Summer Music Festivals: The New and Unconventional

Seven under-the-radar festivals in 2015

Cera Sylar

Cera Sylar

While college kids keep their winter thermostats at uncomfortably cold temperatures and save quarters on off-brand grocery items, music festivals are one of the few big purchases that many of us are pretty ok with handing over cash for. As the early bird tickets begin to sell out and the lineups surface, this could be a great and responsible time to decide which festival(s) you will tackle this summer. Here are a few overlooked festivals that may not be on your radar yet, but are worth looking into.


Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival

May 22 – 25

Las Vegas, Nevada

Started in 1999 as a way to bring the independent music community together, the Punk Rock Festival is held in downtown Las Vegas and consists of a bowling tournament, pool parties, poker, and comedy to supplement the punk rocking. Featured in this summer’s lineup are Anti-Flag, Dropkick Murphys, and Refused. This outdoor festival is all ages; studs are permitted.

Weekend Pass: $120


What The Festival

June 19 – 22

Wolf Run Ranch, Oregon

Surrounded by the Mount Hood National Forest, What The Festival is an interactive music and arts festival taking place over the summer solstice weekend. The music is mostly electronica with artists like Big Gigantic, ODESZA, and GRiZ on the lineup, but just as essential to the festival are the loads of funky amenities including an Asian tea and miso lounge, dance and yoga classes, a hookah lounge, and a makeshift cinema in the forest.

General Admission: $225


Frendly Gathering

June 26 – 27

Windham, Vermont

Yes, it’s Frendly, not Friendly. Started by six professional snowboarders wanting to inspire camaraderie through art, sport, and kickin’ back, Frendly Gathering is a grassroots music and camping festival in the mountains of an old ski resort. With a maximum capacity set at 3,000, the atmosphere is intimate and easygoing; conditions created in the hopes of forming “one single Frendly family.” The 2015 lineup has not been released yet, but past artists include Delta Spirit, Deer Tick, Beats Antique, and Twiddle. The festival also features a skate ramp, a swimming pond, disc golf, and a strong ethos for green initiatives.

General Admission (camping included): $119


Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival

July 17 – 18

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has teamed up with Aaron Dessner of The National to curate a new music festival in Vernon’s hometown of Eau Claire. In its inaugural year, Vernon and Dessner say they are hoping to “encourage music-genre-walls to melt away.” With a focus on Midwest musicians, the lineup has drawn in a number of Twin Cities favorites including Allan Kingdom, Lizzo, and Spooky Black, as well as the big names of Sufjan Stevens, Indigo Girls, and The Tallest Man On Earth.

General Admission: $135


WayHome Music & Arts Festival

July 24 – 26

Oro-Medonte, Ontario

From the producers of Bonnaroo Music Festival comes another outdoor mega-camping-fest set to premiere this summer outside of Toronto. The lineup is massive with Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, and Alt-J as the headliners and other big-name artists including Modest Mouse, Hozier, and Bassnectar. The festival website claims: “This is not the music festival you think it is,” but gives up few details besides their mission to focus on music, food, art, and film.

General Admission (camping included): $230


Telluride Jazz Festival 2015

July 31 – August 2

Telluride, Colorado

Some of the best music in jazz, soul, funk and Latin has been coming out of the San Juan Mountains every summer since 1977 at the Telluride Jazz Festival. Telluride, a small ski town, hosts the festival outdoors in the picturesque Town Park during the daytime and moves it downtown to historic music venues at night. The lineup includes Maceo Parker, the Voodoo Orchestra, the Soul Rebels, and guest of honor Ernie Watts, but festival-goers also ought to take advantage of Telluride’s loads of outdoor activities and the brass band parade down Main Street on the last day of the festival.

Weekend Pass: $170


Hinterland Music Festival

July 31 – August 1

Des Moines, Iowa

The Hinterland Music Festival will kick off its first year with a mission to “find the beauty in all things urban and rural” at an oasis in the center of Iowa’s capital city. Although inspired by the Midwest backdrop, the lineup reaches from coast to coast with acts including Tennessee’s Old Crow Medicine Show, California’s Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and New York’s TV On The Radio. Other features at Hinterland involve sculpture and art installations, family engagement, and cyclist events.

General Admission: $75