A toe-tappin' dance tent is a big draw at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C.
Photo: Sara Harrell
Photo: Sara Harrell

Music fests spring up all over the Southeast

Never mind April showers or May flowers, music festivals are bustin' out all over in the Southeast in the next two months. Here are just a few of the most appealing that are within a day's drive or a short flight from Atlanta. Plan to camp and stay awhile or just cherry pick one day's entertainment from this fine lineup of offerings in April and May:

MerleFest, Wilkesboro, N.C.
April 28-May 1
An event where memories are made, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of the legendary Doc Watson. It bills its music as "traditional plus," which works out to a core of Appalachian traditions like blue grass and old-time music expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. Just a few of this year's acts include John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Review, Donna the Buffalo, and the Waybacks. MerleFest includes a non-competitive Acoustic Kids Showcases for young musicians and a highly competitive Songwriters Contest, along with nature walks and coffee houses and such. Several campgrounds are located nearby and are served by continuous bus shuttles, on campus RVs and tents are also available for rent. Daily admissions $40-$70; Fri-Sun general admission $135-$155; Th-Sun general admission $150-$180; 4-day Watson stage reserved seat $210-$260, four-person patron packages $2,200-$2,600.

Wilkes Community College. 1328 S. Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro, N.C.

Hangout Music Fest, Gulf Shores, Ala.
May 20-May 22

Never was a name more accurate. This is a multi-genre music festival where you hangout with other cool adults and listen to great music, including rock, indie, hip hop and electronic dance music. VIP passes include drinks all weekend long and gourmet chow, but every admission comes with beach -- Gulf Shores -- and sand included, under the Alabama sun. And whoo boy is there a bunch to choose from: Florence + The Machine, Lenny Kravitz, Panic At the Disco just for starters. Support your favorite or pick up a new one. Brett Dennen? Bro Safari? Mayer Hawthorne? This is just a sliver of the list, folks. General 3-day admission starts at $269; VIP $1,099, Super VIP $1,599.

At the terminus of Ala. Hwy. 59 along the public beaches of Gulf Shores.

Plum Hollow Alternative Bluegrass Festival
May 26-28

New Grass, Grunge Grass, Jazz Grass, Bluegrass Rock & Roll -- that's what this festival means by "alternative" bluegrass. It's not grand, but it's glorious, a showcase surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains, complete with primitive camping or rustic cabin rentals and lots o' picking and dancing. Be forewarned, though -- leave the pets and glass containers at home. And while the festival is in an area renowned for its moonshining history, do not look for any alcohol manufacture, distribution or sales at the event. Isn't happening. $75 for 3-day pass, $55 Fri-Sat pass, $30 one day pass, include camping, parking and all concerts.

Plum Hollow Farm, 5015 Rainbow Lake Rd, Campobello, S.C., 864-680-0225

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston. S.C.
May 27 - June 12

One of the world's most esteemed festivals since its start in 1977, Spoleto Festival overflows the historic venues and picturesque outdoor spaces of Charleston, South Carolina, with performance arts and all manner of beautiful music from renowned artists. Opera, theater, chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz fill the bill for the 17 day extravaganza, which neatly showcases a blend of world-renowned artists and the young and undiscovered; traditional treatments and innovative arrangements; international flair and Southern tradition. This 40th festival will include a re-considered Porgy and Bess, Westminster Choir concerts, the Randy Weston African Rhythms Sextet, Grammy-nominated Americana singer and guitarist Brandi Carlile and literally too many more acts to list here. Visit for a day or take a long, musical breather in the historic Southern city of Charleston. Student, military, senior, and group discounts available.

Charleston Gaillard Center and 12 others, 14 George Street, Charleston, S.C.

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