From under-the-radar to over-the-top, California music festivals are world-renowned for showcasing both major and emerging acts in settings as memorable as the music. And while iconic festivals such as San Francisco’s Outside Lands and SoCal’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival grab all the headlines, we thought it would be fun to tune you in to some of California’s lesser-known and newer festivals. All you have to do now is find your faves so you can be part of the sounds and celebration the next time you’re in the Golden State.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (San Francisco) – September
For three days each fall, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park becomes a funky musical wonderland filled with sounds that zig-zag all over America’s musical map from alt-country to blues, rock and even some real bluegrass. HSB features multiple stages with names like Bandwagon and Rooster showcasing name acts like T-Bone Burnett and Robyn Hitchcock as well as up-and-comers. Best of all, the whole event is free — making it one giant party in the park.
Stern Grove Festival (San Francisco) – Summer
The Stern Grove Festival, one of San Francisco’s cultural gems, has been entertaining locals and visitors alike in an exquisite urban forest for nearly eight decades. Held in a an intimate amphitheater surrounded by towering firs, eucalyptus and California redwoods, this is the place to be on a summer Sunday catching an act that might be anyone from Janelle Monae to Mickey Hart. And go ahead and splurge on a gourmet picnic because this loved-by-locals event is also free of charge.
Treasure Island Music Fest (San Francisco) – October
An island makes an amazing setting for a music festival right? The creators of the Treasure Island Music Festival thought so and now they have a bona-fide hit on their hands. For two days each October, singers and bands like Father John Misty, Tycho and Deerhunter create a head-bobbing soundscape in the middle of San Francisco Bay that features an epic backdrop of the city’s skyline. Add a Ferris wheel, food stalls and a festive vibe and you have an unforgettable experience.
FYF Fest (Los Angeles) – August
This is a summer party held over an August weekend that LA’s youthful tribe embraces like the perfect beach day. Four stages near downtown at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and Exposition Park become the setting for an eclectic mix of sounds including rock, EDM, hip hop and indie (think everyone from Morrissey to Kanye West) mashed-up with popular food trucks and art installations. If you want some chill time in a beer and liquor garden that includes couches and views of the main stage, go for the VIP ticket.
It’s all in the mix at Del Mar’s KAABOO fest which is really designed for the crowd that has outgrown mud and mayhem at music events and prefers craft cocktails, a chef competition and maybe a spa treatment (yes, you can get a blow-out or massage here). Not that the music doesn’t matter. Held each September, KAABOO also gives you the chance to see acts like Jack Johnson and Gavin Degraw as well as live comedy performed by top names such as Janeane Garofalo.
CRSSD (San Diego) – March
If you like your music playfully mix-taped at 120 bpm with giant beachballs, a swirling crowd of Millennial merrymakers and gorgeous bay views, welcome to San Diego’s CRSSD festival. Launched last year by Goldenvoice and San Diego promoters CRSSD FNGRS, the annual spring fling is held at the city’s new-ish Waterfront Park where EDM and all its beat-happy sub-genres (Chromeo, Pete Tong) are paired with craft beer, local food trucks and the eternally balmy weather that makes San Diego such a blissful place to catch the beat.
Treasure Island: Wikipedia Commons