MUSIC TODAY: Five best festivals coming to the Southeast

Calvin Shomaker | @cshomaker12, Copy Editor

Elizabeth Heglar
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Heglar

Get ready to juke, jive and boogie in the hot sun, because summertime is on its way. For most college students, summer means vacation, freedom, concerts, road trips and much-needed stress relief. So, as spring arrives and summer approaches, here are five of the best music festivals coming to the Southeast in the next few months to help keep you motivated to finish the semester strong before seeking that summer getaway.

MERLEFEST – Wilkesboro, North Carolina – April 27-30

Nestled in the foothills of northwestern North Carolina is a small river town of Wilkesboro with a population of about 4,000. For 32 years, musicians come from worldwide to play at Wilkes Community College in remembrance and celebration of the legendary, blind acoustic bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson’s son Merle who died in a farming accident.

The Wilkes Journal-Patriot reports the festival draws over 70,000 visitors over the four days. Merlefest has grown immensely since the days of using a long tracker trailer truck bed for the first stage. Now, Merlefest has a total of 13 indoor and outdoor stages, a lively dance tent, a kid-friendly zone, crafts and food vendors, numerous camping options and a free bus shuttling service.

Headling this year’s Merlefest are the Avett Brothers, Zac Brown Band, Jerry Douglas, James Taylor, Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, The Waybacks and more Americana musicians similar to the folk and bluegrass traditions of the Appalachian Mountains. The Avett Brothers are scheduled to play five sets over three days.

SHAKY BEATS – Atlanta, Georgia – May 5-7

If you haven’t been to Atlanta, Shaky Beats is an incredible opportunity to visit a cultural epicenter. Shaky Beats brings in a diverse group of musical acts that no other city near the Wilmington region has to offer. For people looking to experience something new, see an eclectic variety of electronic-based music and dance like there is no tomorrow, Shaky Beats just might be the ideal spot.

Headlining the three-day festival’s second year are The Chainsmokers, Griz, RL Grime, Gramatik and Zeps Dead among other electronic dance musicians. The festival takes place at the Downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. There is no camping, but over 30,000 attendees flock to this growing musical gathering, cites the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

SHAKY KNEES – Atlanta, Georgia – May 12-14

In just its fifth year, the Shaky Knees Music Festival is sure to blow away even the most brutal alternative-rock music critic. LCD Soundsystem, Cage the Elephant, Pixies, Portgual. The Man, The Growlers, Twin Peaks and Temples are Friday’s headliners. On Saturday, The xx takes the stage alongside Nick Murphy, also known as Chet Faker, X Ambassadors, Moon Taxi, Dr. Dog, Shovels and Rope, The Revivalists and Anderson East.

The three-day festival is held in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park one week after Shaky Beats. Capping off on a Sunday, Phoenix, The Shins, Ryan Adams, Third Eye Blind and Saint Motel are scheduled to headline the final day. Paste Magazine reported that the festival attracts over 40,000 attendees.

HANGOUT – Gulf Shores, Alabama – May 19-21

For the most hardcore festival goers looking to vacate at the beach during their summer musical binge, the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama is like a modern Woodstock on the beach. Though there is no camping, there is a shuttle service available for commuters and occupants from nearby condos.

Headlining the Thursday night Kickoff are Migos and Cherub. Headling the next two days are Mumford & Sons, Twenty One Pilots, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, MGMT, Young the Giant, Franz Ferdinand and Mac Demarco. The Pensacola News Journal reports about 40,000 people partake in the festival’s activities.

BONNAROO – Manchester, Tennessee – June 8-11

Since 2002, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has hosted some of the most diverse lineups in the history of American music festivals. Held on a 700-acre piece of land known as “The Farm,” Bonnaroo attracts over 80,000 people each year, reported Billboard. The festival offers a wide range of onsite camping options, food and art vendors, workout options, kid’s music, views from a ferris wheel and even a daily festival newspaper. Bonnaroo truly becomes its own utopic town for four days where attendees are free to roam, express themselves and connect with others in a way that normative societal code does not allow.

Headlining the vibes at this year’s festival are U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Major Lazer, Flume, Lorde, The xx and Travis Scott. More headliners include Cage the Elephant, The Head and the Heart, Big Gigantic, Glass Animals, Tove Lo, Umphrey’s McGee, Portugal. The Man, Milky Chance, Cold War Kids and Kaleo. Some up-and-coming acts to consider seeing at this year’s Bonnaroo include Michael Kiwanuka, Stick Figure, Hippo Campus, Mandolin Orange, Luke Combs, The Orwells and Lukas Nelson.