Kyle Loomis is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily music columnist.
If you’ve been keeping up with the latest news from the music industry, then you’ve probably heard festival season unofficially began with the first weekend of Coachella Music and Arts Festival on Friday. Those of you who have experienced the indescribable atmosphere of a large-scale festival are familiar with the level of anticipation that accompanies the countdown to your event-of-choice. If you have not yet been to a music festival (and if you enjoy music, which I’m guessing you do since you’re reading this column), I highly recommend it.
To push you in the right direction, here are some events that are definitely worth looking into for your next weekend getaway. To minimize the distance of your trek, the festivals listed here all take place on the West Coast (or close to it). Of course, there are some phenomenal (or so I’ve heard) festivals around the country, such as Bonnaroo (Tennessee), Lollapalooza (Illinois) and South by Southwest (Texas) — if you want to go big with your vacation. For the rest of us, these western fests are great to add to your bucket list.
Coachella (April 12 – 14 and 19 – 21, 2013)
Ticket price range: about $350
For any California college student, this party in the desert needs no introduction. This coming Friday, I will embark on my fifth Coachella journey, so believe me when I say it is the premier live music experience in California.
Before you fellow Coachella vets start sounding off on the festival’s gradual downward spiral (too many annoying bros, too much added emphasis on electronic dance music (EDM) or general overpopulation, for example), I will admit Coachella is no longer the hipster haven it once was.
Regardless, the talent that Coachella organizer Goldenvoice consistently brings in each year is still top-notch, and the ability to camp at the venue for the weekend continues to make the Coachella atmosphere one of the most unique and fun experiences in the state.
Outside Lands (August 9 – 11, 2013)
Ticket price range: about $250
If there is any festival that is getting close to taking Coachella’s title as top-fest in California, it is San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival.
I’ve heard from many of my fellow festival junkies that Outside Lands has all the qualities that Coachella has lost the past few years, and having been a few times, I agree there is some truth to that assessment. The three-day Bay Area event boasts many of the same rock ‘n’ roll headliners as its Southern California counterpart, with a fraction of the EDM presence — which means not as many hardcore ravers with dime-sized pupils.
Another feature I love about Outside Lands is my ability to take my beer or wine anywhere in the festival, rather than being restricted to a 21-and-over beer garden area. It’s the little things.
Depending on your personal preference, attending an event in a big city may have more appeal than traveling to a small desert town. The historic Golden Gate Park is a breathtaking venue. I don’t really prefer one over the other, the two options each have their virtues and flaws.
If you’re interested in Outside Lands, be on the lookout for the release of this year’s lineup, set to be announced on Tuesday. Unfortunately, three-day passes are sold out (you might be able to find some overpriced tickets on Craigslist).
Sasquatch! (May 24 – 27, 2013)
Ticket price range: about $350
Of all the music festivals I have not yet been to, Sasquatch! Music Festival is at the top of my wish list. It takes place at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash., which has the reputation of being one of the most ridiculously gorgeous (pun not intended) venues in the world.
What else sets it apart from other western festivals? It’s a four-day event. Depending on how many days you’re able to evade work or school, this aspect could be an advantage or a headache. You might also be torn over choosing which days to omit from your trip north.
Like Outside Lands, the vast majority of a typical Sasquatch! lineup is rock bands — both classic and contemporary — with few EDM producers and DJs (as well as some hip-hop here and there).
Lightning in a Bottle (July 11 – 15, 2013)
Ticket price range: $240 to $275 (for a full weekend pass)
The next big up-and-coming EDM festival in California is an incredibly lengthy, five-day extravaganza called Lightning in a Bottle, organized by The Do LaB (a company that runs a bass-tastic stage in Coachella each year). This year’s iteration of the event will take place in Temecula, Calif.
Lightning in a Bottle differs from the typical EDM festival by emphasizing art, including large-scale structures and more traditional exhibitions that feature painters and sculptors.
A Lightning in a Bottle lineup traditionally has more lesser-known, bizarre EDM producers and DJs (in addition to some big-name headliners), specializing in subgenres such as breakbeat, nu-disco or glitchstep, rather than the progressive house that has broken into the Top 40 community.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (Oct. 4 – 6, 2013)
Ticket price range: free
Lastly, there is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. This festival, also held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, does not generate the same kind of enthusiasm among college-aged youth as the aforementioned events. For one, the lineup is populated by names that are completely obscure to our demographic (even I don’t recognize most of the names). Then, there’s the fact that the genres represented are almost entirely in the folk-bluegrass realm of music (so if that’s not your cup of tea, you might not bother going).
But then again, attendance is free. Yes, you read correctly: no money necessary.
So why not go and educate yourself in a genre of music that is largely lost on your peers and hang out with some groovy, San Francisco baby boomers? I can’t think of a good reason not to.