What Los Angeles may lack in H2O availability it more than makes up for in the over abundance of music festivals in and around the city that span across the shores of Huntington Beach to a polo field near Palm Springs to the heart of downtown Pasadena. Throughout the year there are festivals catering to every musical palate and budget.
Empire Polo Club
81-800 Avenue 51
Indio, CA 92201
Arguably the gold standard for music festivals in the country, if not the world, Coachella is the place to be heard and be seen during the two consecutive weekends it occupies the Empire Polo Club in April each year. Expect an eye-popping roster of talent highlighted by epic headliners which often include “not in this lifetime” reunions from bands such as Guns ‘n Roses, Outkast and LCD Soundsystem. It’s not just the music that elevates this three-day event into the God tier of festival though. Eye-opening art installations, mouthwatering food options, and of course, the people watching all contribute to making Coachella so special. People travel far and wide to make this festival each year, and tickets are always tough to come by. They sell out within minutes of release.
Tickets for both weekends (particularly the first) are hotter than the surface of the sun, so plan early. Local hotels book up immediately, but on-site and off-site camping is available. Or, just make a friend in the Palm Springs area and carve out some couch space.
Empire Polo Club
81-800 Avenue 51
Indio, CA 92201
A tip of the cowboy hat to the genius who decided to repurpose the Coachella infrastructure and produce yet another can’t miss musical event in Indio. Stagecoach has quickly become one of the most popular country music festivals west of the Mississippi and for good reason. The family-friendly event (kids 10 and under get in free) is jam packed with some of the biggest names in country music (think Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and other superstars) with plenty of extra-curricular activities including a honkytonk dance hall and a designated area for the little ones featuring games, arts and crafts and a petting zoo. Last year’s festival even included an appearance from the famed Budweiser clydesdale horses. General on-sale tickets get released in the fall and if previous years are any indication, tickets to the festival sell out quick. Passes for the on-site RV Resort are also a hot commodity.
KROQ Weenie Roast
This annual kickoff to the summer is always a cut above the rest from your standard radio festival fare. Generally held in May, KROQ listeners will certainly be familiar with the rock-centric lineup which has featured heavy hitters such as Metallica, Green Day, and Muse in the past. Expect the unexpected, as unannounced guests often make surprise appearances (Blink-182 crashed last year’s event). Don’t sleep on the side stage though, which features up and coming acts that often graduate to headliner status. The Weenie Roast will be settling into a new home in 2017 as Irvine Meadows, which has played host to the event nearly every year its inception, is closing shop. Regardless where it lands, expect a packed house. It’s always packed with talent.
Playboy Jazz Festival
The Hollywood Bowl
2301 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
The Hollywood Bowl season kicks off on a high note with this annual weekend affair. Over nearly four decades The Playboy Jazz Festival has played host to a who’s who of legendary performers including Miles Davis, Ray Charles, and Branford Marsalis. While jazz is unsurprisingly the focal point of the festival, the lineup, which features over twenty performers, often includes representatives from the world of hip hop, Latin, and soul. Make sure to pack a picnic and feel free to bring some beer or vino. Back in 2014, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association took the reins of the fest making the fest officially BYOB friendly. There’s also great food on site though.
Make Music Pasadena
Over 50,000 people take to the streets of Pasadena for this annual multi-block party which is (gasp!) free. That’s right, Make Music Pasadena offers a locals-heavy lineup of dozens artists spread throughout downtown all for the low low price of absolutely nothing. While MMP lacks the star wattage of other local music fests, attendees will no doubt get their money’s worth (did we mention admission was totally gratis?) with an always eclectic bill. Everyone from Grimes to Matt and Kim have headlined the fest in years past, and with MMP about to celebrate its 10th anniversary expect big things in upcoming years. Be sure to take advantage of mass transit as traffic and parking tend to be a nightmare, and, of course, support local businesses! The fest is held in June each year.
700 Exposition Park Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90037
While FYF is in many ways the little brother to Coachella, the annual end of summer fest that’s held in August has managed to carve out its own niche separate from its Goldenvoice-produced sibling. The fest’s downtown location and outside the box headliners (Grace Jones! My Bloody Valentine!) has made it favorite among east side scenesters and other Angelenos. Spread out over four stages with a small DJ area set around the Los Angeles Coliseum, it offers everything you can want in a festival: quality food, craft beer and wine, artist meet and greets, and, of course, great music. Each year FYF seems to draw bigger names and crowds so expect more of the same in upcoming years.
Lightning in a Bottle
Memorial Day Weekend
Equal parts musical festival and immersive social experience, this increasingly popular Central Coast gathering is well worth the trip up north. Sure the expertly curated lineup (think artists like Flume, Phantogram, and Jamie XX) would be good enough for your average festival, but Lightning in a Bottle is so much more. The show, which spans three stages of great artists and their music, also offers yoga, meditation, culinary instruction, and live art demonstrations. These are just some of the seemingly endless activities that helps put LIB in a league of its own. The fest is held on Memorial Day weekend.
Camping is included with admission though a glamping upgrade is available for those who don’t like to rough it in the great outdoors. Children are welcome LIB, so feel to bring the whole fam.
Sundown Music Festival
Huntington State Beach
Huntington Beach, CA
Location, location, location. That is the main draw for this Huntington Beach newcomer which sets up shop right along the Pacific. The music at Sundown Music Festival isn’t too shabby either, with a largely EDM-heavy lineup that is bound to have festival-goers dancing in the sand throughout the weekend. An assortment of carnival rides adds to the festive atmosphere and while you aren’t allowed to swim in the ocean during the event, giant inflatable water slides definitely suffice. Fans of shade and VIP status have the option of renting private cabanas as well. Bad news if you’re not old enough to imbibe though as Sundown Music Festival is a 21 and over event. Good news if you’re born in September (and over 21), though, as you can sign up for free festival admission! For those birthed during the other 11 months, single day as well as discounted 2-day passes are offered, though be sure to buy them early as the price of tickets increases closer to the start of the weekend.