Groove to the sounds of summer

Plan your summer travel around these music festivals taking place around the Southeast.

Credit: Cora Wagoner

Credit: Cora Wagoner

The infield of the Red Mile horse racing track in Lexington, Kentucky, is the site of this year's Railbird Festival June 1-2. (Courtesy of Cora Wagoner)

As spring turns to summer, the temperature heats up along with the music at festivals and concert series around the South. Here are 10 options for hot times this festival season from chilling out in the mountains of North Carolina to sweating it out on the beach in Alabama and other big-city and small-town events in between.

The Capitol Theatre is one of many downtown Macon venues that's a part of the Bragg Jam Concert Crawl on July 27.
(Courtesy of Visit Macon)

Credit: Hando

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Credit: Hando

Bragg Jam

What started as an impromptu jam session at the Rookery restaurant in 1999 to celebrate and honor brothers Brax and Tate Bragg — two rising musical stars from Macon who were tragically killed in a car accident — Bragg Jam has grown with a mission to support live music and give back to the community. Now it’s a Concert Crawl through downtown’s many music halls, but things get started in the morning with the Bragg Fam, a family-friendly event with crafts and music for the kids. Hip-hop trio Digable Planets tops the bill at this year’s Concert Crawl. Bragg Jam also hosts the Second Sunday concert series, a free all-ages performance on Coleman Hill overlooking downtown.

July 27. $10 for Bragg Fam (up to four children allowed for each paying adult), $40 for the Concert Crawl. Various locations in downtown Macon.

Railbird Festival

The worlds of country, rock and pop collide in Kentucky in early June at the Red Mile, a horse racing track in Lexington. On Saturday night Noah Kahan, Turnpike Troubadours and Counting Crows perform. Chris Stapleton, Hozier and Lord Huron close things out on Sunday. Many area hotels are offering packages that include admittance to the festival (book through the link on the website). Bourbon is an art form in Kentucky, a fact not overlooked by festival organizers. Connoisseurs can enjoy a world-class tasting experience at the Rickhouse in the middle of the infield featuring hand-selected barrels from local distilleries.

June 1-2. $185 and up for general admission tickets. 1200 Red Mile Road, Lexington, Kentucky.

The Hangout Music Festival on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, draws a large crowd from around the nation each May.
(Courtesy of Hangout Music Festival)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Hangout Music Festival

Since its inaugural year in 2010, the Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama, has become a destination fest for fans of multiple genres of music who crowd the sands to see acts perform over three days on stages set up directly on the beach a few yards away from the surf. This year’s headliners are the electronica duo ODESZA, alt-pop chanteuse Lana Del Rey, and country singer Zach Bryan. Other experiences include taking a ride on a giant Ferris wheel, playing beach volleyball, celebrating love with a photo-op at the Wedding Chapel (real ceremonies can be scheduled with advance notice), or simply taking a break from the crowds to chill on Hammock Beach.

May 17-19. $359 and up for three-day wristbands (no single-day passes). 101 E. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, Alabama. 844-407-2291,

Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival

The “Father of Country Music,” hailed from Meridian, Mississippi, home to the Jimmie Rodgers Festival each spring. Beginning as Jimmie Rodgers Day in 1953 — an event said to have drawn more than 50,000 people — the festival claims to be America’s longest-running music festival. Now in its 71st year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a contender for that title. This year Ben Haggard (Merle Haggard’s son), Heartless Bastards and the Red Clay Strays are among the featured acts during the four-day festival along with a slew of other multi-genre acts honoring the influential “Singing Brakeman” who has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame, among others.

May 16-19. $25 and up for daily general admission. 2155 Front St., Meridian, Mississippi. 601-938-7427,

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival takes place in a waterside park near downtown over Memorial Day weekend and is free to attend.
(Courtesy of City of Jacksonville)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Jacksonville Jazz Festival

Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett. These are just a few of the big-name acts who’ve performed at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival since its incarnation in 1980. Notable acts performing this Memorial Day Weekend are the Stanley Clarke Band, Robin Thicke and Joss Stone. The festival kicks off on Thursday with the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, an annual tradition dating back to 1983 when it was called the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. The competition takes place at the Florida Theatre downtown a mile away from the festival’s main stages in Metropolitan Park and at the adjacent amphitheater at Daily’s Place.

May 23-26. Admission free. 1410 Gator Bowl Blvd., Jacksonville, Florida. 904-255-5422,

CMA Fest

Music City becomes more musical than usual in early June during the CMA Fest, the ultimate fan experience for lovers of the Nashville sound. Country superstars and up-and-comers perform on a variety of stages from honky-tonks to stadiums. Attendees get to meet and mingle with fellow fans and the artists at the Fan Fair inside Music City Center. Jelly Roll, Keith Urban and Ashley McBryde are among the headliners. A handful of stages offer free daytime concerts, the largest being the Chevy Riverfront Stage on the bank of the Cumberland River where Colbie Caillat and 49 Winchester will perform.

June 6-9. Admission free to numerous daytime stages, $10 and up for Fan Fair X, $15 and up for Ascend Amphitheater shows and $84 and up for Nissan Stadium shows. Nashville, Tennessee. 800-262-3378,

The Wood Brothers are returning to the mountainside stage at the 2024 Summer Concert Series at Beech Mountain Resort in North Carolina.
(Courtesy of Rusty Cole)

Credit: Rusty Cole

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Credit: Rusty Cole

Summer Concert Series at Beech Mountain Resort

The 2024 concert season at Beech Mountain Resort in the mountains of North Carolina starts on June 8 with a double bill from grassroots jam band pioneers The String Cheese Incident and the Grammy-nominated folk, blues and jazz stylings of The Wood Brothers. A three-day run in late July brings Need to Breathe with Yola on the 19th, Dispatch with Maggie Rose on the 20th, and Greensky Bluegrass on the 21st to the mountainside stage with an adjacent food truck village and libations from Beech Mountain Brewing Company. The season closes on Aug. 8 with a performance from electronic pop duo Sylvan Esso and indie-rock singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy.

June 8-Aug 10. $65 and up per show. 1007 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, North Carolina. 800-438-2093,

Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo

Arrive by foot, bike, public transit or kayak to this three-day festival in the Bayou St. John neighborhood of Mid-City New Orleans near City Park. Because the festival is held in a residential area, public parking is limited so it’s best to stay in another part of NOLA and use an alternate form of transportation. The Lafitte Greenway runs from the French Quarter to the festival grounds, as do other bike paths and public streetcar lines. People even paddle in to enjoy the festivities while floating on the calm waters of the bayou (tickets required). Buckwheat Zydeco Jr., Lez Zepplin (an all-female tribute to Led Zepplin), bassist and singer Nik West and the Ninth Ward-infused rock of Morning 40 Federation are at the top of a busy and diverse lineup each day.

May 17-19. $15 per day, $39 and up for weekend passes. 3205 Orleans Ave., New Orleans.

Piccolo Spoleto Festival

Piccolo Spoleto Festival coincides with — and is a companion festival to — Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA. The latter festival focuses on national and international talent; Piccolo Spoleto shines the spotlight on local and regional artists with nearly half of its events free to attend. Musical highlights of Piccolo are the Charleston Musical Heritage Series at Circular Congregational Church, the Early Music Series focusing on the works of Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and multiple street parade appearances from Atlanta’s own favorite marching band Seed and Feed Marching Abominable.

May 24-June 9. Admission varies. Various locations. Charleston, South Carolina. 843-724-7305,


During the first weekend in August, nearly 200 artists will perform in Asheville, North Carolina, on indoor and outdoor stages at more than 20 venues ranging from renowned clubs like the Orange Peel and the Grey Eagle to craft breweries, concert halls and bars. Headliners include Asheville-based acts Papadosio and alt-country troubadours Town Mountain, in addition to the psychedelic country sounds of Beachwood Sparks from Southern California and indie folk-rock from Portland’s Blitzen Trapper. The weekend wristband will also get patrons discounts at many local shops and restaurants.

Aug. 1-4. $135 and up for weekend pass wristbands. Various venues. Asheville, North Carolina.