IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Summer’s top music festivals

John Shearer
All Points West Festival offers fans a breathtaking Manhattan skyline and three days of epic music. This year, Tool and the Beastie Boys will headline.John Shearer / All Points West Festival
/ Source: Forbes

Though the economy may have hit a low note, it seems that people are still willing to pay for a music high. In fact, most music festivals may not be feeling the fiscal pinch; festival producers across the country say ticket sales are just as high as last year, if not better.

Ken Weinstein, who represents Bonnaroo, one of the largest and most famous summer festivals, says, "Bonnaroo offers fans four of the best days of their lives, during which they are not only allowed but required to forget the recession and all the unfortunate things going on in the world.”

Former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, believes the longevity of music festivals proves the music industry is not dying, because, as he says, festivals "get people out of the house ... to experience something amazing, something that they can't download, something that they're going to tell their friends about."

It's best to think of a summer music festival as a camping trip with 60,000 like-minded people. Don't just pack for the party. "Music is the perfect place to bring people together. Pack lots of water and don't be afraid to meet people and have a great time," says Verdine White, the bassist of Earth, Wind and Fire. At most festivals, like Coachella, All Good, Camp Bisco and the Mile High Music Fest, patrons choose to camp, bring an RV or stay in nearby hotels and inns.

The All Good Music Festival offers acres of grassy lands where you can park next to your tent, walk no more than 30 minutes to the stage and wake up in the West Virginia mountains. Aside from traditional camping gear (tents, sleeping bags, a grill and bug spray), you can turn your camping site into a comfy home base with tiki torches, hammocks, cabanas and portable showers.

Part of the allure of summer music festivals is the location. Rothbury Music Fest in Rothbury, Mich., offers tranquil lakes and campgrounds with private cabins for VIP members. The New Orleans Jazz Fest extends beyond the daytime fairgrounds and every club and bar in the city hosts live jazz.

“We’re uptown, it’s almost midnight, and the street is full of people. When people come to New Orleans, they know its okay to have a good time,” says Gregory Davis, one of the founders of the NOLA-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Each night, the Jazz Fest party pours out into the streets where revelers dance, drink hard lemonade, cold Abita beer and catch crawfish in their mouths.

Festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the Mile High Music Fest take place in wide open spaces with hot, dry days that require sunscreen and very light clothing. But as soon as the sun goes down be sure to layer for colder nights and check the weather for rain. Avoid flip-flops; your feet will thank you after each long night of dancing and walking between the campsite and stages. Instead, pack shoes you don't care about getting muddy like old sneakers, lightweight hiking boots or Crocs.

While festival grounds have ATMs, avoid the long lines and bring enough cash to cover food, drinks and ice. Pack a cooler with cut vegetables, fresh fruit and ready-to-grill items. Make sure to buy plenty of water jugs and, of course, toilet paper.

Les Claypool, bassist of Primus who's been on the festival circuit for over 20 years, leaves festival-goers one last message: "Peel off the suit, get out there and dance around in the dust."