Summer music festival season is nearly upon us, and as many festivalgoers already know, big music festival can be a lot of fun: days of incredible music accentuated by the unique experience of camping with friends and strangers in an artsy bubble of togetherness. But let’s face it: when it comes to music performances, bigger is not always better, and sometimes it’s the smaller music festivals that offer the best value.
Each year festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella attract 100,000+ people, creating a heavily commercialized environment that can be as conducive to claustrophobia as it is to the enjoyment of live music.
Now, of course not everyone wants the same thing out of a music festival, and some people may revel in the idea of such a massive gathering of people—after all, it makes for a bigger party, right? But for people who travel to big music festivals specifically for the music, to get lost in the art of the performance, you may be disappointed when you’re watching your favorite band and can not help but notice that over half of the audience—including the three sweaty guys your pressed up against—is there only so that they can have some background music to their party.
So if you’ve ever found yourself grumbling about how much better a festival would be if they admitted 50,000 fewer people, you might want to travel to one of the many smaller-scale festivals that are happening across the US; many of them boast lineups that include the same artists who are headlining mega-festivals.
For example, despite only drawing in around 6,000 people, the Nelsonville Music Festival, which takes place in the small town of Nelsonville, Ohio at the end of May, will include performances by artist like St. Vincent, The Flaming Lips, Merle Haggard, Built to Spill, and San Fermin.
Similarly, in Ozark, Arkansas, the Wakarusa Music Festival, which prides itself on the creed “never corporate, always progressive,” will treat their 20,000 – 25,000 attendees to performances by The Roots, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, and Major Lazer.
This is truly just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of other smaller-scale festivals out there, and websites like Music Festival Junkies make it easy to find the one that’s right for you.
Here are some additional smaller-scale festivals: Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, Eaux Claires Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, The Ride Festival in Telluride, Colorado.