A few weeks ago, I drafted an article about M3F Fest’s 2020 lineup. It hit me in that moment that we have been at this for a full year! I can’t believe how fast time has gone and how this year covering festivals has been like a dream. Don’t tell any of the big fancy festival people – but I have a severe case of imposter syndrome. As I stood in photo pits across the country, side-by-side with photographers all of us ducking under each other and weaving through in a carefully choreographed dance aimed at getting the “best” shots without getting in each others way- I thought to myself how on earth did I get here? No really? Is someone going to look around and realize this has been a mistake all along and be like who let you in here?
The point of this is not a humble brag . . . it is a thank you. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the site – writing, making logos, teaching me about SEOs, buying the email addresses. To all our readers. To my dad for investing in the dreams of his 30 -something daughter. Did I mention we can’t wait to show you what LTFL has in store for 2020.
With all the mushiness out of the way, let’s move on to the fun stuff. All year I have sort of been plotting this post: in downtime between sets, when I can’t sleep at night, or when I am bored waiting in the courtroom – it is essentially going to be a celebration of our festival season, a collection of our favorite moments and the long awaited picture of all my festival loot. That loot is actually junk according to my husband who says I am allegedly required to “dispose” of at least half of it once festival season ends. More on that later. For now, let’s take a look at our festival season in review.
I thought a lot about how to structure this review, mulling over everything from superlatives to catchy categories. Ultimately, I settled on running through our year chronologically. For each festival we attended – we are going to give you some of the highlights, but more importantly a link to a more lengthy recap chockfull of more information about each festival on this list. If you aren’t interested in this part – skip to the next section to learn a little more about what will be on our festival calendar in 2020.
M3F Fest – Hance Park – Phoenix, Arizona
We kicked off our 2019 festival season with two big festivals in Arizona. First up on the list was M3F (which people also know as McDowell Mount Music Festival). M3F takes place in downtown Phoenix, tucked in a perfect park. Early March is an absolutely perfect time weather wise to visit Phoenix. This fest packs some amazing vibes, great music and a welcoming atmosphere. Even better – the festival is run 100% not for profit, donating more than a million dollars worth of festivals proceeds to Arizona charities over the last 10+ years. The 2019 edition of M3F was fantastic musically, we were thrilled to get to see some of our favorites like: Jungle, Mansionair, Evan Giia, Lettuce and of course Empire of The Sun.
2020 promises to be just as good at M3F. The lineup is stacked and this is one we already have on our calendar (in pen – no less). For more on the lineup – visit our post here. And check out the festival’s website – tickets are already on sale now!
Innings Festival – Tempe Beach Park – Tempe, Arizona
Our Arizona adventure was a two-parter, with Innings Festival taking place in near by Tempe on the same weekend. While it was certainly convenient to be able to hit two festivals at once, it really cuts down on your ability to relax and enjoy. Fortunately, the 2020 edition of Innings will take place the weekend before M3F. Though very differently theme wise, this is another festival we already have on our calendar. If you are a baseball enthusiast this is THE festival for you. About half the teams in Major League Baseball hold spring training in Arizona, forming the Cactus League. What I didn’t really think about, is that nearly all of these teams play their spring games within driving distance of Phoenix. As a result, Innings Festival is themed to capture that baseball spirit and designed to appeal to visitors in the area for spring training as well as music lovers from all around.
Innings offers a full lineup of music + some awesome family friendly baseball activities (see above – for my attempt to field a fly ball). One of the highlights for me was Off The Mound, a talk show style program hosted by Ryan Dempster each day. He brought out tons of amazing guests, including Jim Thome, who hit baseballs out into the crowd. The park is also full of lots more opportunities for baseball meet and greets – with legends and current players. The 2020 lineup is out and this festival looks like it will be a big one once again.
SandJam Festival – Panama City Beach, Florida
After a couple weeks off, I was headed back out on the road again to catch my first beach festival. SandJam was . . . amazing!!! The alt-rock/indie lineup was well curated from top to bottom. Better yet, this is a small festival so the stages alternated – meaning there were no conflicts and we got to see every single act. I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet – the view. This festival takes place right on the beach. You can have your toes in the sand (literally!!!) while catching all the shows. We had a fantastic trip, ate lots of delicious seafood, and left PCB certain that we would be back. If my excessive use of exclamation points in this section isn’t enough of a clue, I will just come right out and say that SandJam is one of my most recommending festivals of the year.
According to the internet, the 2020 SandJam lineup and ticket sales will go live on Black Friday (November 29). We will definitely be keeping our eye out for this one and absolutely cannot wait to get back down there!
BeachLife Festival – Redondo Beach, California
This is probably the festival that I am most sad to have missed out on in 2019. This was a brand new festival and the first year was a big hit. Our California based team members had a blast at this one. The festival was full of all things Southern California, including tons of amazing drink and food options, art exhibits, and a fantastic lineup. The festival featured multiple beachfront stages – so the LTFL team once again got to put their toes in the sand at festival.
All reports back on BeachLife indicated that it was extremely well organized and an overall great experience, especially for a first time festival of this scale. We are keeping our eyes out for next year’s lineup and I won’t be missing out this time around!
KAABOO Texas – AT&T Field – Dallas, Texas
After spending a few weeks doing some fun work promoting my “local” music festival Firefly (so much more about it up next!), I hopped on a plane from Boston and headed out to Dallas to catch the new Texas version of KAABOO. Like the original KAABOO, the Texas experience was curated and organized from beginning to end. The experience is designed for a higher end crowd – no port-a-potties in sight. The festival may not be back in the future, but if you are considering another one of KAABOO’s offerings we would highly recommend the experience.
I had a blast seeing a great mix of artists and comedians all weekend. The setup was well done, using the Cowboys stadium as a footprint, and really building off that infrastructure in a great way. I am personally disappointed that KAABOO Texas won’t be back in 2020 (at least for now), because every element of this experience was totally on point – right down to the branded cups. I know one thing for sure, it won’t be our last KAABOO fest!
Firefly Music Festival – The Woodlands – Dover, Delaware
Those of you who are familiar with LTFL know that this one is near and dear to our hearts. It is the festival that started it all, and just a few minutes from my house. We have attended every year, and have written extensively about all aspects of our experience – especially camping. My experience in 2019 was fantastic once again – though it is hard to compare to my usual festival experiences because the level of fan access I had was pretty extreme. That said, I have had every type of ticket level you can get over the years and have always had a great time. This was the largest festival we had covered at the time and really involved covering a lot of ground.
Firefly is a 3 to 4 day camping based festival (though you can drive in or stay at a nearby hotel if you prefer). The festival grounds are huge and boasts about 7 stages of all different sizes. The festival also has many activities and vendors outside in the camping and hub areas, and recently updated a lot of their infrastructure – including some pretty spiffy bathrooms and a waterslide. Inside there is music going on all around you + shopping, food, drinks, and tons of vendor and sponsor activations. It is a pretty epic experience and one of our absolute favorite festivals.
You can also check out multiple silent discos, shaded hammock hangouts and more! We will be keeping our eyes out for lineup and ticket news. You can also check out our collection of articles on everything from the music to the food to the camping. If you haven’t noticed, we are always happy to babble on about Firefly – so please let us know if you have questions or are thinking about going. We are happy to talk you into it!
Forecastle Music Festival – Louisville, Kentucky
We had our eyes on Forecastle for awhile, and finally got the chance to attend in 2019. The festival takes place in Louisville’s 85 acre Waterfront Park each July. Have we mentioned how much we love southern festivals?? Seriously though – the food and the people were amazing this summer, especially in Kentucky. We spent a lot of time in Kentucky because of its growing calendar of summer music festivals and would definitely recommend any of them. We kicked off our list with Forecastle – the oldest and most established of the Kentucky festivals.
You might think that music should come to mind first, but honestly the bourbon and food at Forecastle was mind – blowing. The music was fantastic too and actually featured my favorite set of the summer (more on that soon – for now, back to food). In addition to featuring multiple stages, Forecastle also features multiple ways to sample some amazing Kentucky bourbon. One of our favorite hangout spots was the Bourbon Lodge, where you could hang in the air conditioning and snag cocktails from booths from many of the major bourbon distillers in the area. Out back, the Lodge featured a full schedule of tastings and a delicious bbq stand with brisket on nachos.
The music was also really great. I mentioned earlier that Forecastle was the site of my favorite set of the summer and I want to follow up on that. Overall every set I saw there was a ton of fun, but Nelly’s evening set was one of the best festival experiences I have had in a long time. It was packed and everyone was singing and dancing from start to finish. I actually did something I do normally do, and got right in the middle of the crowd to enjoy this one.
Forecastle’s park setting features a ton of amenities and unique experience – from a Party Cove to a steamboat you can party on. We have a post focusing on the amenities and you can also get tons of information for the festival’s website. Stay tuned as we will be posting more on Forecastle Festival as news comes in this winter.
Railbird Music Festival – Keeneland Racetrack – Lexington, Kentucky
We headed back to Kentucky for another brand new festival – this time in Lexington (AKA horse country). If you are familiar with our site, you know this new festival is one we have been excited about for awhile. You can check out some of our previous posts about the activities and venue here.
Railbird took place on the grounds of Keeneland. If you aren’t into horse racing (also Top Chef) or from Kentucky, you may not have heard about this beautiful place, but it is time to fix that. Keeneland is more than a race track, the complex features beautifully manicured grounds and major sales and operations facilities. It is also a national historic landmark, featuring shops and displays focused on preserving the history of horse racing. During the festival, the site hosted special tours and culinary events for both festival goers and the general public.
Entering the grounds to park it became clear right away that this festival had crowd moving and parking well under control – especially impressive for a first year festival. The venue is used to hosting large horse racing events, and the parking staff showed that experience. It was probably less than five minutes from pulling in to my parking spot. One of the really cool things was that people were tailgating and all set up. This is not often an option at other festivals, and it was really fun to see.
The weekend featured a ton of musical highlights starting with Joslyn and the Sweet Compression on The Burl stage. I followed that up with another one of my favorite performances. This one was from Devon Gilfillian over at the Limestone stage – little did we know we would get the opportunity to see Devon several more times and sit down and chat with him later in the festival season. Two other musical high points on the first day were Grace VanderWaal and Brandi Carlisle – who’s cover of a Joni Mitchell song was especially moving.
The culinary aspects of Railbird were also pretty epic. First of all we got to snag the last two spots at one of the culinary demonstrations taking place at the Sip and Savor Stage. We were super excited to find out that meant we actually got to try the food! This experience was both one of the most unique things I have gotten to see at a festival and one of my favorite experiences of the weekend. The chef for our demonstration was Dan Wu (from Master Chef and owner of Atomic Ramen). He spent an hour walking us through three dishes, answering audience questions, and giving a lot of cool kitchen tips. The food and cocktails throughout the festival were also high quality and this is one we definitely plan to come back to next year.
Gulf Coast Jam – Panama City Beach, Florida
While I was in Curacao (more on that below) and other members of our team were dealing with an impending hurricane, we were lucky enough to get one of our first guest photographers and bloggers of the season – Brian Butler. Brian’s recap includes tons of great travel information and some stunning photos. This festival is presented by the same talented group that puts on SandJam and the experience was just as good. Gulf Coast Jam had a single stage, which means fans don’t have to make lineup choices and can set up camp to enjoy the day. The festival boasted some awesome food and beverage options. Brian reported that the festival was well-run and handled potential incoming weather and some unfortunate cancellations with grace. This is definitely one I am hoping to hit up personally next year.
Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival – Curacao
Our post recapping the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival will be coming out in the spring, you can also check out my piece and pictures in an upcoming edition of FestWorld Magazine. Here’s a little preview of that coverage for now!
This was our first international festival and it was one of the most epic experiences we had all summer. I was on assignment for FestWorld Magazine and got the opportunity to tour the island, eat amazing food, and go on some adventures each day before heading into the festival. One of the coolest aspects of CNSJ Fest is that the festival packs a punch every night, allowing you to explore the beautiful island of Curacao during the day. We got to do everything from making love potion to taking an ATV tour and can’t wait to share that all with you.
On the festival front, CSNJ festival had a packed lineup, and truly something for everyone. Over the course of the weekend I got to see Mariah Carey, Maroon 5, Aloe Blacc, Black Eyed Peas, and some of my favorite reggae acts. Oh and the indoor stage was packed with legends like Kenny G and (insert name). I really could go on and on about what was truly the trip of a lifetime, but you will have to check back in the coming months for our full recap. If you are considering this festival, we are also happy to answer any questions you may have on any aspect of our experience. It was a blast!
Bourbon & Beyond – Louisville, Kentucky
Once again LTFL was headed back to Kentucky and so excited for it. This time, our coverage came from another new addition to our festival team – Hunter. For those who aren’t familiar, Bourbon & Beyond is the second of three festivals (in as many weeks), organized by Danny Wimmer Presents and held at the KEC, which is conveniently situated between Interstate I-65 and the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport – minutes from Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby) and the University of Louisville. Hunter, who is a local, provided a ton of insight and expertise in his recap. The festival features amazing acts, and of course a ton of bourbon. But the drink options didn’t end there and our recap covered the awesome craft beers and cocktails you could also sample. This time our guest coverage also features some really thorough coverage of the music and art aspects of the festival that are definitely worth checking out. From all of Hunter’s reports, it sounds like everything from parking to food – was largely run smoothly.
Moon River Festival – Chattanooga, Tennessee
If you thought “festival season” ended with Labor Day, you will be surprised to know that September turned out to be one of our busiest and best festival months of the season. We led the month off back down south at Moon River Festival in Chattanooga Tennessee.
Tennessee Native Drew Holcomb (of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors) started Moon River Festival back in 2014. For the first four years, Moon River took place in Holcomb’s home town of Memphis. After outgrowing its stunning park setting in Memphis, Holcomb made a big move (figuratively and literally) transferring Moon River to Coolidge Park in Chattanooga last festival season. Holcomb explained the move in a letter to fans online, describing his hopes to expand the dreams. Moon River is a two – day event with a pretty kick ass lineup, showcasing big names in the rock, Americana, Blues, and country scenes.
The festival grounds are riverside and the bridges run through it. There are super adorable areas under the bridges with little porch swings and hammocks and tons of shade. Experienced Moon River fans had arrived early and set up blankets and hammocks in the shade. It could best be described as tailgating inside the festival and supports my theory that southerners are way more festival ready than the rest of us. Some other cool features of the park were an indoor carousel and a fountain area. Both remained operational during the festival, providing some fun kid spaces and by the end of the hot day you could find some brave adults jumping in to play as well.
The food options were once again phenomenal. Though admittedly I sampled fewer of them than usual because of how hot it was that weekend. If you are prepared for the heat and get a good spot in the shade (of which there are plenty) you won’t have any issue down south. This festival is small enough to feel comfortable, but still packs some major talent. We strongly recommend it and advise picking up tickets fast once they go on sale. Moon River has a history of selling out!!! Hope you will check out more info in our full length recap here or by visiting the festivals website.
KAABOO Del Mar – Del Mar, California
I don’t even know where to begin with KAABOO Del Mar (now KAABOO San Diego). This was an absolute bucket list festival for me and it really met my expectations in every way. For starters, if you plan early – getting out to Cali is not as expensive as it sounds. There are a ton of airports in the region and a large variety of hotels. My one big piece of advice is to take some time to plan your stay and look at traffic.
The KAABOO brand focuses on curating a more grown up centric festival experience, emphasizing comfort, hospitality, and the ability to spoil yourself if you want to. The tangible result of this focus is clean, comfortable, indulgent and carefully crafted food and beverage options that will appeal to people of all ages and walks of life – but especially if you are on the older end of the festival crowd. It means more seating options, air conditioned bathrooms (no port-a-potties), and a more grown up vibe.
Every set I saw all weekend was absolutely fantastic. I was probably most excited for some of what the youths will call throwback acts: like Wu Tang Clan, Boyz II Men, Duran Duran and so much more. That said, the lineup featured tons of amazing performances from big name acts from across multiple genres.
The festival also featured tons of swag + a whole building full of food and beverage options, leading to some of both the best food and drinks I had all summer. This is definitely a festival to add to your bucket list if you haven’t been. And we would love love love to share more of our experience with you.
Same Same But Different –
Same Same But Different was back for its’ second year in 2019 and it is a very different kind of festival (in some very cool ways). The two-day festival took place September 20-21, 2019, in Perris Beach, California at the Lake Perris Recreational Campgrounds. SSBD also brought us another guest LTFL team member -Leslie who is an amazing photographer, a college student, and an intern with our good friends at TicketDM.
The setting, Lake Perris, offered not only a gorgeous landscape, but opportunities to experience nature during the festival. The festival also features no conflicts between set times to, in their words “allow attendees to experience each artist on the lineup without having to choose between overlapping set-times.”
Leslie reports that Same Same But Different is a quite a unique festival, featuring talented musicians and fine artists – but also boasting a particularly awesome vibe of pure freedom. For more info on this fun one, check out our recap post here. Or visit the festival’s website for more information. One thing about SSBD we know for sure is that it provides an amazing escape from reality in an awesome natural setting, with great vibes, good music and a ton of super unique activities. Plus . . . you can chill on the water while catching your favorite acts.
Austin City Limits – Zilker Park – Austin, Texas
ACL is one of my personal faves – both because of the festival itself and Austin as a city. So we were excited to head back that way for Weekend Two of Austin City Limits Music Festival. Although this is actually our third year at ACL – it was our first as official media, so we are super excited to share our recap this year. If you are interested in reading more about ACL, please check out our recap post for 2018 here.
If you aren’t familiar, Austin City Limits is one of the biggest and most established festivals in the United States. The festival runs not just once, but on two back to back weekends – with some variation between the two weekends. For more general information about the festival itself – scope out their site. Next year’s festival dates are already scheduled for October 2-4 and 9-11, 2020.
The two separate weekends of ACL in 2019 were very different weather wise. Weekend two started out quite chilly. I didn’t let the cold temps get me down, and spent much of the weekend hanging out at the BMI Stage (when I wasn’t seeing show stopping performances at the large stages). It is one of the smallest stages at the festival but specializes in showcasing exceptionally talented rising artists. Every year I feel like I end up spending most of my time there, and not just because of the amazing C3 Guest Lounge behind the stage. Though that is absolutely my favorite hang out spot and I have talked about it in detail in the past. Artists that play on the BMI Stage often turn out to be some of my favorites and wind up being major names down the line. For example, lovelytheband, Dreamers, AJR, Maren Morris, Atlas Genius and so many more have all played on the BMI Stage in the past. This year’s group was equally fantastic and the atmosphere among the most energetic. On Friday afternoon, we got the opportunity to meet and chat with Savannah Conley. And have portions of our chat with her in the recap. There are too many highlights to hit on here – but just know ACL always brings a solid experience, with phenomenal food, artists and a ton of fun
Besides the festival, one of the big highlights for me this year was a fantastic hotel experience at brand new Hotel ZaZa which is seriously less than a minute walk to the free ACL shuttle. Everything about the experience there was top notch and I would strongly recommend it – tons more about all aspects of the stay are found in our recap post.
We were scheduled to head down to Suwannee Hulaween a few weeks ago but personal life got in the way. That said, I wanted to keep this on the list because we heard great things about the truly unique experience Hulaween offers. The festival works very hard to provide a really eclectic, interesting lineup and to put together awesome themes for the halloween weekend festival crowd. The festival takes place in a gorgeous park and offers camping onsite. It also provides some fun special surprises for festival goers every year. We are definitely putting this one back on our list for next year and would love to hear from our readers about their experiences in the past.
Levitation Festival– Austin, Texas
Our festival season is over (for now . . . check back later to see if this is still true) and Levitation in Austin was last but not least. Once again we were lucky to have a special guest cover this fest for us. We just posted the gorgeous photos and awesome recap from Kaili Rose from dRiFFt Magazine a couple days ago and hope you will check it out.
Thanks to everyone who has joined us on the first year of this journey. So many wristbands and so many new friends. Stay tuned for tons of news and off season posts. And as always – please shoot us a comment or message and share your thoughts on all things festival.