As 2014 draws to a close, the dates for next year’s biggest festivals are being announced and tickets are going on sale. We find some of the best to watch out for – from smart literary gatherings to celebrations of the very best gastronomy in the USA, from chilled-out folk music to the radical libertarian Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
April 24 – May 3
Established in 1970, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a celebration of Louisiana history and culture as well as a big music event featuring leading international performers. In the past, the Jazz and Heritage Festival has welcomed Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, B.B.King, Van Morrison and Dizzy Gillespie and in 2014, the headline acts included Bruce Springsteen and Carlos Santana. Held at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, much of the proceeds are re-invested in cultural projects and initiatives within the city. There are plenty of food stalls that are required to serve up authentic southern dishes such as crawfish, beignets, oysters, po-boys and jambalaya to get a place at the Festival and cultural exhibitions that document the histories of the various communities of Louisiana, such as Cajun and Native American.
Newport Folk Festival
July 24 – 26
The very first Newport Folk Festival was held in 1959 in the Rhode Island city. The festival is synonymous with the Folk Revival of the 1960s and was a vital stage for legendary performers such as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Joan Baez. Today, the festival still focuses on artists working in the folk, blues, country, bluegrass and roots genres and is held in the Fort Adams State Park in Newport, close to mouth of the city harbor. Famously, or perhaps infamously, the festival was the scene of Bob Dylan performing in 1965 and introducing electric guitarists to his band, which led to vocal opposition from purists in the crowd and the festival organisers. In 2014, performers included Ryan Adams, Jack White, Conor Oberst and Jimmy Cliff.
Newport Folk Festival, Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI, USA, + 1 401 848 5055
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
April 18 – 19
The Los Angeles Times has been hosting a major Festival of Books since 1996 and now attracts 150,000 visitors. Now hosted at the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles the festival brings together leading authors, poets, publishers, independent and major booksellers, and museum and gallery directors and invites members of the public to attend lectures, discussions, seminars, book signings, readings and talks on a huge range of subjects. Admission for the public is free. The festival also sees the handing out of various awards for works published in the previous twelve months. In 2014 authors in attendance included Veronica Roth and John Green and there was a late-night comedy night featuring improvised and sketch comedy hosted by John Moe.
Voodoo Music and Arts Experience
October 30 – November 1
The Voodoo Music and Arts Experience is perhaps not as well-known as some other big festivals but has developed a significant following since the very first event in 1999 and has several times been nominated for ‘Festival of the Year’ in Pollstar. Based in New Orleans at the City Park, the festival brings together big names in music from across several genres and shows off huge art installations. The first Voodoo Experience back in 1999 featured music from Moby and since then has welcomed diverse artists such as Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, and Ozzy Osborne – from folk to indie, and hip hop to metal. The 2014 Voodoo Experience featured the Foo Fighters, Artic Monkeys, Lauren Hill and DJ Pete Tong.
Aspen Food and Wine Classic
June 19 – 21
The Aspen Classic organised by Food and Wine Magazine is one of the biggest gastronomy events in the USA and boasts big-name sponsors such as American Express and Royal Caribbean. The festival comprises cooking demonstrations by leading chefs, late-night parties, and masses of tasting events at which independent winemakers and artisanal food producers show off their produce. In the Tasting Pavilion there are hundreds of producers displaying their quality fare. The festival is held at locations across Downtown Aspen in Colorado, thousands of feet above sea level in the Rockies. Much of the money made is invested by Food and Wine Magazine in grow-for-good initiatives at local farms and sustainable produce.
May 22 – 25
The Sasquatch! Festival is held in a spectacular position in the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range. Since being founded in 2002 by Adam Zacks the festival has grown from a one-day event to three-days by 2006 and now takes place over four days. In 2014 the Sasquatch! Festival was completely sold out. The festival focuses on a mixture of musical genres and also includes comedy performances with leading comedienne Sarah Silverman having been a previous host of the festival. At the early festivals there was an emphasis on indie rock with performances from Coldplay, Modest Mouse, and the Flaming Lips. In 2014 the headline acts included Outkast, Queens of the Stone Age, and comedy from Demetri Martin.
Sasquatch! Festival, 754 Silica Road, Quincy, WA +1 509 785 6262
August 31 – September 7
The Burning Man Festival is something a little different. Rather than bringing in big name musicians or writers, the festival instead focuses on key values such as community, self-reliance, and self-expression. Originally held in 1986 on a beach in San Francisco, it now takes place in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada in a temporary metropolis made up of art installations, theme camps and villages that promote certain worthy causes, and mutant vehicles. The centerpiece of the festival is the burning of a huge wooden figure of a man. In 2014 the event attracted 65,000 attendees, together dedicated to the ten principles of gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, inclusion and self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, immediacy, participation and leaving no trace.
Burning Man Festival, 660 Alabama Street, San Francisco, CA +1 415 865 3800
Phases of the Moon
September 17 – 20
The Phases of the Moon Festival is a fairly new and up-and-coming music and art festival. The inaugural festival was held in 2014 with music from big names such as the String Cheese Incident, Lunar Landing Conspiracy, and Widespread Panic. The festival takes place in the 3000-acre Kennekuk Park in Illinois which is full of period buildings that give a small-town feel. There are four outdoor stages, craft areas and food stalls run by artisanal producers and independent breweries. There are performance art installations and a relaxation area in which festival-goers can hear massage, yoga, and qi-gong lectures. The performance art on show in 2014 included jugglers, aerial dancers, giant puppet troupes, and multimedia and light shows.
Phases of the Moon, 22296 Henning Road, Danville, Illinois +1 217 442 1691
Austin City Limits
October 2 – 4 and 9 – 11
The Austin City Limits Festival takes place over three days of two weekends and sees 75,000 visitors head to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas to see leading music artists and sample high-quality local cuisine. The festival was started in 2002 and in the early years saw artists such as the White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, and Rodrigo y Gabriela perform. The festival is loosely connected to the leading television show Austin City Limits that showcases the best modern music. There are eight stages at the festival, each with a focus on a different genre such as rock, blues, folk, electronic, indie and hip-hop. In 2014 the artists performing included Eminem, Beck, Belle and Sebastien, Sam Smith and Paolo Nutini. There are also areas called Austin Eats that showcases local cuisine, and an Art Market at which local artisans can sell their work.
Library of Congress National Book Festival
The Library of Congress National Book Festival is perhaps the most prestigious of America’s literary events, with a history of being sponsored by the First Lady Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. When the event was first held in 2001 it was at the National Mall before moving to the Walter E.Washington Convention Center ever since. The festival attracts over 200,000 visitors to the various pavilions, each dedicated to a different literary genre such as history, poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. There are readings, poetry slams, interviews with authors, lectures, and discussions. In 2014 the authors attending the festival were Alice McDermott, Kai Bird, Alan Greenspan, Elizabeth McCracken, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.