The Flavorpill Guide to 2010’s Best Small Summer Music Festivals


While Lollapalooza no longer tours the country, spreading its alt-rock far and wide, it remains one of the granddaddies of summer music festivals, hosting acts like Lady Gaga, Green Day, and Soundgarden in its 2010 incarnation. However, if you’d prefer not to feel like an American Idiot, languishing in a heat-soaked crowd of thousands, we’ve got you covered. After the jump, we bring you up to speed on a baker’s dozen of smaller, more diverse and, in most cases, less overwhelming fests coming up across the country this summer.

Summer Camp Festival Where: Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL When: May 28-30 Who: Avett Brothers, Umphrey’s McGee, moe., Gov’t Mule, Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Buttered Rum… click for more. Cost: $170 for a 3-day non-camping pass, $50 for Sunday only, $150 and up for on-site camping passes and VIP upgrades.

If your idea of a summer music festival is camping out and listening to rootsy jams, head about two hours southwest of Chicago to the Summer Camp Festival, where you can try your luck at parking your RV on-site. This one’s a bit more kid-friendly than your average event, with a Kids’ Summer Camp going on each day of the festival. Wanna hone your chops? Bring your axe and check out the daily musicians’ workshops. Summer Camp features stages with names such as the “Sunshine Stage” and the “Starshine Stage,” which sound very friendly… but one can only wonder what sort of antics go on at the “Moonshine Stage.” Everclear, anyone?

Watch the Family Groove Company cover “Blackbird” at Summer Camp 2009:

Sasquatch! Music Festival Where: The Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA When: May 29-31 Who: My Morning Jacket, Vampire Weekend, The National, MGMT, Band of Horses, Tegan and Sara, Kid Cudi, the New Pornographers, Deadmau5, Broken Social Scene, The Hold Steady, OK Go, Nada Surf, Brother Ali, The Posies, WHY?… click for more. Cost: Only single-day tickets are available now, for $70 apiece. A camping pass costs $99, and an upgraded camping pass runs you $170.

Named for the mythical Bigfoot said to roam Pacific Northwestern forests, this is the biggest festival we’ll recommend, if only for the stellar lineup. This year’s buzz bands may be calling Pitchfork Festival their summer home, but it’s Sasquatch! that houses the reigning kings and queens of the indie music world. Cheryl Waters of KEXP even went so far as to make a mix for your drive to the festival. You can listen to it here.

Watch Grizzly Bear at Sasquatch! ’09:

Wakarusa Where: Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, AR When: June 3-6 Who: The Black Keys, The Disco Biscuits, Widespread Panic, Slightly Stoopid, Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa, Bassnectar, State Radio Cost: $159 for a full event pass, and satellite camping passes are still available for $29.

The lineup for Wakarusa is a bit of a hodgepodge, but not many people can say they’ve seen the Black Keys and Dweezil Zappa on a mountain in Arkansas. Why should Chicago have all the fun in the Midwest? Plus, there will be carnival rides, a Silent Disco (it’s exactly what it sounds like, headphones included), costume contests, and morning yoga.

Here’s a video of Matisyahu crashing Les Claypool’s performance at Wakarusa last year:

Mountain Jam Where: Hunter Mountain in Hunter, NY When: June 4-6 Who: Levon Helm & Friends, Drive-By Truckers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Matisyahu, Dr. Dog, Toots and the Maytals, Justin Townes Earle, Jay Farrar, The Whigs, Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas… click for more. Cost: Festival pass with camping is $166.50, without camping is $146.50, festival VIP pass is $434.50, and day passes range from $70-150.

Organized by WDST, the official radio station of Woodstock, New York, Mountain Jam is a lot like WDST’s playlists: lots of classics with a few nods to promising newcomers. Levon Helm calls the area his home, hosting his coveted Midnight Rambles in his Ulster County abode, so headlining the latter-day hippie/roots fest that is Mountain Jam seems only appropriate. The original Woodstock took place in a different town entirely, but you can pay tribute in whatever way you deem worthy while jamming on the mountain.

At Mountain Jam 2009, there were plenty of hula hoops… and, oh yeah, Michael Franti & Spearhead were there too:

Harmony Festival Where: Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, CA When: June 11-13 Who: Ms. Lauryn Hill, Steel Pulse, Galactic, Toubab Krewe, Rebelution… click for more. Cost: Show pass for $139, show pass with camping from $169-$330, day passes for $35.

If soulful beats are your bag, the 32nd annual Harmony Festival is for you, if only to satisfy your curiosity as to what exactly will happen when Ms. Lauryn Hill takes the stage. Unlike many festivals, Harmony Festival goes beyond “chillout tents” to provide even more relaxing options, such as the sanctioned Goddess Grove, where you can do yoga and listen to artists on a tiny stage, and the Wellness Pavilion, a showcase of holistic healing remedies. Proceeds from the Harmony Festival go to Harmonic Humanity, a non-profit dedicated to helping disenfranchised individuals.

Watch India.Arie perform with her mother at Harmony Festival 2009:

Northside Festival Where: Various venues in Brooklyn, NY When: June 24-27 Who: Fucked Up, Les Savy Fav, Islands, Grooms, Liars, Memory Tapes, Mirah and Thao Nguyen, MEN, Titus Andronicus, Wavves, Woods, Au Revoir Simone… click for more. Cost: $50 for a 4-day pass and free Heineken

New York City didn’t have a decent (not to mention affordable) multi-day music bash until The L Magazine’s Northside Festival rolled around in 2009, and after a wildly successful first year, CMJ should be watching its back. Practically every music venue in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn got involved, and since most shows were within walking distance of each other, the hot summer sun didn’t get too many folks down. Plus, the $50 badge gets you discounts and specials at participating local restaurants. Yum. Oh, and did we mention that Flavorpill is hosting our own showcase at the festival? Northside: believe the hype.

Watch the Hold Steady grace their home base with a show on the final night of Northside 2009:

Nateva Festival Where: Oxford County Fairgrounds in Oxford, ME When: July 2-4 Who: The Flaming Lips, Furthur (Members of the Grateful Dead), The Drive-By Truckers, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, The Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band, She & Him, Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, Jakob Dylan… click for more. Cost: $229 for a non-camping three-day pass, $249 for a camping three-day pass, and other VIP upgrades.

Ever notice how the most random assortment of artists seem to converge in an equally random city during festival season? The idea of Wayne Coyne and George Clinton combining their entourages at Maine’s first-ever Nateva Festival fills our souls with happiness. Free yoga classes take place every day and late-night movie screenings will entertain those of you can’t or won’t sleep. Heaven, thy name sounds a lot like “Nateva” right about now.

We’d say this is what you can expect from the Flaming Lips, but there’s really no way to back that up:

Camp Bisco Where: Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, NY When: July 15-17 Who: The Disco Biscuits, LCD Soundsystem, Ween, Thievery Corporation, Method Man/Ghostface/Raekwon (“Wu Massacre”), Break Science with special guest Talib Kweli, Girl Talk, Major Lazer, Diplo, Holy Fuck, Caribou… click for more. Cost: 3-day pass for about $150, RV camping pass for an additional $150, and various upgrades.

There is a vague possibility that you might have the urge to dance at this Disco Biscuits-created festival, even if you are in God-knows-where, New York. Feeling gutsy? Sign up to compete in the official Camp Bisco Color Wars and see if you can defeat last year’s reigning champs. Also, we hear that the late-night dance party tent has surround sound this year. The festival’s amenities list includes “SHOWERS, SHOWERS, SHOWERS!” Now. if that’s not a well-equipped rug-cutting marathon, we don’t know what is.

Watch Lyrics Born and Girl Talk at Camp Bisco 8:

Pitchfork Music Festival Where: Union Park in Chicago, IL When: July 16-18 Who: Pavement, Modest Mouse, Panda Bear, LCD Soundsystem, Kurt Vile, Girls, Liars, Big Boi, St. Vincent… click for more. Cost: $40 for a single day pass, with tickets still on sale for each day. Three-day passes are sold out.

Pitchfork Fest is to music geeks as Lollapalooza is to the mainstream set, and year after year the cool kids have converged in Chicago for the ultimate celebration of what’s burning up the blogosphere (and more specifically Pitchfork). Plus, the festival attempts to stay green by running generators on bio-diesel fuel and providing recycling facilities on-site. Also: PAVEMENT.

Watch M83 at Pitchfork Music Festival 2009:

Siren Music Festival Where: Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY When: July 17 Who: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Matt & Kim, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Surfer Blood, and more TBA. Cost: Free, but make sure to factor Coronas and fried dough into your weekend budget.

What better place to spend a day of hedonistic music appreciation than Coney Island? No lie, this one will be packed to the gills, but you can always ride the Cyclone or the Wonder Wheel if you get tired of elbowing your way through the crowd. Also, the Village Voice creates a hot new T-shirt design for the festival every year, so you can show off to your loser-y friends upstate. Just don’t have too many of the arm-length tropical-drink sippy cups that are ubiquitous on the boardwalk.

Watch Japandroids at Siren ’09:

Solid Sound Festival (curated by Wilco) Where: MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA When: August 13-15 Who: Wilco and their various side projects, The Books, Avi Buffalo, Vetiver, Mountain Man, and more TBA. Cost: A 3-day early bird pass is still available for $78.

Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival is about to kick off its inaugural year, and we’re already amped about what it promises: performances by not only Wilco but the members’ side projects, instrument workshops with band members, band-curated art projects and installments, and a lineup that’s mostly TBA. But we’d trust Jeff Tweedy’s taste, wouldn’t you? Against the backdrop of Massachusetts’ most dynamic and peaceful museum in the boondocks, three days with Wilco and their kindred spirits should be nothing short of bliss.

Watch Wilco with Yo La Tengo at Keyspan Park (now MCU Park) in Brooklyn last summer:

No Depression Festival Where: Marymoor Park in Seattle, WA When: August 21 Who: The Swell Season, Lucinda Williams, Cave Singers, Chuck Prophet, Alejandro Escovedo, and the Punch Brothers. Cost: $45 advance, $50 day of show.

Americana music magazine No Depression may no longer exist in print, but its online incarnation still knows how to put together a heck of a one-day festival. Last year marked the first annual No Depression Festival, with artists like Iron & Wine and Patterson Hood & the Screwtopians to lend serious cred to the festival’s integrity. This year, the ticket remains affordable and the lineup is worth triple its price.

KEXP interviewed Sam Beam of Iron & Wine at last year’s No Depression Festival:

All Tomorrow’s Parties NY (curated by Jim Jarmusch and ATP) Where: Kutsher’s Country Club in Monticello, NY When: September 3-5 Who: Sonic Youth, Explosions in the Sky, Iggy and the Stooges, The Books, Fuck Buttons, Tortoise, Sleepy Sun, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sun 0))), Girls, Raekwon, Sleep, Mudhoney… click for more. Cost: Rooms are sold out, but weekend tickets are still available for $250, Friday-only tickets are $110, Saturday-only tickets are $120, and Sunday tickets go on sale soon.

For years, American music lovers salivated with jealousy over festivals across the pond like Glastonbury and, of course, the All Tomorrow’s Parties extravaganzas. This year, the UK gets ATP Nightmare Before Christmas in December, curated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but sleepy, little upstate New York gets its own All Tomorrow’s Parties, curated by Jim Jarmusch and featuring Iggy and the Stooges performing Raw Power in its entirety. The festival is housed in one of the original Borscht Belt resorts, where you and Thurston Moore may end up reaching for the same napkin. As far as summer festivals go, ATP NY is the velvet goldmine.

Please witness an entire crowd shutting the hell up for Low at ATP NY 2008: