In the latter half of 2021, there’s a lot to be excited about: sporting events with full stadiums, gallivanting to bars with your friends, indulging in the movie theater experience, traveling…what am I forgetting? Ahh, yes. The return of live music- which is arguably the most exciting of all.
The 2021 festival season is coming back in full-ish swing (which is hard to believe, and weird that it’s hard to believe), and I’ve read a number of great lineups. I’ve whittled it down and created my hand-picked top five festivals this summer to mark on your calendars.
So grab a pen, text your friends, weigh travel options, and get pumped.
Because I’m from Colorado, I’m slightly biased. Telluride is a beautiful, hidden mountain town, with so much to offer; restaurants, trails and views galore. This year, Telluride’s lineup is spread across two weekends, featuring Dierks Bentley and Infamous Stringdusters the first weekend, and Emmylou Harris, The Decemberists, and Grace Potter on the second weekend. Festival regulars Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and The Sam Bush Band are also on the bill, rounding out an already stacked lineup, which is nothing new for this renowned festival.
First Weekend June 11th-13th and Solstice Weekend June 17th-20th.
This newcomer in Columbus, Ohio, will surely resonate with the indie scene. In regard to genre, WonderBus has much more of an indie focus, but features big mainstream headliners like Kesha, AJR, Grouplove, and Wilco. Personally, I’d say Black Pumas and Ritt Momney are a primary reason to go, the two being up and coming artists that you’ll want to see before they’re next-level huge in a few years time.
Located on the scenic Raccoon River, just outside Des Moines, Iowa, Hinterland is also a newer festival on the scene. Having already picked up some steam with past lineups, this festival blends the outdoorsy-camp vibe with new and seasoned folk rock artists alike. This killer lineup boasts acts such as Leon Bridges, The Avett Brothers, Mt. Joy, Black Pumas (again), and more.
On the festival’s 20th Anniversary, Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion is making a huge comeback. Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia, is cited as “The Birthplace of Country Music,” and draws thousands of visitors to their museum and subsequent events. Thirteen stages will make up the venue for 100+ artists over the course of three days, including Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, Dr. Dog, Blackberry Smoke, and many others. After a year off, the festival has prepared for a return that is bigger than ever.
Wrapping up the list is the burgeoning Blue Ox Music Festival. The camp-style bluegrass festival set in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, boasts the Midwestern woods serving as a perfect scenic backdrop. Spread across three stages, the lineup includes Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (prior to their Bristol trip), Shakey Graves, Molly Tuttle, Leftover Salmon, The Sam Bush Band, and many more. With Midwest bluegrass pioneers Pert Near Sandstone hosting this exceptional festival, it’s sure to impress. Artists are chomping at the bit to get back to playing panoramic atmospheres such as this, and this festival is one we have circled on our calendar with red ink.