Every year around Coachella time, I start to feel it. That creeping insecurity that tells me I’m just not cool enough to go. Let’s face it. I’m not 23, famous on Instagram, or rich. I have no “Boho chic” clothes, my belly button isn’t pierced, and the one time I had to wear a floral headband in a friend’s bridal party it was so itchy I ditched it before pictures and she just barely forgave me.
In the last 10 years, destination music festivals have become a thing in the tourism world. They used to be primarily European, but now Palm Springs hosts Coachella, Chicago hosts Lollapalooza, and Tennessee hosts Bonnaroo, just to name a few. Inevitably, a barrage of social media footage appears, with impossibly beautiful people dancing with equally impossibly beautiful people, often with teeth so white it hurts to look at them.
And the celebs. Every major online publication comes out with their own roundup of the celebrities at these festivals, with their cool friends. I usually troll them with my free hand stuffed in a Cheetos bag while wearing my, “If you can read this my invisibility cloak isn’t working” t-shirt.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just not cool enough for Coachella…
…BUT I really love music. And I love the idea of going to a festival for a few reasons:
- I like the idea that a festival is a commitment to music. Most of the festivals are set far enough away from a big city that you can’t just pop in to see your favorite band. You either have to camp or stay at a hotel nearby.
- I like the idea of seeing multiple bands play in one night. It’s hard for me to get a night out sometimes between my job and my kids. Being able to see multiple bands play over the course of a weekend would be a dream.
But still, I’m hesitant to attend. And I think I know why. The Guardian calls these destination festivals as opposed to reproducible tours, “the ultimate ‘I was there’ event.” I think the social media aspect of music festivals like Coachella have turned ordinary people like me, who really love music but aren’t particularly famous or skinny or rich (and are okay not being any of those things most of the time), off to the idea of them. It’s not just insecurity. It’s the idea that that’s all there is to these festivals. Even though, truth be told, most of us would probably love them.
So I did some research on alternatives to Coachella and iHeartRadio and Bonnaroo. It turns out, there are some really cool music festivals out there for people who love music and have a private Instagram account.
Here are five music festivals to look out for this year that aren’t Coachella:
Stagecoach is like Coachella for country music, minus a lot of the hype. You probably won’t spot any celebrities in the crowd, but you might feel more at ease. Plus, it’s set in California’s desert too so you’ll get Coachella vibes without actually attending.
Sasquatch has gotten some negative publicity in recent years – mostly from people who say that the area ran low on supplies. So bring your own toilet paper! Besides that though, it’s set in the beautiful Gorge in Central Washington, it’s picturesque, much smaller than other major festivals (giving it a communal vibe) and the line-up is always top-notch.
The Governor’s Ball
Okay, okay, The Governors Ball is kind of like Coachella in New York City, but the lineup is unreal. Not to mention the food lineup. There will probably be the Insta-famous crowd, but you can also expect loads of screaming teens, classic rockers, and even middle-aged parents who just want to see Jack White play, dammit.
Set in Golden Gate state park, the foggy atmosphere mixed with northern California’s effortless coolness, this festival is one to hit. You won’t see any major rappers and Beyonce won’t headline, but your favorite indie bands, as well as several pop acts, will be there.
Shaky Knees is for all you southerners, set in Atlanta, Georgia. See classics like Jimmy Eat World and Cake, plus discover new favorites like The Frights and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
And if you just really want to go to Coachella? Make it happen. There’s no rule that you have to be a certain type to attend. Just get your friends, buy your ticket, and make it happen.