Best Fests: Sonic Overload Music Festivals

The Drive-By Truckers at FloydFest 2012. Photo: Roger Gupta

If you are looking to have your face melted, check out these music festivals:

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

June 13-16
Manchester, Tenn. 

Basics: After more than a decade, the dusty 700-acre farm in the middle of Tennessee is still hosting one of the country’s best music fests. Pace yourself and stay hydrated—best advice if you want to catch even a reasonable percentage on Bonnaroo’s stellar line-up that’s featured on a dizzying number of stages. Plus make time for additional offerings like the comedy shows, cinema tent, Silent Disco, and Food Truck Oasis.

Bands: Headliners this year include Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, and Mumford and Sons. Looking deeper, lesser-known gems on the bill include Tame Impala, Father John Misty, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Local Natives. Don’t miss the special Soul Superjam led by Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

Set Break Escape: If the crowds get too heavy, take a post-fest sojourn to Fall Creek Falls State Park—less than 60 miles east of Manchester. You’ll find 34 miles of hiking trails amid an abundance of gorges, waterfalls, and a lush stretch of virgin hardwood forest.


Hangout Music Festival
May 17-19
Gulf Shores, Ala.

A mega-fest on the beach. If this sounds like your kind of party, get down to Gulf Shores and catch sets from Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Trey Anastasio, the Shins, Bassnectar, and many more. 

Nelsonville Music Festival
May 30—June 2
Nelsonville, Ohio

Big on musical offerings and intimate on vibe, this festival in the hills of Southeast Ohio offers a relaxed atmosphere as it hosts some of the best in indie rock and Americana. From multiple stages at the Historic Village of Robbins Crossing at Hocking College, catch sets from Wilco, John Prine, Calexico, Mavis Staples, and many more. 

Forecastle Festival
July 12-14
Louisville, Ky.

From the same folks that bring you Bonnaroo, Forecastle features a huge slate of bands at Louisville’s Waterfront Park. Headliners this year include the Black Keys, Avett Brothers, the String Cheese Incident, and Jim James. In addition to the tunes, this fest honors its home state’s great trade with a Bourbon Lodge. Enjoy. 

All Good Music Festival
July 18-21
Thornville, Ohio

A couple of years ago All Good notched over a state from West Virginia to Ohio’s idyllic Legend Valley. If you’re a jam fan, it’s still worth the trip, as this fest packs in the heavyweights including Furthur, Primus, Pretty Lights, STS9, Grace Potter, Keller Williams, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Leftover Salmon.

Midtown Music Festival
September TBD
Atlanta, Ga.

Entering its third year after a lengthy layoff, this revitalized bash packs heavyweight acts and huge crowds into Piedmont Park. Last year featured sets by Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, and the Avett Brothers. This year’s line-up coming soon.

Check out the rest of our Outdoor Festival Guide!


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