Been to Coachella and Burning Man and want to experience music like never before? The key is to move down the ladder, not up. If you want the best indie music in the most atmospheric locations, aim for the roads less traveled and the music festivals less frequented.
Rochester International Jazz Festival – Rochester, New York
Into jazz? This festival draws thousands of jazz artists to take the stage and takes place over 19 different venues. You’ll find smaller jazz names, genre students, and even headliners, so you get an even mix. You can also use apartment rentals here to make the most of your New York visit.
Forecastle Festival – Louisville, Kentucky
This waterfront festival occurs just off the shores of the Ohio River. While still not a big fest, it’s one of the largest in the Southeast and has seen big name headliners in the past. The real draw? The Borbon Lodge, where tons of local distilleries hand out free samples throughout the fest.
Big Dub Festival – Artemas, Pennsylvania
This burner festival is essentially Burning Man lite. It’s much cheaper, has better music selections and has just enough people to feel like you’re part of something, but not too many that you’d get claustrophobic. It’s EDM centric and also focuses on music workshops and yoga.
Festival of the Bluegrass – Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is famous for its bluegrass, so lo and behold the biggest bluegrass festival in the country is held here. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll find unknowns and bluegrass legends performing here, as well as live animal shows and music classes. Also, there’s a horse museum.
Crown Summer Series – Kalispell, Montana
For two days in July and August, enjoy live music acts in Montana Raceway Park, Glacier National Park’s less attractive sister area. Still, the view is great and the music’s even better.
Electric Forest – Mothbury, Michigan
The name really explains it all. Enjoy big electronic music headlines and unknowns while taking in the view of thousands of trees covered in neon lights and dayglow paint.
Sloss Music & Arts Festival – Birmingham, Alabama
Do you like live music? Do you like smelting metal? Come to Sloss Music & Arts Festival, where you can have your cake and eat it too in the venue (an old iron factory).
Rockin’ the River – Ft. Worth, Texas
Ever been to a music festival and thought “this would be so much better if I was in a river right now?” If so, Rockin’ the River is right up your alley. Hop on an inner tube and enjoy great live music for no charge at all. Avoid it if you aren’t into country style, though.
Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival – Trumansburg, NY
Finger Lakes has been called underrated by many a traveler tired of hearing about how fantastic NYC is. Their music festival lasts for four days and helps raise money for charity, and it’s famous in the Midwest. It’s known for celebrating undiscovered acts and also featuring big names on occasion.
Hinterland Music Festival – St. Charles, IA
The Hinterland Music Festival is one that’s still cheap, at about $50 a day, and big name and indie act alike play here. If you enjoy folk, rock, and country, you’ll be right at home here.