- Sarah Karney
There’s so much more going on in the Texas music scene than honky-tonk and two-steppin’. There’s a festival for everyone – find your new favorite with this list of the best annual music festivals in the Lone Star State.
Euphoria Music Festival
If you’re looking for good vibes and a tight-knit community, Euphoria is the festival for you. Located on the beautiful Carson Creek Ranch, this festival features both top and up-and-coming electronic, jam, and hip-hop acts, as well as workshops, yoga, art installations, unique vendors, and even a volunteer grounds clean-up program to give back to the ranch. This year’s event, taking place April 6–9, 2017, features an opportunity for attendees looking to make their experience extra special and memorable: on-site officiated weddings.
You could never go to another music festival again and be okay with it after getting your live music fix during South By Southwest. The question isn’t what is there to do at SXSW – the question is how much can you squeeze in. SXSW is no ordinary festival – it’s a mega conference that attracts more than 300,000 international attendees every March for its film, tech, and music programming. The music portion takes place over seven days, and there are both official events – meaning you need a SXSW badge or wristband to attend – as well as unofficial events, which are usually showcases and parties put on by major brands, and many are free to attend with an RSVP. Expect to spend much of your time waiting in line to get into parties, but it’s a small price to pay for the dozens of stellar acts from all over the world that you can see within the week.
Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits Festival takes place in Zilker Park for two weekends each fall. It is one of Texas’s biggest festivals, with 450,000 attendees filling up the park over the six days. ACL Fest has something for everyone, with the greatest names in rock, hip-hop, pop, and EDM taking the stage. ACL Eats features a wide variety of local restaurants on-site, and there are also art and clothing vendors, a kids station, and local charity booths. While the festival ends early due to city ordinances, C3 Presents hosts ACL late-night shows at venues around town to keep the party going.
Formally known as Austin Psych Fest, Levitation is taking a break until 2018 due to canceling 2016’s entire festival in preparation for a huge storm (that heartbreakingly never even came). This fest is worth waiting for as its team built the independent psych and garage rock festival from the ground up entirely through word of mouth to become the destination for international music fans that it is today. In the meantime, you can get a feel for Levitation’s experimental taste at their 2017 SXSW showcase, with details to come on their Facebook page.
Hip-hop heads, this one is for you. Scoremore Shows puts on JMBLYA in both Dallas and Austin each year in May, bringing top rap, trap, and R&B artists together for one adrenalized day in each city. 2017’s lineup features Chance the Rapper, Migos, Gucci Mane, and Steve Aoki, as well as solid up-and-coming openers. Scoremore Shows began when a group of college students decided to start throwing concerts they and their friends would feel welcome at, and the company quickly gained recognition in multiple markets in Texas as one of the top promotions and booking agencies.
If you’re looking for a laid-back fest you can bring the whole family to, venture out to the country for UTOPiAfest. With a crowd capacity of 2,000, there’s more than enough room to frolic and get as close as you want to the range of acts that come through, from indie rock to electronic rock, and even old-school hip-hop and soul. There are free hikes and yoga to start off your day and camping workshops to acquire new skills. There’s also free camping included in the price of your ticket, and you can BYOB, so you’re not getting gouged for every detail as you do at many large festivals. The immaculate Hill Country sunrises and sunsets top off this truly Utopian experience every fall.
Day for Night Festival
Art, culture and great music intersect at this downtown Houston festival. Taking place in a 1.25 million-square-foot (139,354.5-square-meter) abandoned postal facility, it’s reminiscent of an old-school warehouse rave with new-school larger-than-life art installations. Whereas many festivals have scattered art components, Day for Night truly bridges the gap to merge music and art into one unrelenting experience. The lineup consists of electronic music, from trap to deep house, and hip-hop, inviting one of the most diverse crowds you’ll find at a Texas festival. Get the full rundown of this innovative festival in this recap hailing Day For Night as “the festival of the future.”
Also put on by Scoremore Shows, Neon Desert brings class acts to the west side of Texas, taking place in downtown El Paso for two days each year. The festival strives to provide a creative outlet “for El Pasoans by El Pasoans,” by placing local acts on the bill alongside top national and international electronic, hip-hop, and indie rock acts. They also strive to keep tickets affordable for their younger demographic, starting at $100 for the entire weekend and $250 for VIP.
Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love
As the name of this festival suggests, the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love is a unique and intimate experience held at the El Cosmico in Marfa. While many festivals leave you drained after a hectic, party-filled weekend, Trans-Pecos aims to restore your soul with folk music acts, yoga, and other community-based learning and giving experiences set against the backdrop of the West Texas desert. Dates for this year’s fest will be released in April, but you can plan on it likely falling in or around September.
Art Outside is one of the most beloved Texas festivals, but it suffered a series of unfortunate events due to inclement weather that sabotaged the 2015 festival and temporarily ended its run. Good news: it’s coming back better than ever in 2017! Art Outside will have a presence at this year’s Euphoria Music Festival at the Art Outside Village, as well as its own stand-alone AO Campout event on September 8–10, 2017, at Apache Pass. This festival focuses on fully immersive art experiences, and the rest of the festival is built around the art, encouraging a vibe of exploration and imagination.
Hear ye, hear ye: Insomniac has brought a new festival to Texas that will have its inaugural date this May. While it’s a bit early to name it one of the best festivals in Texas, Insomniac is no stranger to throwing events that are unparalleled in terms of production and talent. Middlelands will take place in Todd Mission, Texas on the grounds of a standing Renaissance Faire, and this theme is carried throughout the entire experience, complete with Renaissance-themed stages, rides, art, and wandering performers.