5 Great Music Festivals You've Never Heard Of

Everybody knows that anybody who is somebody was everywhere at Coachella over the last few weekends. 

In case you were one of the nobodies who did not make it to California, here are five other festivals you have never heard of that are worth checking out this summer. 

1. Merlefest –  Wilkesboro, North Carolina

April 25-28, 2013


Started as a tribute to the son of bluegrass legend, the late Doc Watson, Merlefest has since evolved into a four-day extravaganza of real instruments and real music.  While the lineups focus on the acoustic/folk/bluegrass/country genres, the boundaries err on the side of the inclusion with sets in recent years by the Doobie Brothers, Gov’t Mule and Levon Helm. One annual highlight, the Hillside Album Hour, features a band called The Waybacks covering every cut on classic albums from icons such as Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. North Carolina never sounded so good. 

2. The Festy – Charlottesville, Virginia

October 11-13, 2013


The Infamous Stringdusters know how to throw a party. In the rolling hills outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, this progressive bluegrass band hosts their love letter to music in early October. Lineups include all of the above with recent years featuring everything from the psychedelic roots reggae of The Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad to the acoustic onslaught known as Trampled By Turtles. Throw in the local Devil’s Backbone brewery providing the liquid nourishment for the weekend and you have the makings of a good time. While the lineups are always solid, it is best to leave any preconceptions at the door and just enjoy the music. You may not know what to call it at the end of the week. I just call it good. 

3. Floydfest – Floyd, Virginia

July 25-28, 2013


Imagine Ralph Stanley on an acid trip and you get a fairly decent idea of the meaning of Floydfest. The Haight-Ashbury district would have nothing on the hairy armpits found in Floyd, Virginia every July. Notwithstanding the body odor, Floydfest is nothing if not a good time. Similar to Merlefest in its lineup, Floydfest paints in broader strokes by finding talent in any package. The 2013 lineup includes everything from the pop folk of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros to African musician Cheick Hamala and his ngoni. Woodstock should be jealous.        

4. Rhythm N’ Roots  Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee

September 20-22, 2013


For a more urban festival (I use that term loosely), check out this little shindig in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee. Officially billed as the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Rhythm and Roots takes over downtown Bristol in early September. Located on State Street (the official border between Virginia and Tennessee), thousands of people mob multiple stages for a weekend of music. As much community party as music, you are as likely to stumble upon a set from Old Crow Medicine Show as you are the local FFA Bluegrass Band. While not as diverse or colorful as many of the other festivals, this event is what a festival should feel like. Music is the excuse for personal connections and a good time. It’s worth wading through the tens of thousands of bodies on a two lane street for the experience of what a music festival should be.

5. All Good Music Festival - Legend Valley, Thornville, Ohio

July 18-21, 2013


Similar to Floydfest in the prevalence of tie-dye and dreadlocks, the All Good Music Festival in Thornville, Ohio is about peace, love, music, and other illicit substances.  You will probably never have even heard of two-thirds of the bands on the bill.  You will leave a newly minted evangelist for the most ridiculously named band ever (i.e. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus). Trying to label the lineup is beyond impossible. Just do yourself a favor and don’t drink the Kool-Aid.