Seven U.S. Music Festivals that go Under the Radar

Ariana DiValentino


Come festival season in the U.S., you can’t go on social media without seeing people in psychedelic makeup and clips of enviable live performances. And while for the most part, a few major events dominate the music scene, those interested in expanding their horizons to smaller, lesser-known festivals have several to choose from. From genre-specific fests to those with a unique hook, go beyond ‘Chella this summer and look into some of these niche music festivals.

CRSSD Festival - The grown-up music festival

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “music festivals would be so much better without all the teens,” CRSSD Festival in San Diego might be the event for you. The festival is geared towards a slightly more mature crowd, requiring guests to be 21+ and offering gourmet food, craft beer, and mixology programs. The music itself ranges in genre from electronica to R&B, and its September 2019 lineup featured names like Portugal, The Man, Hot Chip, and Masego.

Shaky Boots - Country makes a comeback

The Shaky Boots country music festival in Atlanta, sister to the Shaky Knees alt/rock festival, was put on hiatus after its initial engagement in 2015 but is back in 2020. This year's line up includes names like Brandi Carlile, Dierks Bentley, John Prine, Gary Allan and Dwight Yoakam. Folk fans would be wise to keep an eye on this one – it’s scheduled to happen May 8-9.

High Water - Home-grown folk and bluegrass

This North Charlestown, South Carolina festival is organised by the husband and wife musical duo Shovels & Rope and expresses a deep love of its southern home. The lineup features Wilco, Rufus Wainwright, and Nathaniel Rateliff, and outside the performances, the festival has a heavy emphasis on everything local – food, craft beer, artisans and craftspeople. You weren’t going to come to the south without eating well. 2020 guests can even learn how to shuck bivalves in an “oyster education” class. 

Fortress Festival - A Texas tastemaker

Though the Fort Worth, Texas festival has only been around for four years, it’s blown up quickly, gaining acclaim from the national press. The multi-genre festival's 2020 lineup includes names like Diplo, Big K.R.I.T., Miguel, Cuco, Snow Tha Product and more. And it’s not just music, either – the festival is presented in partnership with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, so art and culture junkies should find plenty of stimulation. The 2019 festival sold out, so those interested might want to grab a ticket fast.

Maryland Deathfest - Mecca for Metalheads

If the indie rock, folk, pop, R&B, and rap that dominate some of the major festivals aren’t your thing, you might feel more at home at the long-running Maryland Deathfest held each year in Baltimore. Expect more mohawks than flower crowns: the fest runs for a four-day weekend and features acts from across the metal and hardcore spectrum. Extreme music fans have been coming out since 2003 to headbang to bands with morbid names, and they’re not planning on stopping anytime soon. Can’t make it out to Maryland? The organisers now throw festivals in California, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden as well.

Pickathon - Bluegrass and roots with an eco-friendly spin

If you’re the kind of person who baulks at the amount of waste produced by any major public event, you might find Pickathon to be a refreshing change of pace. The Happy Valley, Oregon festival has been running for over two decades and boasts its sustainability, eliminating plastic dishes and utensils entirely and relying on renewable energy options. If you’re interested in attending, keep a close watch – the festival has no corporate sponsors and caps ticket sales at just 3,500 to keep things pleasant and manageable. If you can’t make it out, good news: Pickathon films its performances for digital enjoyment by those outside the festival.

Dancefestopia - Camping and EDM in Missouri

This Kansas City festival mixes the outdoorsiness of many music festivals with electronic music, offering a dance party experience set in nature rather than within warehouse walls. Expect to head back to your tent no earlier than 6 am – the music goes all night long (as any good EDM party should), and guests can also partake in yoga and holistic wellness programs, see art installations and aerial dancing, and more. There’s plenty of outdoor recreation to be had, too, from zip-lining and canoeing to watching the party from overhead in a hot air balloon

The 2020 lineup features GRiZ, Zeds Dead and Rezz as headliners, with 12th Planet, Boogie T, Borgore, Lane 8 and Subtronics also making an appearance.

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