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Music Festivals in the USA Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Culture, Music and Song, Travel

Music festivals are a big part of American culture. These days, it seems as if there is a different music festival every weekend.  In this post we’ll take a closer look at music festivals in the USA and learn some useful English vocabulary for attending them.

Types of Music Festivals

Music Festivals in the USA

Music festivals come in many sizes!

American music festivals come in many different forms and sizes. There are music festivals in the heart of major cities, and there are also some out on farmland in rural America. Some festivals last for just a day, while others are four days long. There are festivals dedicated to rock, jazz, blues, country, or electronic music, and there are some that are a mixture of many genres. Some have a crowd of just a few hundred, while others attract upwards of 100,000 people. No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find a music festival for you in the USA.

City Festivals

There are many music festivals that happen right downtown in some of America’s biggest cities, such as Chicago or San Francisco. For these festivals, the attendees are a mix of locals and travelers. If you travel to a big city for a festival, you’ll need to arrange your own accommodation. They won’t just let you set up your tent and camp in Grant Park during the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, for example.

Downtown Chicago for Lollapalooza.

At these big city festivals, you’ll need to pass through security every time you come into the festival grounds. This takes a lot of time and needs to be accounted for when planning your day. There’s nothing worse than missing a band you really wanted to see because you got stuck in a long security line. City festivals also typically shut down before midnight due to curfews, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for late-night fun. There are usually after hours shows going on at venues around the city, but you’ll need extra tickets for those.

A great thing about big city festivals is how convenient they are to visit. It’s always easier to go to a festival when you can fly into a major airport, use public transportation, and have an abundance of hotels to choose from. Camping out is fun, but it’s not always fun bringing all that gear with you and setting it up! Also, these festivals usually have great lineups with a wide variety of artists.

Camping Festivals

Many music festivals take place at more remote locations in rural America. This dates all the way back to 1969 and the most legendary music festival ever – Woodstock. Half a century later, and people are still having huge music festivals on farms that are far outside of city centers. It takes a bit more work to get to these types of festivals, as you have to drive there with all your gear and set up camp.

Our campsite at a festival one summer.

With tens of thousands of people camping out together, these kinds of festivals basically become small cities. For example, the Bonnaroo music festival takes place on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee. For four days a year, this uninhabited piece of farmland morphs into the 6th-biggest city in the state thanks to the 80,000 or so people who come for the festival. When the festival is over, the tent city disbands and the farm is quiet once again.

Since you’re camping out for several nights, these festivals are a more immersive experience. Instead of leaving the concert to go out into the hustle and bustle of a big city, you walk back to your campground to grill some food, have some beers, and make memories with your friends. City festivals are fun and all, but if you ask me camping festivals are the way to go!

What Else Can You Do?

Field Day is tons of fun!

There’s a lot more to do at music festivals than just see music. At big music festivals, there are all sorts of different activities going on throughout the weekend. Some festivals have an event called field day or color wars. This is where you join a team (purple team is the best!) and play different games throughout the day.

It’s common to find plenty of artists at music festivals. Some are there doing live paintings during the shows, while others are there selling their original artwork.

Browsing the selection of artwork.

Many music festivals have carnival rides, such as a Ferris wheel. It’s fun to take a break from the music and take a ride to see the crowd and the stage from above.

Since it’s too hot to sleep in a tent, you might as well get up early and do something healthy! Lots of music festivals have morning yoga classes these days. Some even organize 5 km races so you can get a good run in before the music starts.

The non-profit organizations at a festival.

Most music festivals have several different non-profit organizations setting up booths for the weekend. Festival attendees can visit these booths to do things like register to vote, learn more about recycling, and so much more.

Music Festival Vocabulary

Checking out the vendors at a festival is always fun.

This is an English language blog, so let’s learn some useful vocabulary for talking about music festivals:

  • lineup – the bands and artists that are performing at the festival
  • headliners – the top 3-4 bands on a lineup
  • schedule – shows the day and time each act is playing
  • sold out – all tickets have been sold
  • stage – where the concerts take place; most music festivals have several
  • main stage – the biggest stage, which has the most famous acts
  • soundboard – the area in the middle of the concert area where all the sound equipment is
  • late nights – shows that happen after midnight
  • merchandise – things you can buy, such as t-shirts, hats, and stickers
  • vendors – people selling drinks, food, and other items
  • security – the people working to guard the festival and keep it safe
  • green team – people who clean up the festival grounds
  • campground – area where festival attendees can camp

Here’s a short conversation two friends might have about an upcoming music festival:

A: Are you going to the festival this weekend?

B: I’m not sure… The lineup is really good this year, but it’s pretty expensive. How about you?

A: I think I’m going. All of the headliners are great, so I think it will be worth it.

B: Yeah, that’s a good point. I just want to wait and see the schedule. They always have two bands I want to see play at the same time!

A: That happens at every festival! I just like to stay at the main stage anyways. There’s always something good on there and there are plenty of vendors around.

B: Good idea. I like to stand back by the soundboard because it’s usually not too crowded there.

A: Maybe I’ll see you there! But you’d better get your tickets soon. I heard it’s almost sold out.


As for me, I absolutely love going to music festivals! I started going to them back in 2003 and have been to at least one every year since then. I even met my wife at a music festival ten years ago! Going to a music festival with friends and camping out for a weekend is always fun. I don’t go to as many these days, but I’m still getting to two different camping festivals this summer. How about you? Have you ever been to a music festival? Do you like going to them? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.