Summer Guide 2016: Recommended music festivals for comfortable camping this summer

These destination fests — from Pickathon to Lockn' — feature pristine (and cool) camping conditions in addition to the stellar tunes.

While a bounty of outdoor activities pick up in Florida over the summer, music festivals come to a near halt. Four days of minimal (or no) showering in muggy 90-plus degree weather, nights that don’t cool down much, and unavoidable pests that range from angry mounds of fire ants to hungry buzzing mosquitoes make regular camping a challenge; factor in masses of unwashed people all dealing with these things elbow to elbow, and you have a not-so-fun time.

So for this year’s Summer Guide Issue, I’ve compiled a list of five genre-spanning music festivals located in scenic (non-Florida) spots around the U.S. (and one corner of Canada). These are fests that offer camping comforts (and in some cases luxuries), where the days are warm but after-dark temperatures never reach above 70, and bugs and humidity are generally a non-issue…

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL Now in its 43rd year, the globally-renown music fest assembles a veritable who’s who of roots-Americana talent — from venerable elder statesmen like Del McCoury and Bela Fleck to modern roots pushers Ryan Adams and Dave Rawlings Machine — to play stages scattered around Telluride, Colo. Its smaller scale (no more than 12k a day), breathtaking setting (Telluride is nestled in a box canyon and surrounded by woody mountain peaks) and pristine weather conditions make it a must-do for grassy music fans, not to mention ideal for sleeping outdoors, with six campgrounds located nearby. And not only features the main stage performances but workshops, band and songwriting contests, late-night “Nightgrass” concerts at every indoor venue in town, and jam sessions on sidewalks and throughout the campgrounds. June 16-19, Telluride, Colorado.

Notable 2016 artists: Sam Bush Band, Neil Finn, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ryan Adams, Del McCoury Band, Dave Rawlings Machine, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Jerry Douglas Band, Infamous Stringdusters.

ELECTRIC FOREST FESTIVAL The primary sounds here are electronic music and jammy rock, with the odd funk, jazz, synth-pop and hip hop flavors added to the mix, while the setting is a spread of forested land in west central Michigan festooned with lights and glowing installations that are almost as cool as the artists performing here. Electric Forest also boasts tent package rentals, with each wood-floor structure assembled and outfitted with all the gear and supplies you need for the weekend, including beds and linens, a cooler and electricity access. ‘Course, the fee is steep and availability is limited, but there are plenty of general admission on-site camping options, too. Tickets to Electric Forest sell out months in advance, so if it’s the sort of fest that appeals to you, start planning now for the 2017 edition – or cruise message boards for extras. June 23-26, Rothbury, Michigan.

Notable 2016 artists: The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Major Lazer, Fetty Wap, Bonobo, The Disco Biscuits, 12th Planet, AC Slater, Balkan Beat Box, Rusko, Coleman Hell, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Doomtree, Dumpstaphunk, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Mark Farina, Neon Indian, Adventure Club, Baauer, Beats Antique, Bonobo, Flosstradamus, Son Little.

AMNESIA ROCK FEST Who says Canadians don’t know how to rock? Amnesia pairs several big-name headliners with a smaller-scale lineup of acts in the Warped Tour and Gainesville Fest ilk (alternative, hardcore, hip hop, metal, post-hardcore, psychobilly, punk, ska, et. al.), and ups the ante with a lovely setting — the quaint countryside village of Montebello, Quebec (population 900), located under wide blue skies along the Outaouais River — and clean, organized campgrounds. The main concert site is situated at the marina, but the music takes over all of Montebello at night, and main stage performances on Friday and Saturday are book-ended by a Thursday kick-off and Sunday after party. Limited slip reservations for attendees who prefer to pull up a boat and do their camping on the waves. June 23-26 Montebello, Quebec, Canada.

Notable 2016 artists: Blink-182, Rise Against, Korn, Jane’s Addiction, Limp Bizkit, Ice Cube, Billy Talent, Sum 41, At The Drive-In, Lamb of God, Dead Kennedys, Flag, Lagwagon, Bring Me The Horizon, A Day To Remember, Anthrax, Twisted Sister, Puscifer, NOFX, Sepultura, The Used, Underoath, Millencolin, Streetlight Manifesto, Against Me!, Strung Out, Sodom 

PICKATHON First launched in 1999, this indie music fest held right outside of Portland is a fiercely guarded favorite of locals for its rather small size, eco-friendliness and ethereally picturesque environs, a farm that rivals Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in stirring the muse and making magic happen. The proof is in the high profile talent drawn to play here (Jeff Tweedy in 2016) along with the diverse lineup of buzzy artists and up-and-comers, mostly in the indie rock, folk and groove vein with notable exceptions; this year, it’s the worldly-flavored experimental R&B of Ibeyi and esteemed multi-instrumental Afrobeat maker, King Sunny Ade. A selection of Portland’s best food trucks and bevvies from fine local wineries and breweries can be found on the site, and Pickathon camping includes rental packageswhere the site and camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, pillows) are set up and ready for you when you arrive. Aug. 5-7, Happy Valley, Oregon.

Notable 2016 artists: Jeff Tweedy, Yo La Tengo, Beach House, Wolf Parade, Ty Segall & The Muggers, Mac DeMarco, King Sunny Ade, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Black Mountain, Thee Oh Sees, Ibeyi, Fruit Bats, Dan Deacon, BADBADNOTGOOD, Protomartyr, The Cairo Gang.

LOCKN' Though Lockn’ is a mere four years old, the jam-centric music fest set amid the rolling green hills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is already drawing some impressive headliners – recently reunited rock satirists Ween and venerable prog-improv masters Phish; both deliver two separate performances over four days of psych rock, blues, funk, newgrass and more. GA camping is available, but if you have dough to blow, there are also on-site VIP tent rentals and “Glamping” tent packages — two-person tents that are pre-erected in a “preferred” location, outfitted with memory foam mattresses, duvets and bed linens, chairs and tables, and include towels, daily ice delivery, a fan, power access, and for a little extra, a mini fridge and daily personal shopping service, among other amenities. Aug. 25-28, Arrington, Virginia.

Notable Artists: Phish, Ween, My Morning Jacket, Umphrey’s McGee, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Charles Bradley, White Denim, Brandi Carlile, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gary Clark Jr., Keller Williams, Galactic.

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