The Woodstock Music & Arts Festival turns 50 this year and helped define music festivals for the counterculture generation. Its resulting legacy has been mixed — from slickly produced multiday affairs to unmitigated disasters, like the Fyre Festival — but the wildfire-spread of festivals since has led to an increasing number of exciting, smaller-scale events organized each year.
These eight U.S.-based music festivals are notable for their stunning settings, extracurricular programming and highly curated, alternative lineups.
Marfa Myths is a collaboration between Ballroom Marfa, a nonprofit cultural arts space, and the New York-based record label Mexican Summer. Since it began four years ago, in a West Texas town internationally recognized for its art and culture, Marfa Myths has showcased a diverse roster of under-the-radar talent. Expect the same this year, with acts like Khruangbin and Cass McCombs. And don’t miss the art exhibitions around town.
Pro tip: “Bring boots, and hydrate!” advises Sarah Melendez, the Ballroom Marfa program director. Booking accommodations and meal reservations in advance is a must, too.
April 25-28 in Marfa, Texas. $220 for an all-access pass; tickets available for individual shows $15-$55.
“Everyone is a creative” is the philosophy of FORM, to be held for its sixth year in Arcosanti, in Arizona, an “urban laboratory” established in the 1970s. FORM utilizes the striking desert landscape in programming its weekend full of music, poetry, wellness and advocacy. Musical acts including Anderson .Paak and Florence and the Machine play in Arcosanti’s intimate outdoor amphitheater. Enjoy the workshops and the music; relaxing by the pool is an option, too.
Equal access: This festival offers different levels of camping, from DIY tent sites to all-inclusive glamping. But those differences stop at accommodations; no VIP sections or access are available otherwise.
May 10-12 in Arcosanti, Ariz. $379 for a weekend pass, basic camping included; glamping add-ons start at $349.
It’s the 10th anniversary of this scrappy festival organized by Gundlach Bundschu winery, Eric D. Johnson of the Fruit Bats and FolkYeah!, a Northern California music promoter. Held on the winery grounds, Huichica keeps attendance tight — just 600-800 people are there at any given time. (No worries: Additional festivals are planned later this year for the Hudson Valley and Washington state). Musical highlights this year include Love, Kelly Stoltz, and Lee Fields and the Expressions. It’s an intimate environment: Expect to see musicians watching the show, not hiding out backstage.
Kids welcome: While Huichica is not a children’s festival, it’s decidedly family-friendly, with a dedicated kid zone that makes it easy for parents to start them young.
June 7-8 in Sonoma, Calif. From $155 for a weekend pass; children under 12 attend free.
Wilco lovers unite at this festival highlighting Jeff Tweedy and company’s current musical favorites. This year, Courtney Barnett, The Feelies and Tortoise will join Wilco, plus band members’ solo work. The musical performances are integrated within Mass MoCA’s expansive grounds and contemporary art collection. Not into art? Festivalgoers can attend an axe-throwing workshop, or for a more sedate activity, attend a panel featuring Jon Hamm and John Hodgman.
Early bird gets the art: Attendees are advised to arrive before the shows to best explore the museum; you’ll be better equipped to seek out last-minute musician pop-ups, which are often announced on Twitter.
June 28-30 in North Adams, Mass. From $189 for a weekend pass; day passes from $74-$129.
With a zero-waste ethos, the Pickathon festival combines art, architecture, food and music. Its Treeline Stage is designed annually by architecture students using sustainable materials (last year’s stage was later used to build homeless shelters). This year, the lineup includes Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Phil Lesh, and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and will be bracketed by morning yoga, late-night dance parties and a street art showcase.
Eat up: Join a Curation Series dinner, a communal, sit-down dinner party for 100 that pairs cuisine from top Pacific Northwest chefs and live music (tickets on sale in April).
Aug. 2-4 in Happy Valley, Ore. From $325 for an adult weekend pass; early entry add-on for $90.
The interactive artists’ collective Meow Wolf organized Taos Vortex last year to bring mind-bending art installations and musical performances to Kit Carson Park, walking distance from downtown Taos. Year No. 2 boasts more acts reflecting New Mexico’s diverse population (the full lineup will be announced April 2) and no shortage of art you can touch. Camping is available for 1,000 (out of 6,000 expected attendees), and Max Beck-Keller of Meow Wolf encourages all to “inhabit the space, make it your home.”
Adventure time: To highlight the beauty of Taos, the festival organizes outdoor adventures including balloon rides and paddle boarding on the Rio Grande.
Aug. 16-18 in Taos, N.M. From $199 for a three-day pass with camping, $179 without; day passes from $79.
Afropunk Brooklyn is entering its 20th year celebrating black culture. With a musical lineup ranging from jazz to hard-core hip-hop, the two-day festival also boasts the Spinthrift Market, a destination for art, fashion and hair products, plus the live Solutions Sessions talks featuring the likes of Ava Duvernay and Terence Nance. Despite having grown in scope and size — the weekend sees 60,000 attendees — co-founder Matthew Morgan notes that positive vibes have persisted.
Straight from the lower latitudes: Expect to hear acts from Johannesburg and other areas of South Africa thanks to an Afropunk expansion into that country.
Aug. 24-25 in Brooklyn. From $110 for a weekend pass; from $60 for single day.
According to co-founder Melissa Auf der Maur, the eclectic nature of Soundscape (which can range “from grindcore to poetry”) is largely dictated by the venue. A factory turned art space, Basilica Hudson offers a striking canvas for Soundscape’s blend of music, visual art and readings. The venue and the limited crowd (capped at 1,200 people) are meant to capture the feeling of musical and artistic discovery in a pre-Internet age.
Upstate of mind: Attendees are encouraged to take the train (book early) and leave room for exploring Hudson. The Half Moon, a local bar, hosts a festival afterparty each night.
Sept. 13-15 in Hudson, N.Y. From $80 for a weekend pass.