With the essence of spring coming to full bloom in the northern hemisphere, the days have continued to grow increasingly brighter, longer, and warmer. These are just some of our favorite signs that awaken us to festival season distinctively striking at our door. For those who fill their live music cups and soul necessities in the sunny span between Memorial Day weekend and lingering through late harvest season, the knocks of the 2023 festival season are a welcome reprieve after a drawn-out winter.
Arguably taking place year-round these days (Jam Cruise, Strings and Sol, WinterWonderGrass, Gem & Jam), the quintessential festival season of yesteryear mostly remains tied to those prized summer months. This year, we are proud to feature a top-in-class variety pack of festivals of all shapes, sizes, intentions, and geographical locations. Without further ado, here are our favorite fests you must consider heading into 2023 Festival Season (in chronological order).
Black Mountain, NC | LEAF Retreat May 11-14 & LEAF Festival October 19-22
On a mission to connect culture and create community through world music, arts education, preservation, and experiences, LEAF Global Arts gears up for another heart-swelling season in North Carolina. The first installment of LEAF Global Arts, the LEAF Retreat, is happening May 11-14 at Lake Eden in gorgeous Black Mountain, NC. The Spring Retreat will uplift and honor First Nations, Indigenous & LatinX peoples as a precursor to our Fall Festival, “Legends of The Americas!” As a way to celebrate and honor those that came before us all, LEAF truly does the most when it comes to festival-ing with a purpose.
Following the Spring Retreat, the “Legends of The Americas” Fall Festival happens also in Black Mountain on October 19-22. What we love about LEAF, besides their genuinely awesome and much-needed programming and mission, is how family and kid-friendly the event is. Throughout the magical grounds, delight in all sorts of activities and immersive experiences for the young ones in your life. There is also a workshop and healing arts lineup every day like you would NOT believe. Much more than a music festival, LEAF serves the whole human and honors every single one that came before us, in reverence. Since 1995, LEAF has thrown 60 festivals and retreats, presenting 104 countries, and 25,000 performers from around the world.
Lightning in a Bottle
Buena Vista Lake, CA May 24 – 29
Ringing in 20 years of LiB is not to be taken lightly, so of course, Do LaB is pulling up their sleeves for a unique and fitting bill. Zhu, Tobe Nwigwe, Caribou, Sampa the Great, 070 Shake, Drama, Uncle Waffles, and Mindchatter are just some of the most innovative and in-demand artists that will be at Lightning this year and to see them all on one lineup is truly a jaw-dropping feat. We’re also excited to see old-school veterans such as LTJ Bukem with Armanni Reign and Ozomatli with Chali2na and Cut Chemist.
The Compass Learning & Culture programming, which encapsulates the transformative aspect of Lightning in a Bottle, will present opportunities for attendees to engage themselves in a series of educational workshops and talks. Special session topics include the importance of preserving Indigenous ancestral homelands, the Land Back movement, the power of psilocybin (presented by renowned mycologist Paul Stamets himself, as is LiB tradition) as well as presentations on climate change, community activism, regenerative food infrastructure and much, much more. The Compass has become a staple of the Lightning in a Bottle experience, giving participants so much more than musical memories to take away from the weekend.
Chillicothe, IL | May 25-28
Illinois’ long beloved live music gathering, Summer Camp, is heaven for any eclectic music lover. Ringing in 22 years over Memorial Day weekend, the family-owned event will be returning to its home of Three Sisters Park for one of its biggest lineups to date.
Lovingly called Scamp by attendees and admirers, this festival is always expertly curated to appeal to a variety of fans from rock, metal, blues, electronic, funk, pop, reggae, and more. This year, Scamp will be graced with artists such as Girl Talk, Mastodon, Willie Nelson & Family, The Wailers, Badflower, and Lotus (we love you forever Chuck & Charley Morris). We’re especially excited to see so many of our favorite hard-working and emerging musicians joining the roster as well, including Maddy O’Neal, Since Juleye, Sunsquabi, Trash Angel, and Vincent Antone.
In addition to boasting nearly nonstop performances all weekend, Summer Camp is also revered for its’ Field Day activities that everyone can enjoy. Dodgeball, sack racing, tug of war – you name it. Come prepared with your most fun crew and you’re bound to have an epic adventure of a lifetime.
Alma, CO | June 30-July 2
If you are looking for a lovely, intimate gathering in the beauty of the mountains, join the ranks of beautiful attendees at Elevation Music Fest’s second year in Alma, Colorado. World Music Development returns to the highest incorporated town in North America at 10,578 feet above sea level to present this three-day boutique micro festival with our favorites in jam, rock, electronic, funk, reggae, and bluegrass tunes! Camp out (included in your ticket, yes!) in the glorious sights and sounds of the mountains among familiar faces new and old.
Partake in the morning, mountain-view yoga, followed by jam-packed days of amazing music by The Motet, Eminence Ensemble, Cycles, Tenth Mountain Divison, The Jauntee, RADO, and so many more. What we absolutely love about this micro music festival is the unmatchable community vibe paired with the insane scenery and ALL FOR $150?! Summertime score.
Blue Note Jazz Festival New York | Various venues throughout June
Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley | July 28-30
The iconic Blue Note Jazz Club brings the best in jazz to New York City throughout the month of June and for a weekend in beautiful Napa Valley for a weekend at the end of July. Composed of trailblazers in jazz, and spanning soul, hip-hop, R&B, and funk, the Blue Note Jazz Festivals are both absolutely unique in their own right. For the entire month of June, the Blue Note New York, Sony Hall, The Town Hall, Beacon Theatre, Hammerstein Ballroom, SummerStage, and BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn will showcase festival artists at the highest of their caliber to provide audiences with a range of dynamic experiences in music and culture.
In 2023, the Big Apple edition will feature iconic headliners such as Grace Jones, NxWorries, Robert Glasper, Pat Metheny, Buddy Guy, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Chucho Valdés & Paquito D’Rivera, to name a few. The Napa Valley rendition of the festival offers some of the same names with Robert Glasper as the Artist in Residence and Dave Chapelle as the Host, late-night afterparties, and lots of upgrades for attendees at the new home of Silverado Resort near downtown Napa.
Arc Music Festival
Chicago, IL Sept 1-3, 2023
September in Chicago is hard to beat – sunny skies abound, the brutal heat falls back and the ecstatic energy of the city feels contagious. Taking place over Labor Day Weekend, Arc Music Festival has been another Fall reward for Chicagoans since its inception in 2021. Electro, Fidget House, Big Room, Tech House, Trance – Arc Music Festival has it all.
A dance music lovers’ fantasy, Arc’s lineup this year promises top-tier legends such as Black Coffee, Nina Kraviz, The Blessed Madonna, Boris Brejcha, Gene Farris, Tale of Us, Fat Boy Slim, Tinlicker, Mall Grab, Peggy Gou and more. Featuring the most stacked house lineup we’ve seen yet, we’re excitedly awaiting the day we’ll be entering the Union Park grounds.
Chicago also has a surplus of after-hour dens that sizzle with icon status – who knows where your night will end up? Select afterparty tickets come bundled with fest passes, so keep your eyes fixed on what are sure to be high heat set announcements. If you enjoy a weekend that leaves you reeling from impromptu B2Bs, intricately planned stage production design, intense peak drops, and dancing through the morning – Arc will be your highlight of the year.
Redmond, OR | Sept. 22-24
Do you know what central Oregon has been greatly missing since the abrupt ending of What The Festival in 2017? A boutique camping festival that caters to the gorgeous landscape of the area and brings a quality experience to festival goers and music lovers in central Oregon. This is where the Cascade Equinox Festival excitedly enters the picture.
This recently announced and brand new, three-night festival brought to us by Gem & Jam and 4 Peaks Presents teams are slated to take over the Pacific Northwest High Desert in Redmond. Prepare for a weekend of top-tier musical acts (queue the fanatical return of Pretty Lights!!!), uniquely immersive experiences of visual and performance art, enriching workshops, kid-friendly activities, a curated selection of local wineries, breweries, restaurants, camping and carnival rides, and a market featuring unique nomadic and artisanal crafts.
The full lineup just dropped (it’s insanity) and aside from Derek Vincent Smith aka Pretty Lights dubbing Cascade Equinox Festival a rightful spot to stop on his groundbreaking Soundship Spacesystem Tour, the festival will see Goose, Fruition, Trevor Hall, Of The Trees, Big Wild, and SO many others there. The diverse musical stylings paired with the event organizers (we’re talking seasoned pros, y’all), and perfect camping weather in the Pacific Northwest atmosphere, create zero doubts in our mind that CEF will be the SPOT to be the weekend of September 22nd. Get in gear and get ready to Cascade away!
Bentonville, AR | Sept. 22-24
Format Festival is bringing a new kind of energy and life to the festival circuit, taking place in the idyllic corners of Northwest Arkansas. After its successful inaugural year in 2022, Format will return to Bentonville, Arkansas for three days of music, art, and technology. Last year’s installment saw boundary-bursting stages, experiential surroundings, and state-of-the-art pieces by some of the most exciting visual artists and architects working today.
Stacked talent for the year’s edition includes LCD Soundsystem, Leon Bridges, Tash Sultana, Franc Moody, Hermanos Gutiérrez, Digable Planets, and some Austin, Texas, love by way of Sir Woman and THEBROSFRESH. Better yet, Format Festival showcases the best of “Oz,” the heart of the vibrant cultural region of Bentonville and beyond, which features amazing sights, sounds, and endless outdoor recreation for adventure seekers.
Eureka Springs, AR | Oct 4-8
For those fond of bluegrass and late-night pickin’ sessions around the campfire among the rolling hills and thick woods, Hillberry is for YOU. Located just outside the picturesque environment of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Hillberry is a glorious and gorgeous experience brought to its few-thousand attendees by Railroad Earth and Deadhead Productions. FIVE nights are filled with epic live music, outdoor recreation, and family-friendly goodness that oozes pure, wholesome fun.
The musical repertoire showcases the best in bluegrass, Americana, rock, funk, and more, with two nights of Railroad Earth, Moe., The Wood Brothers, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival, Neal Francis, Sierra Hull, and so many more.
Suwannee Hulaween’s 10-Year Anniversary
Live Oak, FL | Oct. 26-29
There is something inexplicably special about Suwannee’s Hulaween. It could be the famed and equally special Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, the spooky Halloweekend vibes, or the 80,000-ish spirited Hulaweeners that attend (maybe a likely glorious fusion of it all?), but Hulaween really is a spectacle you should experience at least once in your humble life on this earth. We capped off why Hulaween is our favorite festival of festival season way back in 2016 and have been faithful followers ever since.
This year’s shenanigans are set to be their most bizarre yet as the festival returns for its decade celebration with headliners including Pretty Lights, Trey Anastasio Band, Goose, Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, and as always, three nights of The String Cheese Incident. We’re equally as stoked for performances by some of live music’s best musicians such as lespecial, Domi & JD Beck, Ghost Note, MZG, The Kitchen Dwellers, Roosevelt Collier Band, and a Bill & Jillian Nershi ft. Jason Hann set.