Summer has been in the New York air this past week (something which, for many months, we wholeheartedly believed we’d never be able to say again). The sunshine and the palpable humidity have put us in mind of one of our favorite summertime, and Southern, activities: listening to music in the great outdoors. May is also the real kick-off to festival season in the South, with Jazz Fest (New Orleans) and Shaky Knees (Atlanta) getting things off to a rip-roaring start. There’s more to summer music-going down in Dixie than a certain Tennessee tent city. Here are six of the options available to you south of the Mason-Dixon line if you’re looking for sunshine, songs, and a damn good time.
Rooster Walk (Axton, VA): Created to honor two childhood friends, Edwin “The Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, who passed away in their 20s, this annual shindig at Pop’s Farm draws around 3,500 people each year for a celebration of life, community, and music.Named the Number One Under the Radar Festival in the South by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and recently features in Huffington Post, Rooster Walk has raised over $70,000 for scholarship funds and other charities — a damn good time for a good cause to boot.
When: May 21-24
Price: $135 for the weekend, $25-50 for a single day
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: You may if you so choose.
Don’t Miss: Lake Street Dive! Their smooth retro jams are headlining on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
For More Info: roosterwalk.com
Free Press Summer Fest (Houston, TX): A raucous, rain or shine good time held in Eleanor Tinsley Park. Houston has been enjoying a hipster renaissance of late, constantly topping lists of the country’s best cities for young folks looking for opportunities both professional and recreational. From the headliners (R. Kelly, Weezer, The Decemberists, St. Vincent…) down to the itty bitty stages (Houndmouth, Brandi Carlile, The Mountain Goats, and more), this festival proves it’s true what they say: Everything’s big in Texas.
When: June 6-7
Price: $168.50 for the weekend
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: No siree Bob.
Don’t Miss: Belle and Sebastian! This Scottish duo hardly ever tours in the U.S., and it is one of the greatest tragedies of my life that I have never seen them live. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, kids.
For More Info: fpsf.com
Forecastle (Louisville, KY): Our favorite of the summer music festivals. We may be biased since it is in our hometown, allowing us to festival it up by day and then sleep for free and in our own beds at night, but even so this festival offers a pretty perfect balance of big name acts and local talent, while also providing a pretty wide array of genres for its size, and tons of yummy local food options to boot. Held on the banks of the Ohio, we came for the face paint and the sunshine and stayed for the Bourbon Lodge.
When: July 17-19
Price: $184.50 for the weekend, $74.50 for the day
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: Nope!
Don’t Miss: Houndmouth! Our favorite things to ever come out of Indiana are making the 3rd appearance at the festival (and 2nd on the big kid stage).
For More Info: forecastlefest.com
Sloss Music and Arts Festival (Birmingham, AL): Can’t make it up to Louisville? Check out this brand new festival sashaying onto the scene this year. The folks behind Sloss want to celebrate the “regional craft beer and specialty cocktail scene,” along with great food and great music. And even though they’re newbies, their lineup is kickass — from The New Pornographers (one of my favorites) to Modest Mouse to Tyler, the Creator. Also, they suggest you bring a hula hoop. Interpret as you will.
When: July 18-19
Price: $135 for both days
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: No ma’am!
For More Info: slossfest.com
Floyd Fest (Floyd, VA): Small and mighty, showcasing the best of Appalachia and the American music tradition (with plenty of contemporary rock in the mix), these guys describe themselves as a “magical musical mountain experience.” If that wasn’t enough to convince you, check out the line-up (from Emmylou Harris on down to new-favorite-band-name Chamomile and Whiskey) and the big-hearted sense of community. If a bear hug were ever a music festival, this would be the one.
When: July 22-26
Price: $240 for all five days, $100 for just one
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: You *get* to sleep in a tent.
For More Info: floydfest.com
Secret Stages (Birmingham, AL): Forget everything you know about music festivals. This indie treasure hunt is spread out among seven stages, all within a two-block radius in the heart of downtown Birmingham. The so-called “Walking Festival” offers a 60-band smorgasbord from which you can take your pick, with a majority of the bands hailing from around the South. Come find your new off-the-radar favorite, like the little musical hipster you know you are.
When: July 31-Aug. 1
Price: $25 for the weekend
Do I Have to Sleep in a Tent: No way, Jose!
For More Info: secretstages.net