer weather indicates one thing: festival season is upon us. Our exhilarating coverage at SXSW and Coachella only made these past few weeks a little more bearable. While a myriad of lineups offer incredible variety ranging from bluegrass to EDM, you certainly don't have to put up with unwanted shows to see the acts you're there for. Whether you've been saving up all year for this summer's festivals, or your savings account is empty (like mine), there's still time to plan out some remarkable escapes.
This serves as an outline to festival goers who, like me, can't stand the ridiculousness of the EDM scene: from tutus to neon wife beaters and glitter, it all feels like a twisted nightmare. Besides the communal understandings of Bonnaroo, the dreadlocks and animal hats don't always seem to mesh. If you're looking to enjoy a vibrant festival threaded with rock, blues, jam, folk, and jazz sounds, this is the guide for you.
1. Delfest (May 23-26)
If you're craving some down to the roots bluegrass in the northeast, Delfest 2013's lineup may satisfy that wish. Old Crow Medicine Show, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Trampled by Turtles emulate classic bluegrass with a modern feel. The classic Del McCoury Band always puts on a stellar set, as well. Don't be fooled by bluegrass alone, the Trey Anastasio Band will be playing two sets, so you'll most likely encounter a number of Phish heads flocking to hail Trey on Memorial Day Weekend. Regardless, Delfest seems very worth the trek.
2. Mountain Jam (June 6-9)
Tucked away on the outskirts of New York City, Hunter Mountain's 9th annual Mountain Jam lineup shows how much this festival has evolved over the years. They've got a solid mix of old school acts like Phil Lesh & Friends and Gov't Mule. Some other popular bands include Big Giantic, The Avett Brothers, Gary Clark Jr., Gaslight Anthem and Deer Tick. The unstructured, funky sounds of the brass-heavy Rubblebucket, the blooming vibrancy of ALO, and the impeccable jazz that Soulive provides are among the other artists that provide some soulful sounds and astonishing musicianship on stage. The four-day passes are almost sold out, so be sure to grab your tickets ASAP. With a balanced lineup of older acts mingled with fresh, young rockers and fearless, funk-driven artists, this diverse lineup satisfies the typical granola goer with the right amount of variety.
3. Frendly Gathering (June 28-29)
75 bucks for a festival? It may just be two days long, but that's a pretty stellar deal for anyone who's budget doesn't allow for a four-day extravaganza of tunes. Located on the Timber Ridge Mountain in Windham, VT, this newer festival, presented by Burton Snowboards and Ben & Jerry's, couldn't be more organic if it tried. The headliners include Beats Antique, the incredibly talented Keller Williams, and Tea Leaf Green. Besides its seclusion, this cozy feel of Frendly Gathering can be attributed to the endless activities you can explore on the mountain. With hiking trails and hidden streams, a weekend at the Frendly Gathering provides an effortless escape and an assurance of isolation to do, well...you know.
4. All Good (July 18-21)
A bit larger and farther than the Frendly Gathering , All Good also presents a heady lineup hidden in the greenery. If you make the trek out to Thornville, Ohio, you're assured a weekend of body shaking bliss. All Good (of course) celebrates the Grateful Dead with Furthur and Dark Star Orchestra, but it goes beyond the old tunes with newer acts like Pretty Lights, STS9, Grace Potter, and Jon Butler Trio. All Good is also one of the only festival stops for Everyone Orchestra, which is by far one of the most energizing acts to see live. Conductor Matt Butler arranges a roster of musicians from the various acts and conducts a live experimental sound, completely improvised on stage. The mood shifts with the crowd, and leaves audience members in an intangible awe.
5. Ninth Annual Targhee Music Festival (July 19-21)
The rural settings of the Wyoming Mountains seem to perfectly fit the vibrant soul of bands like Alabama Shakes and the legendary Bruce Hornsby. The lineup is definitely more rock and blues infused and family-friendly. Its located on the Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming, so the festival isn't a complete getaway from the real world. The resort offers a plethora of attractions for people of all ages, so the crowd here tends to range. However, I can't think of a better place to see such a raw, expressive group of musicians.
6. Gathering of The Vibes (July 25-28)
The crunchiest of the granola crop. You won't even find any hint of a raver scene here. And for those who think they're hip, I can assure you the chick next to you has longer armpit hair than your dad. This is Phil Lesh and Bob Weir's pride and joy, tucked along the outskirts of Bridgeport Park in Connecticut. It's not in the middle of the mountains, but for anyone in the tri-state area, the drive is convenient. It emulates the spirit of the Grateful Dead, and you're more than likely to meet some people who've been on tour since 1969. I'm not kidding. You'll see families with youngsters, teenagers, and adults alike. You can cool off by taking a dip in the water (not sure if it's radioactive or not, but at the end of July it doesn't really matter). The live art, drum circles, and vendors give you a feeling of hospitality among each other. This year marks the anniversary of The Gathering, with Phil and Friends headlining two nights. Other acts to not miss include: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Jon Butler Trio, Galactic, Thievery Corporation, Soulive, and Kung Fu. If you're looking for any heavy electronics, you won't find them here. Vibes is strictly jam, and sort of a time warp for everyone involved.
7. Outside Lands (August 9-11)
If the opportunity presents itself to bask in the greatness at the Golden Gate Park, and you get to see the still flawless Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the National, Willie Nelson, and countless others, you cannot let it go. Although this may not be considered completely heady, the variety touches upon all the musical senses. Band of Horses, Vampire Weekend, Young the Giant, Kurt Vile, Foals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Grizzly Bear are just some of Outside Lands' main stagers. If you're on the West Coast, there's no need to journey to Tennessee for Bonnaroo, or gaze at Firefly's lineup with jealousy when you can see some of this year's most colorful acts at Golden Gate Park, the mecca of granola goers.
8. Peach Festival (August 15-18)
Although only Phase One of the lineup has been announced, Phase One is convincing enough for me. There are two nights of Allman Brothers and Bob Weir, along with Rusted Root, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and Galactic. For Deadheads, there will be a personal brunch solo acoustic set with Weir. If you can't make Vibes for any reason, this is the closest festival you'll get to it, plus it's in a less crowded area. Tickets are still fairly cheap for this fest, and will only go up with the announcement of Phase Two.
9. Camp Barefoot (August 22-24)
If you're searching for a laid back gala and hoping to discover upcoming bands to the jam scene, Camp Barefoot is the true fit. What makes this festie so unique is how it serves as an outlet for known artists to perform their work aside from their respective bands. Kyle Hollingsworth, the keyboardist for String Cheese Incident has his band headlining, as well as Ras Puma of Thievery Corporation and Nigel Hall from Lettuce. Of course the guitar mastermind Keller Williams will be playing, as well as the jamtronica Conspirator (whose lineup includes Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner from the Disco Biscuits). The majority of the lineup is reserved for the regional bands who worked through a series of auditions to take the stage at Barefoot. A musical rejuvenation and some possible new additions to your music library are most likely to be found in the landscapes of West Virginia.
10. Catskill Chill (May 23-26)
This laid back fest has some solid potential as your last farewell to summer. Although last year's fest sold out rather quickly, the organizers aren't expanding, keeping their focus on a small, family feel. Besides the Golden Gate Park, the Catskill Mountains probably take second place for best granola location. Even if you only get a chance to attend this fest, their roster expands all elements of the above festivals. The Meters (arguably some of the most important pioneers of funk music) are headlining. Other jam favorites include Lotus, Galactic, Dopapod, Kung Fu, and Twiddle. For a euphoric blend of fresh mountain mist and enthralling performers, Catskill Chill is a great way to bid farewell to festie season.