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Music festivals worth flying to

“To our advantage, fall is when we normally operate anyway. We were able to retain all but two of the 25 artists we had committed in 2020 to move to our 2021 event,” said Tracy Lane, co-owner of the Americana festival.

The lineup they retained is a special one: Every act is female led, from Grammy-winning headliners Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, and Brandi Carlile to up-and-coming Tank and The Bangas (nominated for a 2020 Grammy) and all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache (winners of a Latin Grammy).

“This isn’t a permanent change, we are not becoming a women’s festival,” Lane explains. “There will be men on stage but what we are doing is bringing attention to the fact that female representation at American music festivals is less than 20 percent. We want to address the issue by being an agent of change, and we want to show that you can populate an entire festival lineup with all female-led artists and the level of artistry is top-notch. Our hope is that other festivals will be more equitable in the future, too.”

Guitarist and blues singer Samantha Fish performs at Roots N Blues 2018. Photo by MeLinda Schnyder.

The fourteenth edition of Roots N Blues is scheduled for September 24 through 26 in Stephens Lake Park, about a 10-minute walk from the college town’s downtown district. Crow graduated from the University of Missouri but hasn’t played concerts there often. That, along with pent-up demand for live music, resulted in VIP tickets selling out already. However, Lane said more VIP tickets might be released soon as they originally capped those tickets at 1,000 rather than the usual 1,500.

The event typically draws about 10,000 music lovers a day to the 116-acre Stephens Park, where attendees have plenty of room to spread out and grab some shade under a Missouri oak tree.

Lane thinks Roots N Blues may see record attendance this year, and it appears that is the trend at music festivals across the country.

We’ve gathered a list of festivals remaining this year that are worth flying to, but you’ll have to plan ahead. Some on this list sold out of tickets in minutes, from a combination of tickets carried over from canceled 2020 events and demand for live music merrymaking. Watch festivals’ social media channels and websites to see if additional tickets are released, or to find official ticket exchange options to safely purchase resale tickets.

September 2 through 4, 9 through 11, and 16 through 18

Airports: General Mitchell International Airport, Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport
Headliners: Luke Bryan, Jonas Brothers, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus
Summerfest is considered the largest music festival in the United States and covers a range of genres with 1,000-plus performances on 11 stages at lakefront Maier Festival Park. While it’s taking place later than usual this year only, the lineup is stacked with more than 100 headliner-quality artists. There also are special kick-off concerts on September 1, 8, and 15.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
September 2 through 5
Manchester, Tennessee

Airport: Tullahoma Regional/Wm Northern Field
Headliners: Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion, Grand Ole Opry, Tame Impala
Held on “The Farm” about 60 miles outside of Nashville, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival usually kicks off summer but this year is moved to Labor Day weekend. Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Bonnaroo is one of the longest running and largest festivals in the country, with at least 150 musicians and more than 10 performance stages.

BottleRock Napa Valley
September 3 through 5
Napa, California

Airports: Napa County Airport, Buchanan Field, Petaluma Municipal Airport
Headliners: Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses
The annual BottleRock promises three days of music, wine, food, and beer at the Napa Valley Expo.

Riot Fest
September 16 through 19

Airports: Chicago Executive Airport, Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Headliners: Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, Run the Jewels
Considered one of punk rock’s biggest festivals, Riot Fest happens in Chicago’s Douglass Park with more than 90 acts, including its infamous late-night shows.

Life is Beautiful Music and Art Festival
September 17 through 19
Las Vegas

Airports: North Las Vegas Airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Henderson Executive Airport
Headliners: Billie Eilish, Green Day, Tame Impala
The three-day Life is Beautiful festival brings top musicians, experiential artists, comedians, thinkers, and culinary talent to 18 city blocks of downtown Las Vegas. Also running September 17 and 18 at T-Mobile Arena on the Strip is the iHeartRadio Music Festival that this year is featuring Cheap Trick, Maroon 5, and Dua Lipa, among other headliners.

Imagine Music Festival
September 17 through 19
Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia

Airports: Fulton County Executive/Charlie Brown Field, Atlanta Regional Falcon Field, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, West Georgia Regional – O V Gray Field
Headliners: Excision, Griz, Illenium, Kaskade
Founded in 2014 and one of Atlanta’s longest running EDM festivals, Imagine Music Festival moves this year from Atlanta Motor Speedway to The Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills, just west of Atlanta. Expect a 360-degree immersive aquatic fairytale setting with EDM artists, rave stage designs and light shows, art, pool parties, food trucks, camping, and more.

Roots N Blues
September 24 through 26
Columbia, Missouri

Airport: Columbia Regional Airport
Headliners: Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples

Set within the 116-acre Stephens Park, this year’s Roots N Blues Festival has female-led acts in every lineup slot. Genres span blues, bluegrass, rock, country, folk, gospel, and soul.

Governors Ball Music Festival
September 24 through 26
Queens, New York

Airports: LaGuardia Airport, Westchester County Airport
Headliners: Billie Eilish, Post Malone, A$AP ROCKY
The tenth version of The Governors Ball Music Festival is moving to a new venue: Citi Field complex in Queens. Expect 60-plus performing artists along with art installations, food, craft cocktails, beer, lawn games, and surprise pop-up performances from subway and street performers.

Austin City Limits Music Festival
October 1 through 3 and 8 through 10
Austin, Texas

Airports: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Austin Executive Airport
Headliners: George Strait, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Stevie Nicks, DaBaby
This is the twentieth year for the music festival inspired by the KLRU/PBS music series of the same name. It brings a diverse lineup to eight stages in Austin’s Zilker Park on two consecutive three-day weekends.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
October 8 through 10 and 15 through 17
New Orleans

Airports: Lakefront Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
Headliners: The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefer Band, Dead & Company, Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks
This is the fifty-first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the lineup lives up to its reputation for diverse genres: jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk, and more on 12 stages at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
October 29 through 31
San Francisco

Airports: Half Moon Bay Airport, San Carlos Airport, San Francisco International Airport
Headliners: Lizzo, Tame Impala, The Strokes
Outside Lands happens within Golden Gate Park and celebrates all major music movements alongside local musicians, food vendors, and visual artists representing San Francisco’s cultural community.

VIP tickets to Roots N Blues afford up-close views of the main stage, which in 2018 featured The Avett Brothers among others. Photo by MeLinda Schnyder.

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