Nothing celebrates the season of warm weather and dogwood blossoms like a music festival, and the Southeast is rich in a variety of options. Whether your taste is rock, hip-hop, country, house, bluegrass, jazz, blues or experimental, there’s something to please everyone. Here are nine music festivals we’d happily fill a cooler and hit the road to see this spring.
The Gasparilla Music Foundation organizes this annual festival that promotes music education in Tampa, Florida, and supports a variety of programs, including Recycled Tunes, an organization that provides musical instruments to underserved children. Sponsored by Cigar City Brewing, the festival lineup includes the Avett Brothers, Gary Clark Jr. and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Food service emphasizes local restaurants and caterers. Last year’s vendors included Big Ray’s Fish Camp, Holy Hog BBQ and Kona Ice. The family-friendly festival offers special kids activities, and admission is free for children 12 and younger. VIP tickets include premium viewing areas, private bars, drink tickets and air-conditioned restroom facilities. March 9-10. $30-$200. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park, Tampa, Florida. gasparillamusic.com.
For four days in March, downtown Knoxville’s concerts, theaters, nightclubs, churches and museums are filled with the exploratory sounds of classical, improvised, electronic and guitar-driven music, plus film screenings, interactive workshops, installations and panel discussions. The lineup this year includes Bela Fleck, Bill Frisell, Rhiannon Giddens, Lonnie Holley and Richard Thompson. The festival will recognize the 50-year anniversary of trailblazing ECM Records, with 20 performances throughout the event. Other special events include All Night Flight: Dreams of the Whirlwind, 12 hours of continuous sound featuring two dozen musicians and four visual artists. Meanwhile, Pilot Light nightclub hosts four days of free music. March 21-24. $10-$105, weekend passes $225-$650. Various venues, Knoxville, Tennessee. bigearsfestival.org.
Rebirth Brass Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Pokey LaFarge, Kathy Mattea, Ricky Skaggs and Jeff Tweedy are among the more than 70 acts playing this annual cross-genre festival of world-class music held at various venues throughout the oldest city in Georgia. Venues include Johnny Mercer Theater, Lucas Theatre of the Arts, the Savannah Cultural Arts Center and the Trustees’ Garden. The nonprofit organization produces a music education curriculum, an annual high school jazz band competition, a mentorship program for acoustic musicians and a weekly radio series. March 28-April 13. Ticket prices and venues vary. Savannah. savannahmusicfestival.org.
Adam Beyer, Afrojack, Alesso, the Chainsmokers, David Guetta, Maceo Plex and Zeds Dead are among the performers announced so far for this outdoor electronic music festival, but look for more lineup announcements soon. This year, the festival moves to a new location and introduces wristband tickets. March 29-31. $299-$1,499. Historic Virginia Key Beach Park & Miami Marine Stadium, Miami. ultramusicfestival.com.
The Shovels & Rope duo, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, are behind this new music festival featuring 20 bands on two stages for two days. The lineup includes J. Roddy Walston & the Business, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Leon Bridges, Jenny Lewis, Butch Walker and Shovels & Rope, naturally. VIP passes include free reserved parking; access to exclusive bars, viewing areas and dining options; plus complimentary oysters and hors d’oeuvres both days. The Low Tide Social is a special ticketed experience featuring a Lowcountry boil, oysters, cocktails and music by Shrimp Records Family Band. You can also learn about oyster farming and how to shuck oysters and participate in an oyster tasting class. April 13-14. $159-$424 weekend pass. Special events $50-$55. Riverfront Park, Charleston, South Carolina. highwaterfest.com.
Founded in 1988 to honor the memory of bluegrass guitarist Eddy Merle Watson, son of legendary musician Doc Watson, MerleFest has become one of the most prestigious Americana festivals in the country. The lineup includes Brandi Carlile, the Avett Brothers, Keb’ Mo’, Elizabeth Cook, Radney Foster and Webb Wilder. Check out the winning entry in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest on the Cabin Stage Friday night. Other highlights include the Late Night Jam 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday in the Walker Center, special kids activities and entertainment, and The Shoppes at MerleFest, where vendors sell crafts and memorabilia. RV camping is permitted; no tents allowed. April 25-28. $50-$70. $160-$255 for three- and four-day passes. Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, North Carolina. merlefest.org.
For three days, some of the country’s top country, rock and roots acts will perform on multiple stages for the Tortuga Music Festival. Presented by the Rock the Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to raising awareness and funds for ocean conservation, the festival has already donated more than $1.2 million to the cause. This year’s lineup includes Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Thomas Rhett, Flo Rida, Sheryl Crow, Elle King and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Currently, single-day tickets are not available, and there’s no parking on-site. April 12-14. $239-$1,100 for three-day passes. Seabreeze Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. tortugamusicfestival.com.
New Orleans hosts the Big Kahuna of spring music festivals, presenting hundreds of acts at 12 stages and tents over the course of eight days spanning two weekends. One of the most musically diverse festivals in the country, it features acts playing jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country and bluegrass. The Congo Square African Marketplace is home to the artisan market where vendors sell various crafts and goods. And a slew of food vendors sell local delicacies such as po’boy and muffuletta sandwiches, beignets, jambalaya, oysters and more. Headliners this year include the Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, Van Morrison, Dave Matthews Band, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffett, Pitbull, Santana and Chris Stapleton. April 25-May 5. $75-$85 a day. Fairground Race Course, New Orleans. nojazzfest.com.
What better way to kick off the season than a four-day music festival on the beach? There’s no end to the fun at Hangout Fest, where music is only part of the attraction. Festivalgoers can also party at the Malibu Beach House, where DJs spin all day, hit the Roller Disco, get a massage at the Tropical Spa, ride a Ferris wheel and more. The lineup includes Travis Scott, the Lumineers, Cardi B, Diplo, Khalid, Vampire Weekend and the 1975. Children 17 and younger must be accompanied by an adult 21 or older. May 16-19. $279-$1,699 for three-day passes. $55 for the Thursday kickoff party. Gulf Shores, Alabama. hangoutmusicfest.com.
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