12 California Music Festivals Worth the Drive This Summer
Lizzo paired with wine, or guitar gods and 80 breweries? Take your pick.
Two weekends of Coachella have come and gone. Stagecoach has moseyed off into the distance. Whether or not you made it to Indio last month, there are a ton of excellent music festivals coming up this summer, throughout California and just across the Nevada border.
From new country to nu metal, Mariah to Missy, Korn to modern bands that actually want to sound like Korn, there’s a fest that deserves to be in your plans, from Memorial Day through Labor Day (and a little beyond).
Lightning in a Bottle, May 24-29
If you’ve always sort of wanted to go to Burning Man but just can’t be bothered, consider a trip to Buena Vista Lake, CA, for the 20th anniversary of this slightly less demanding festival. It’s five days of camping, dancing, Diplo, dreadlocks, holistic living, RVs, Sofi Tukker, Zhu and more. So, so, so much more.
California Roots, May 25-28
It’s a festival run on vibes. It’s a chill vibe. Headliners include Rebelution, Stick Figure, Dirty Heads and Wu-Tang Clan (when did Staten Island’s finest turn into the elder statesmen of weed festival headliners? 2013? 2018?). The 13th annual music and arts festival is a little bit hip-hop, a little bit electronic and a hell of a lot of reggae.
BottleRock Napa Valley, May 26-28
Listen, I love the Smashing Pumpkins. I think they’re one of the most overlooked, culturally relevant bands of the last 30 years. But it’s really silly they’re one of the headliners of this music, wine and food festival. The other top billed acts are Post Malone (makes sense, dude likes to party), Lizzo (everyone loves Lizzo), Duran Duran (everyone and their parents love Duran Duran), Red Hot Chili Peppers (what rap-funk band is more appropriate for Napa Valley?) and Lil Nas X (“Old Town Road” is the gateway drug for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”). They all make sense. Billy and friends are going to get a sunburn. It’s going to be great.
Punk Rock Bowling, May 26-29
This Vegas fest is good for the person who wants to see as many acts as possible in a traditional festival setting and the curmudgeon who only thinks live music is good in a club setting. The big, outdoor thing is May 27, 28 and 29 with no overlapping sets, something rarely done. The club shows are throughout downtown Vegas from May 26 to 29 and do not overlap with the regular festival, something also rarely done. And there’s bowling, obviously. If you went to Warped Tour in 2003 and wish you could have legally drank at Warped Tour in 2003, here’s your chance to enjoy sets by Rancid, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys and a few dozen more punk lifers.
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Stuart Roy Clarke’s “Glastonbury All Mine” shows all angles of festival life
Country Summer Music Festival, June 16-18
This Santa Rosa festival does not mess around with its name; it’s just not entirely accurate. If you like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Church, Brothers Osborne and more country and country-adjacent acts, you may enjoy this springtime festival. But summer officially begins June 21. And Lynyrd Skynyrd is southern rock.
High Sierra Music Festival, June 29-July 2
This camping-friendly festival in Quincy, CA, has a jam-band vibe but headliner Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit helps give it a country and rock vibe, which is perfect since it’s the weekend before Independence Day, and Isbell may become America’s most important voice in rock ‘n’ roll if/when Springsteen ever stops touring.
Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival, July 22-23
Some reggae fests are a few reggae bands and a bunch of hip-hop, electronic and jazz acts. Not this fest! Rebelution headlines Saturday, Stick Figure headlines Sunday, and a dozen more acts perform at the sixth annual fest.
Blue Note Jazz Festival, July 28-30
I love jazz. Jazz legends Mary J. Blige, Nas and Chance the Rapper headline each night. Jazz comic Dave Chappelle hosts. All kidding aside, apart from the headliners, this Napa fest has a stacked, jazz-centric lineup. Expect highly billed Ari Lennox to be headlining this thing in a few years.
Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza, August 3-6
Maybe the most scenic festival on this list, the 27th edition of this beer and music fest is a great reason to visit Mammoth Lakes. Go for guitar god Kenny Wayne Shepherd, stay for the 80 participating breweries. Eighty! You’ll need all four days to responsibly sample every brewery.
Sol Blume, August 19-20
One of the best R&B festival lineups anywhere across the globe, Sol Blume will make Sacramento the epicenter of the future of the genre in mid-August. Headliners Brent Faiyaz and Kehlani are great, but do not sleep on Ella Mai and Teyana Taylor.
Down in the Valley, September 2-3
If you’re a fan of the Head and the Heart, you’re going to want to be in Napa the first weekend in September. This is their festival, but we’re most excited for Waxahatchee and Faye Webster.
Life Is Beautiful, September 22-24
Celebrate a decade of this Vegas festival with hometown favorites the Killers on Friday, Kendrick Lamar on Saturday and festival fave Odesza on Sunday. Like most fests, the acts just under the headliners are the ones you really want to catch: Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Friday, The 1975 on Saturday and Kim Petras on Sunday.
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