The first known music festival date back to Ancient Greece in the late sixth century BC and one of the first was a precursor event to the Olympics which was a general celebration of all things beautiful, it included a day of musical competitions.
In 1952, the Newport Jazz Festival was founded in Rhode Island, marking the inception of festival culture to the Western world. 13,000 people attended the festival to hear jazz, gospel, and blues performances by well known singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
Modern day music festivals really started to take rise in the late 1960s with festivals like Monterey Pop Festival, Summerfest and Woodstock. The Woodstock Festival was a three-day pop and rock concert that turned out to be the most popular music event in history. It became a symbol of the hippie movement of the 1960s.
In the early 2000s, festivals began to form that labeled themselves Music & Arts, creating side channels of activities and amenities such as yoga, gourmet food, installations, actors, and other special features to differentiate themselves from the other growing festivals.
Music festivals attract people from all different cultures, from all around the world. However, once at the music festival, culture barriers seem to be eliminated and everyone comes together and creates this new culture. Festivals are a place to make connections with beautiful strangers. This culture inside of music festivals is one in which everybody is accepted for who they are. There are no judgments, and everybody is loved no matter what culture they are from. There is a sense of community different from that of the outside world. This community has a whole new set of rules, norms, spiritual rituals etc. Rituals would include the pure concept of spreading peace and love at these festivals. The language of the music festival culture is the music. No matter the culture, everybody can understand music. More importantly, music is correlated with positive emotions and this is why the music festival culture creates such a feeling of happiness.
Today, there are over 800 music festivals that happen annually in the U.S. alone. While some feature a specific genre, others span across a variety of genres ranging from country to hip hop to electronic to alternative. Our list of Best Music Festivals to attend in 2023* compromises of the big hitters, new faces, and best experiences to be had at festivals across the U.S.
*Order based on dates of the festival. And the list will be updated/added to as more information is announced.
April 14-16 & April 21-23, 2023 (Empire Polo Club in Indio, California)
North America’s Most Famous Music Festival
A festival on every true music fan’s bucket list, Coachella has a world-beating lineup of some of music’s biggest stars, covering a range of genres, including rock, indie, hip-hop and dance. Coachella’s lineup is a constant source of annual anticipation and a hotbed for musical discussion. Coachella’s illustrious history has seen it feature legendary headline sets from the likes of Daft Punk, Prince, Radiohead, and Rage Against The Machine over its two decade-long lifespan.
Coachella serves as a cultural epicenter, a millennial mecca, epitomizing the experimental thought and freedom characteristic of our generation. From food to fashion, everything at Coachella is elevated to match the energy and grandeur of the event.
In recent years, the food lineup has become almost as important as the music lineup. Some past hot plates could be found at Sweet Comforts, an artisan waffle concept truck, Alvin Cailan – the genius behind Los Angeles treasure Eggslut and Paper Planes, which specializes in dumping large amounts of melted cheese on potato dishes. There is also their Outstanding in the Field Dinner which is a full-service, four-course family style meal, a cocktail and ample regional wine in their VIP Rose Garden.
And when it comes to fashion, Coachella sets the pace for the rest of the year’s festival trends.
Coachella’s Country music counterpart, Stagecoach (est. 2007), happens the following weekend April 28-30, 2023 and boasts headliners Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, Christ Stapleton, and many others.
Coachella started in 1999, and was meant to be a replacement for Woodstock ’99 – which was a disastrous feat that ended in violence, riots and just a lot of bad vibes earlier that year. Following the chaos that plagued Woodstock ’99, many argued the peaceful and loving atmosphere that characterized the original Woodstock in 1969 couldn’t be recreated. Fortunately, for all of our festy heads, Goldenvoice, a California-based concert promoting collective, proved them wrong. In an effort to revitalize the music festival, Goldenvoice hosted a two-day festival featuring a slew of artists, primarily from the pop and rock genres, in October 1999. As Coachella grew in popularity, more and more festivals started popping up across the United States, many following the Coachella-model that had proved successful.
Tickets: Starting at $549
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 28-30 & May4-7, 2023 (New Orleans Fairgrounds in New Orleans, Louisiana)
Best Heritage & Culture Music Festival
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, aka “Jazz Fest,” is the signature annual music and cultural event of the city. Celebrating the music, food, arts and crafts of all of Louisiana since 1970, Jazz Fest is an essential showcase of the rich heritage of the region, and hundreds of thousands attend the event each year. Local music heroes are joined on by some of the most important figures in entertainment, highlighting the connections between Louisiana culture and the world.
Dead & Company, Ed Sheeran, Lizzo and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss are set to headline the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Also playing the 2023 festival are Santana, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Jon Batiste, H.E.R., Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Jill Scott, Kane Brown and Wu-Tang Clan with The Soul Rebels. Jazz Fest spans over two weekends at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.
“The Louisiana Heritage Festival,” was originally conceived by George Wein. He envisioned a daytime fair with multiple stages featuring a variety of local music styles, Louisiana cuisine, arts and crafts and evening concerts.
The first Jazz Fest took place from April 22-26, 1970 in Congo Square with an all-star lineup that included Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Pete Fountain, The Preservation Hall Brass Band, Mardi Gras Indians and many others. Only 350 attended the inaugural event, but that would soon change.
Today, Wein’s original vision remains the basic premise of the festival, and Jazz Fest welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the historic Fair Grounds Race Course where it is now held. The festival is now overseen and coordinated by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation as they continue to feature local and international talents on the Jazz Fest platform.
The event has showcased most of the great artists of New Orleans and Louisiana of the last half-century: Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., Ellis Marsalis, The Radiators, Irma Thomas, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Better Than Ezra, Ernie K-Doe, Vernel Bagneris, The Zion Harmonizers, Beausoleil, and many others.
Tickets: Starting at $225