Paste kicked off the summer festival season early with an unforgettable weekend at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C. The overwhelming love of music—from artists and fans alike—really came through during the event. And this summer’s festival lineup looks just as promising, despite the unfortunate collapse of Lollapalooza 2004, which has cancelled all dates. But with diverse lineups at events from Rhode Island to New Mexico, there’s literally something for every music lover. So grab a beer and dust off that camping gear. Here are the summer 2004 music festival highlights.
In its sixth consecutive year, the Taos Solar Music Festival in Taos, N.M., will host a variety of activities and musical acts, promoting solar and alternate energy sources. The June 25-27 event will include artists Los Lonely Boys, Bruce Cockburn, Shawn Colvin and Robert Earl Keen. The festival upholds its environmental awareness message by using photovoltaic panels on The Solar Stage. Participants have also helped raise thousands for the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, a non-profit committed to using and promoting solar energy. For tickets and additional information, visit the festival website at www.solarmusicfest.com.
The little town of Manchester, Tenn., has hosted one of the largest music festivals ever for three years running. Bonnaroo anticipates 100,000-plus campers from June 11-13, making the 600-acre private farm the third largest city in Tennessee for three days. Special activities include a cinema tent provided by New Line, which features 24-hour popular and cult favorites. Also a dozen national craft breweries will offer beer samplings at the “Brooer’s” Festival. This year’s overwhelming collection of Bonnaroo artists includes Wilco, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Erin McKeown, My Morning Jacket, Damien Rice, Los Lobos, Gov’t Mule, The Dead, Jem, David Byrne, Primus, Trey Anastasio, Ween, Yo La Tengo, Gillian Welch and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Visit www.bonnaroo.com for information about tickets and a detailed stage schedule.
If you can’t stand the humidity in Tennessee and you can’t make it out to the Northwest, then perhaps Lawrence, Kan., is the prime location for all your festival needs. Wakarusa (Native American for “waist-deep”) is a four-day camping festival (June 17-20 this year) that will host more than 70 bands on three stages. Featured artists include Drive-By Truckers, North Mississippi Allstars, BR549, O.A.R., Mofro, The Lost Trailers, Guided By Voices, Leftover Salmon, The Bottlerockets, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Slobberbone, Mindy Smith, Tishamingo, Los Lonely Boys, and a band with (possibly) the best borrowed name of all time—Four Fried Chickens and a Coke. Additionally, the event will include non-musical activities like hiking, water sports and an 18-hole Frisbee-golf course. To learn more about Wakarusa, visit www.wakarusafestival.com.
If you’re out West, there are three highlights.
From June 17-20, the ever-growing Telluride Festival in Telluride, Colo. will host many bluegrass, folk and Americana favorites. This year’s four-day event includes Bèla Fleck and The Flecktones, Yonder Mountain String Band, the subdudes, Ani Difranco, Peter Rowan, Del McCoury Band, Natalie MacMaster, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, The Tim O’Brien Band with special guest Emmylou Harris and a songwriters-in-the-round featuring Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely. Camping and lodging are both available at the festival and around town. More information regarding tickets and lodging can be found at www.planetbluegrass.com.
In Quincy, Calif., not two hours away from Reno, Nev., the High Sierra Music Festival will host a variety of acts over the July 4 weekend. With the Sierras and Feather River Canyon serving as a backdrop, Richard Thompson Band, Jerry Douglas, moe., Chris Robinson, Leftover Salmon, Particle, Dan Bern, Caroline Aiken, Railroad Earth, James McMurtry, The Gourds and Maktub will perform this year. Other activities at HSMF include unique tent stages (Vaudeville, Americana and Showcase), which allow for intimate gatherings with new and established artists. For more info, visit www.hsmusic.net.
North Plains, Ore. will host one of the most exclusive festivals in the Northwest. The String Cheese Incident will hold its annual Camping Festival at Horning’s Hideout (the band’s private camping site) from June 18-20. The show received the 2003 Jammy Award for Best Live Show, and SCI will perform each night of the festival. This year’s shows feature special guests Michael Franti & Spearhead (June 18), Soundtribe Sector 9 (June 19) and Keller Williams (June 20), who, when performing with SCI, calls the collaboration The Keller Williams Incident. Three-day passes are available online at www.sciticketing.com.
Back East, the Apple & Eve Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I. will be home to a wide range of artists from August 6-8. The event kicks off with “An Evening with Ron Sexsmith.” Then, over the next two days, artists performing include Crosby, Stills & Nash, Steve Earle, Wilco, Doc Watson, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright and Old Crow Medicine Show. A new tent stage (Waterside) will be home to a steady-flow of string bands on Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.newportfolk.com for more information regarding performance schedules and ticketing.
From July 14 to 18 in Okemah, Okla. you can find the 7th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, celebrating the life and music of folk legend Woody Guthrie. This year’s event will host a number of artists, such as Arlo Guthrie, Steve Earle, Slaid Cleaves and Kris Delmhorst. For a full lineup and ticket information, visit www.woodyguthrie.com.
Over Labor Day weekend, Colorado will be home to the four-day Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival. The festival will take place in the Snowmass Village Town Park, at the foot of the Elk Mountains. This year’s guests include Jack Johnson, G. Love & Special Sauce, David Byrne and The Steve Miller Band. Four-day passes are $125, and more information about the festival can be found at www.jazzaspen.com.
Kicking off a four-week North American tour in August, Bob Marley's five sons and friends including Toots and the Maytals, Common, Nappy Roots and Blackalicious will launch the Bob Marley: Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival. The tour, which begins in Virginia is the first tour officially hosted by the Marley family and will feature many of the sons' individual songs as well as collaborative efforts on their father's hits. For more information, check out
If you’re in Canada, you’re not stranded without festivals this summer. The 25th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal will take place June 30-July 11, though festivities actually begin on June 29 with a special anniversary performance by Diana Krall and friends. Of the 100+ performers, highlights include Tony Bennett, Nellie McKay, Wynton Marsalis Quintet and Chick Corea. Check out www.montrealjazzfest.com>, where you can not only find info about this year’s festival, but also read a breakdown of the festival’s history.
On August 21, head over to the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival in Burnaby, BC for an eight-hour day of funky and rootsy blues. Artists that will perform are Colin James, Rosanne Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco and the Tarbox Ramblers. For more information about this and other BC festivals, head to www.coastaljazz.ca.
During the last weekend of August (27-29), you can catch 45 acts at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Old Pool Farm near Schwenksville, Pa. will be host to a variety of artists, including Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Natalie MacMaster, Mindy Smith, Ollabelle, Phil Roy and Taj Mahal. This is the 43rd installment of the festival, and it continues to make improvements based on feedback from festival goers. This year there will be a special emphasis on dance, but the staples of bluegrass and folk will be ever-apparent as well. Especially accommodating to families, an area called Dulcimer Grove will be situated in the kids area where hands-on crafts, jugglers, storytellers and kid-friendly musicians will entertain all. For more information, visit www.folkfest.org.
If you’re in or around Maine Aug. 7 and 8, stop by the Festival of Cultural Exchange for a bit of alt.country, alt-rock and world music. Included in the lineup are Juliana Hatfield, Steve Earle, The Holmes Brothers, the Congo’s Kanda Bongo Man, and Sudanese dance troupe The Nile Girls. With tickets at only $37.50 for both days, a World Marketplace featuring street performers, a kids’ arts and music area, and hands-on arts and music for adults, this is an inexpensive way to enjoy a weekend with the family. For more information, visit www.festivalofculturalexchange.org.
Coney Island will host the fourth annual Village Voice Siren Music Festival on Saturday, July 17. Scheduled to perform are Death Cab for Cutie, Mission of Burma, Blonde Redhead, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, The Thermals and Electric Six. Featuring two outdoor stages on Coney Island, the park expects to host more than 150,000 people throughout the day. For info about the 2004 Siren Festival, visit www.villagevoice.com/siren/2004/press.html.