With spring just around the corner it is time to start making that hard decision, which music festivals absolutely have to be attended?
Here's a brief run down on some pros and cons to make the choice easier or just break that piggy bank and splurge on an epic season of mad festie love.
Aura Music & Art Festival from Feb. 15 -17 in Live Oak, Fl and tickets are still steal on advance sale at $119 although they will hit $149 if you wait till the last minute. Aura is doubling down some massive sets with Papadosio, Conspirator, Perpetual Groove, The Heavy Pets, Dopapod and Kung Fu hitting the stage twice plus Break Science, RAQ, Nigel Hall, The Lee Boys, Greenhouse Lounge and many more. This is their fourth year but their debut at S.S.M.P. We're all pretty stoked that they've moved up to Spirit of the Suwannee and I'll definitely be there for this madtastic party. Pros - Aura at Suwannee!!! Cons - Ummmm who cares? Did you hear me Aura at S.S.M.P!!
Buku Music + Art Project on March 8 -9 in New Orleans, La and tickets are $149. While the full line up hasn't been announced they've already got some pretty interesting things going on with Kid Cudi, Calvin Harris, Primus 3D, Passion Pit, STS9 x 2!, Nero, RAQ, Zedd, Big Gigantic, R3HAB, Major Lazer, Best Coast, Datsik, Dillion Francis, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and many more. Pros - New Orleans, diverse line up, two sets of STS9 Cons - you'll need a local friend or a hotel.
Ultra Music Festival on March 15 - 17 and March 22 - 24 in Miami, Fl and tickets are $299.94 + $70.06 service fee per weekend. This has been the long stand reigning king of United States electric music festivals although Electric Daisy Carnival has recently really come into it's own. This is a wild experience with the top names in the game showcasing their outrageous talent. 2013 is the first time Ultra has split into two weekends in order to accommodate more fans but no worries although they are trying to offer a different experience per weekend it is supposed to be the same headliners. While the full line up hasn't been revealed yet Armin Van Buuren, AVICII, Bassnectar, Calvin Harris, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Tiesto, Swedish House Mafia, Crystal Castles, Deadmau5, Major Lazer, Thievery Corporation, Yeasayer and more are already on board. Pros - Ultimate party in sunny south Florida Cons - while completely worth it this is not a cheap festival to attend since tickets and hotels are top dollar plus you'll most likely be dealing with some traffic issues.
Suwannee SpringFest from March 21 - 24 in Live Oak, Fl with tickets currently $150 although they'll be going up to $180 before you know it. While the full line up isn't out yet it's already looking sweet with Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Leftover Salmon, Keller & the Kells, Donna The Buffalo, Mike Marshall & Darol Anger, Travelin McCourys, Cornmeal, Elephant Revival, Jim Lauderdale, Tornado Rider, The Mosier Brothers and tons more. This is one of the best family fun festivals around with kids 12 and under getting in free with an adult. Yes, there is drinking but really the only other festivals I'm cool with recommending for families would be Orange Blossom Jamboree in May and Magnolia Fest in the fall. Pros - Suwannee can't be beat and this is gonna be a great weekend Cons - None, if this is your kind of music you are gonna love it.
Wanee from April 18 - 20 in Live Oak, Fl but currently early bird tickets are sold out and it's not official when the next batch of tickets will be put on sale. While the Allman Brothers are pretty much a guarantee the rest of the line up has not been announced althought that doesn't stop anyone from talking about Wanee. This is Suwannee's flagship festival and it will sell out. If you've never been it's quite the experience, if you've been to other Suwannee festivals expect a park full on a level you've never seen before but folks are having the time of their lives. Best bet is to either follow Wanee on twitter or like them on facebook to keep up with the news. Pros - It's Wanee Cons - Don't expect to find a hot shower anywhere and get there really early (Monday/Tuesday) or you could end up in the back fields.
Sweetwater 420 Fest from April 19 - 21in Atlanta, Ga. Right now there's not a lot of information to pass on. Tickets aren't on sale yet and the lineup hasn't been announced but the word is it's a great time and personally I'm gonna give it a shot this year so expect more info as we get a little closer to the festival but if you're not going to Wanee it's an interesting alternative. Pros & Cons - Well, this is my first time so I'll have to let you know.
Purple Hatters Ball from May 11 - 13 in Live Oak, Fl with tickets almost free at $45 right now. Hurry up and get that early bird price although this is just a sweet festival for the best cause and tickets top out at $75. We've got some early announcements including Lettuce, DubConscious, Greenhouse Lounge, Catfish Alliance, Trial By Stone and Sir Charles. If you've never been this tends to be a younger crowd, not really what I would consider a family friendly festival but it's an epic amazing weekend that I'd never miss with amazing weather and absolutely the right time to take advantage of the beach. Really all these good vibes are a wonderful tribute to Rachel Morningstar Hoffman beautiful soul while her family still works tirelessly towards changing our laws to protect us all from a such tragedy. Pros - The is my favorite festival with attendance under 3000, it's just an epic weekend Cons - If you're used to the older bluegrass and jamband feel of some other Suwannee festivals this is definitely a little different vibe, expect vibrant light shows and no chairs on the amphitheater floor.
Orange Blossom Jamboree from May 16 - 19 in Brooksville, Fl and tickets are $60. Another fun easy on the wallet, local Florida band based festival with The Heavy Pets, COPE, Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, Beeb$ and her Money Makers, The Legendary JC's, Greenhouse Lounge, Funky Seeds, Fusik, The Applebutter Express and many many more. Last year I was truly impressed with the vibe which was about as friendly as you could ever hope. This is seriously an amazing group of folks who will take you in and you'll definitely leave feeling loved plus it's pretty kid friendly. Pros - showers, real bathrooms, one covered stage, lots of rv parking, pet friendly, lots of venders Cons - smaller stages than Suwannee, same weekend as The Hangout.
The Hangout Music Festival from May 17 - 19 in Pensacola Beach, Fl with tickets currently $209 but they'll go up to $229. Currently there's no information on the lineup but it tends to be a pretty diverse entertaining weekend well worth the ticket price. Pros - Pensacola Beach, great lineups, lots of girls in bikinis Cons - While you can see the water you can't go swimming without leaving the festival then re-entering afterwards, need a local friend or hotel, lack of shade.
Wakarusa Festival from May 30 - June 2 on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ar with tickets $154 plus a car camping pass that ranges between $29 - $149. This is Waka's ten year anniversary and while the last phase has yet to be announced I'm already completely sold. Widespread Panic, Dispatch, Umphrey's McGee, Yonder Mountain String Band, Quixotic, Tipper, Zoogma, Dirtfoot, SOJA, Papadosio, The Werks, Earphunk, Tornado Rider and many many more if you haven't bought your tickets yet... while I'm not even sure why you're reading this article. Pros - Did you look at the lineup? But in all honestly Mulberry Mountain is beautiful, this is an epic weekend, it's my favorite festival in the 15,000 - 20,000 attendance level and I look forward to attending every year. Cons - Make sure your vehicle and driver are up to winding mountain roads, be careful if arriving after dark. West Woods camping sells out fast which is where all the shade is while main event is nice since it's less of a walk. Personally I prefer the shade but the coming down the mountain trail can be tricky if you're not in the best physical shape or injured. Got some extra cash? Just use the festie cabs. Don't forget your hard core bug repellant there are ticks in these woods.
*Anything at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fl has some automatic Pros - Port-o-Potties of death are available if you don't like those there are real bathrooms and free showers if you're willing to walk a little farther. Great food, lots of support for artists including live painting and venders, shade, tons of places for hanging hammocks, fires okay unless there is a forrest fire risk, very very clean, Walmart and Publix within 12 miles, the beach, canoe rental available, camping included in cost, electric and water upgrades available as well as RV sites. Honestly Suwannee spoils you, later if you venture to almost any other festival venue you'll come to appreciate all the comforts of SSMP you might at first take for granted.