Country musicians and their fans know how to throw a party. This summer will see the return of some of the nation’s oldest and greatest music festivals and quite a few up-and-comers that are quickly becoming classics. It will also see New York City’s first ever country music festival. The one thing they all have in common: Blake Shelton. Country music’s funnyman is hitting the festival circuit hard this summer; it seems like he headlines just about every one of the major events. But there are plenty of other artists to see and activities to enjoy at these 15 unmissable country festivals.
The one thing they all have in common: Blake Shelton. Country music’s funnyman is hitting the festival circuit hard this summer; it seems like he headlines just about every one of the major events. But there are plenty of other artists to see and activities to enjoy at these 15 unmissable country festivals.
Country Thunder is one of country music’s biggest annual events. The festival has two locations: Florence, AZ and Twin Lakes, WI, and is headlined by Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and Brett Eldredge and Dierks Bentley. Like any good festival should, Country Thunder has multiple campgrounds for festival goers who need nothing more than good country music and a tent for four days. Other acts include Big & Rich, Jarrod Neimann, Phil Vassar, Dustin Lynch, Maddie & Tae, Dustin Lynch, Tyler Farr, The Swon Brothers, Maddie & Tae among others.
In late June, Cadott WI comes alive with the sounds of country music’s biggest stars. The Country Fest grounds have a main stage plus four other side stages which are all fully booked with hard-rocking musicians, headlined by Toby Kieth, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban. Visitors have a camping or glamping (glamour camping) option. Other acts: Thomas Rhett, Billy Currington, Chase Rice, Lee Brice, Rascal Flatts, Thompson Square.
FarmBorough is a brand spankin’ new country festival that will be held right in the heart of New York City, on Randall’s Island. This summer will see if city folks can throw a festival as good as country folks (hint: they can). The lineup is hard-hitting, with the likes of Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Luke Bryan headlining. There is no camping, but NYC doesn’t lack places to stay. Other acts: Kip Moore, Dwight Yoakam, Randy Houser, Sturgill Simpson, Wade Bowen among others.
What has become undoubtedly one of America’s biggest festivals branched out in 2014 and held a separate festival at the University of Texas in Austin dedicated to country music. The iHeart Country Fest returns this year with Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw headlining. Although the full lineup hasn’t been finalized, expect them to be joined by a whole boatload of other A-list acts. Other acts include Brantley Gilbert, Rascal Flatts.
This is the be-all and end-all of music festivals for Americana lovers. The festival takes place in Nashville in September and will feature 165 live performances over four nights. In its 15th years, the festival showcases established artists but especially promotes up-and-comers. The festival is also a conference with many talks with music industry movers and shakers and an awards show. The lineup has not yet been announced.
If you’ve ever dreamed of going to a country music festival, this is the one your dreams are made of. Relatively new to the national festival scene, Stagecoach debuted in 2007, but it hasn’t let its infancy slow it down any. With a honky tonk dancehall, invitational bbq championship, and Ferris wheel, Stagecoach is a large part carnival. Oh, and then there’s the music.
This year’s headlining acts include Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, The Band Perry, and everyone else you’ve ever heard of. Other acts: Merle Haggard, Justin Moore, Steve Earle, Kacey Musgraves, ZZ Top among others.
The CMA Music Festival lives up to the name festival. For four days in June, country music takes over the streets of Nashville (Ok maybe that’s a little redundant. But read on!) Besides headlining acts on the main stage, smaller venues will be set up in the streets all over town, where fans are free to come and go as they please. All sorts of activities are planned (with more on the way) like the Fan Alley and The Buckle. With vendors and restaurants, the festival is like the Disney World of country music and a not-to-miss event. Acts: Announced soon!
Yet another monster country festival in Wisconsin, Country Jam has been in business for 25 years. This year will see Eric Church leading the party, along with Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum. Compared to other festivals, Country Jam is relatively cheap: $160 for a three-day pass, but that drops down to $105 if you’re a student. Other acts: Kip Moore, Hunter Hayes, Gary Allan.
Stampede is an appropriate name for this festival, which sees tens of thousands of fans camping out and singing along to their favorite acts on three stages. Blake Shelton (because he apparently never misses playing a festival), Florida Georgia Line, and Thomas Rhett are among the stars. One cool thing about Country Stampede is that fans can vote on songwriters they want to see perform. Other acts: Sara Evans, Travis Tritt, Love and Theft.
Don’t be confused, this is not a music festival. It is a rodeo and western celebration that happens to feature a ton of music. But first and foremost is the rodeo. There is also a cook-off, Indian village, frontier town, Buckin’ A Salon, midway and really just a whole host of other western-y attractions that will make sure you are never bored. Big & Rich, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton perform. Other acts: Aerosmith, Alabama, Toby Keith, Keith Urban.
You have to go to Willie’s picnic at least once in your life your life. It is a cultural institution and as close to a country rite of passage as it gets. Like usual this year’s lineup is Red Dirt heavy, with the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham, and the Josh Abbott Band. But there are legends as well: Charlie Pride, David Allan Coe and, of course, Willie. It’s Willie 4th of July Picnic; need we say more?
Like Willie’s Picnic, the Newport Folk Fest is inseparable from America’s musical cultural landscape. Not only has it hosted some of the most important events of the past 50 or so years, it’s also helped launch the careers of some of history’s most influential musicians. One of the world’s oldest festivals will see Leon Bridges, Sturgill Simpson and First Aid Kit among a lineup that is still being filled out.
Minnesota’s WE Fest features a karaoke contest whose winners get to sing with the headlining acts. Yea. So there’s that. There’s also a camping contest (for who can actually sleep at a music fest?), Baggo challenge and Pepsi contest.
Acts: Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams, Jr. Eli Young Band among others.
The 42nd Telluride Bluegrass festival takes place over the summer solstice. imbibing the atmosphere with that magical golden hour feeling. Between that and the incredible location, in the San Juan Mountains, this is a festival not to miss, even before we ever get to the music. Acts include Kacey Musgraves, John Butler Trio, Trampled by Turtles, the Punch Brothers, Bela Fleck, and Lake Street Dive among others.
The Vancouver Folk Fest may not feature the biggest headlining acts, but that just makes it all the more special. This festival is a true tribute to good folk music, regardless of album sales. Be on the lookout for international acts. Acts include: Langhorne Slim, The Grievous Angels, Eliza Gilkyson and Alejandro Escovedo among many, many others.