Tell me about these music festivals you speak of
February 19, 2012 3:49 PM   Subscribe

In NYC, never been to a music festival, but want to go to one this spring/summer. What's my best bet?

Music festivals sound sweet, but I've never been to one. I live in NYC (we'd be two people in their 20's travelling) and am totally up for travelling somewhere for one. I love all types of music (rock, hip-hop, electronica) so a varied festival would be great.

I know that Bonnaroo and Coachella exist, but don't know anything about them or any other festival or what to expect when I get there. Is there a 'best' music festival to attend? Are there specific ones to avoid? Obviously, the more accessible from NYC, the better, but totally up for travel too.

I see that admission tickets for the events are generally $200-$300 but what other costs are involved that I'm not seeing. I dont have a tent or anything so assuming that most people buy a tent and head down to the various festivals? Or do people just drive down in their cars and sleep in them?

Looking forward to your suggestions mefites!
posted by jourman2 to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are always a few music festivals on Randall's Island in NYC every summer.
I just did a quick search, and here are two this summer. 1 2
There might be others.
posted by Flood at 3:52 PM on February 19, 2012

Clearwater Festival maybe a little mellow for your tastes, but it is one of the best music festivals that I've ever been to. The vibe is fantastic, the location is lovely and it's cheap compared to most other festivals. It's a super easy trip from NYC. You can get there by Metro North, and there were plenty of buses taking people from the station to the park. Last year, Metro North ran a special where you could buy a train ticket plus a day pass for cheaper that the cost of day pass separately! They also have camping available.

Other bonuses- You can bring whatever you want into the festival (chairs, blankets, food & drink). The stages are spread out enough so that you don't get much interference from other shows going on, but are close enough that you can hop from place to place with out killing yourself. There's a robust food court, as well as a locavore food court and the prices weren't obscene. Peter Seeger can be seen wandering around and doing surprise performances.

It's considered a folk festival, but the line-up is pretty diverse. This year I'm interested in Dawes, Ani DiFranco, Jill Sobule, Melissa Ferrick, The Klezamtics and Balkan Beat Box.
posted by kimdog at 4:23 PM on February 19, 2012

Coachella is always a good time. Easy to get to, nice camping spots.

Sasquatch is a great beginner festival. It is super laid back and in a nice setting, but quite a hike from NYC.

The Reading Festival in the UK is amazing every year, and always attracts the very best of the best in rock. They actually enforce all their rules, so it is fairly well controlled.

Bonnaroo was a bad scene when I went, it was not well organized and while I'm fine with people doing their own thing, it seemed like EVERYONE was high and just not really *there*.

Honestly, if I were in your position, I would look around at the bands I like and find out where they are playing. Bring twice as much water as you think you'll need, and don't take anything that you'll be devastated if you lost. The weather for most festivals is pretty great, so we usually take a small tent and only use it for sleeping.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 4:35 PM on February 19, 2012

Oh, and take cash. Lots of the vendors inside don't do debit/credit.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2012

Bamboozle and Warped Tour are both a quick train/bus ride away at the Meadowlands and Nassau, if that fits your musical preferences.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2012

SxSW. No pesky ticket, it's just what you make of it + a handful of bar cover charges. Lodging is an issue this late in the game unless you know someone in Austin though...
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 4:58 PM on February 19, 2012

All Good in West Virginia was fun both times I went, bring a tent, sleeping bags, a few hundred bucks, and a cooler full of beer and food.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:40 PM on February 19, 2012

Christ almighty, don't go to Reading - it's known for it's awful crowds, and is probably joined with Leeds for the worst big festival in the UK. As far as I know, you're not looking to go overseas for your festivals, but if you were...

Primavera in Barcelona, Spain is one of the best.
Glastonbury's an institution, but is not on this year.
Bestival is like a mini-Glasto, with a good atmosphere and great lineup. They have a costume day!
Green Man is a bit more laid-back. It's family-friendly and a bit folky. Set in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
Secret Garden Party's a bit more dancey, with a strong cult following.
Field Day is in London - it's always rammed and nobody seems to actually enjoy it, but they get a good lineup.
Shambala has lots of small bands, and a fair amount of cabaret and theatre. AFAIK it's quite family-friendly.
WOMAD is Peter Gabriel's long-running world music festival.
Benicassim in Spain has a bit of a bad reputation for being full of drunk and badly behaved British partiers. However, you do camp on a beach...
Roskilde in Denmark is one of the biggest European music festivals, and usually has an absolutely stellar lineup.
Dour in Belgium is also very big, has a strong and varied lineup and a good crowd, but felt rather badly run when I last went.

There are others that I know less about, like Pukkelpop, Exit, Sziget, Rock am Ring and Sonar.

Hope that's been helpful!
posted by Magnakai at 1:37 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, how could I forget wonderful All Tomorrow's Parties! There's one in New Jersey this September. If it's anything like the UK events then I'd definitely recommend it.
posted by Magnakai at 2:04 AM on February 20, 2012

Coachella just expanded to 2 weekends this year, but both have already sold out. I have no idea what the scalper market is like for those tickets, but I imagine that they are on the steep side.
I've done Bonnaroo twice and had a great time both times. The heat, humidity and dust can make it brutal at times, but the feeling of community there is hard to beat. There is something about the collective suffering that makes people friendlier. I'd definitely recommend doing a camping festival at least once. Inforoo is the place to turn to for more info.
Pitchfork in Chicago is also a nice festival if you enjoy indie rock. Hotels within walking distance are easy to come by and it always seems like one of the best coordinated festivals in terms of logistics.
posted by ttrendel at 1:50 PM on February 20, 2012

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