5 Under-the-Radar Summer Music Festivals

These lesser known music fests are worth the trip.

Overwhelming crowds, a mainstream experience and overt commercialization now sour many major music festivals, and that's if you can even score tickets. However, newer and under-the-radar additions are redefining the scene — catch them before everyone else does.

Firefly Music Festival
June 16-19, Dover, Delaware

Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware

Danilo Lewis

Firefly is the best known of the less established fests, and its setting and lineup are the closest the East Coast gets to Coachella. It started in 2012 as a more modest affair that drew 30,000 people; that number ballooned to 90,000 attendees last year. This year’s enviable headliners include Mumford & Sons, deadmau5, Florence + The Machine, Two Door Cinema Club and Kings of Leon. Ellie Goulding, Death Cab for Cutie and The 1975 are also among the standouts from more than 100 acts. Fans get to enjoy the festivities on almost 200 acres in the middle of the woods in Dover, Delaware. Camping options range from renting an RV to glamping, and unlike some other music festivals, the campgrounds are a mini version of the event, with food trucks, a farmer’s market, general store, late-night disco and bar. Campers can even take a morning yoga class. The fun continues inside the festival gate: in between a full day and night of sets, options include a coffee shop, outdoor market, craft brewery and arcade games. When hunger strikes, find everything from pizza and sliders to vegan and gluten-free fare at the food village.

What the Festival?!
June 17-20, Dufur, Oregon

What the Festival?!, Dufur, Oregon

Daniel Zetterstrom

This electronic music and arts fest also launched in 2012, and is among the newer guard of transformational festivals. (Think events that include spiritual and creative elements, along with an emphasis on health and wellness and a commitment to sustainability.) It goes without saying that music is also a key component here, and the 2016 lineup brings Thievery Corporation, Bonobos, Jai Wolf, and dozens more to eight stages. About 7,500 festival-goers are expected to descend on the 250-acre Wolf Run Ranch, about 90 miles east of Portland, where other highlights include a hookah lounge, experiential art, sculptures in the “Illuminated Forest,” and workshops with intriguing names like Wizard School. WTF wouldn’t be complete without a silent disco, fitness classes (yoga, dance, hula hoop) and a tea lounge/after-hours performance space. Refuel at healthy food vendors before hitting the “spa” area for outdoor showers, a sauna and massage therapists. Oh, and did we mention the gigantic wading pool?

July 22-24, Randall’s Island, NYC

LCD Soundsystem

Xavi Torrent/WireImage

If the location sounds familiar, that’s because newbie Panorama is holding court on The Governors Ball Music Festival territory, where the highly popular five-year-old fest has taken place since 2012. Panorama is making its debut seven weeks after The Governors Ball, and upon first glance the format and genre appear to be déjà vu similar. However, the main difference is that Panorama is the brainchild of the producers behind Coachella, and its headliners are hard to ignore: Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, and, perhaps the biggest coup, LCD Soundsystem’s reunion tour (pictured). Sia, Alabama Shakes and FKA twigs are also among the top billing. Another differentiator? Panorama calls itself a music, art, culture and technology festival, with an experiential feature called The Lab taking center stage. Essentially, it's an art/technology mashup with seven interactive art installations and a virtual reality theater housed in a large dome. Be careful not to become so hypnotized by the exhibits, like the multisensory cotton candy machine, that you miss your favorite shows.

The Divide Music Festival
July 22-24, Winter Park, Colorado

Kid Cudi

Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage

The Divide Music Festival is also making its debut, and with an impressive roster to boot: Kid Cudi (pictured), Passion Pit, Blondie, Cake and The Fray are just some of the names worth catching. The festival’s name was inspired by the Continental Divide that runs through the Rockies and serves as the impressive backdrop. This smaller-scale Bonnaroo is notable for its Colorado-centric focus, including local bands, craft beer and locally sourced food. Hiking, biking and yoga options are part of the mix, but unlike other festivals, don’t expect any glamping options. Prepare for some old-school camping as part of the experience, although there are hotels nearby. We won’t tell.

ARISE Music Festival
August 5-7, Loveland, Colorado

Ziggy Marley

Steve Sands/FilmMagic

Now in its fourth year, ARISE sets up camp on Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, about an hour north of Denver in the Rocky Mountains. It’s best described as a hybrid of other transformational fests, notably Burning Man and Lightning in a Bottle, with a smorgasbord of yoga, artsy offerings, and yes, tons of music. The eclectic lineup encompasses reggae, folk and EDM, with Ziggy Marley (pictured), Jurassic 5 and Elephant Revival among the main acts. Just be sure to save energy for some 200 performances on seven stages over the course of three days. Beyond the music, in-demand yoga instructors, including Sadie Nardini and Gina Caputo, lead group classes, while theme camps, designed by participants, and large-scale art installations lend a definite Burning Man feel. Participants can also dabble in songwriting workshops or watch films. The expansive festival grounds offer organic, locally sourced food trucks, plenty of space for camping, and various “villages” centered around different themes: e.g. all things hemp. Just know that as an eco-friendly event there won’t be any bottled water for sale, but, on the plus side, your ticket purchase funds a tree planting.

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