If you're the sort of music fan who is happier watching the Coachella livestream on your couch than navigating the crowds, then you may be wondering how to enjoy the magic of live music — without quite so many people. Although behemoth music festivals can deliver marquee moments, it can be easy to get lost in their sheer size. Often, the best music experiences happen in intimate settings or unique locations – and the US has these in abundance.
If you’re looking to plan a festival trip that will take you away from the chaos, here are some chill music festivals all over the USA.
Austin Psych Fest, Austin, Texas
April 28–30, 2023
Attendance: 2500 daily
Celebrating its 15th edition, Austin Psych Fest makes its triumphant return to where it first took place: South Austin’s The Far Out Lounge, an outdoor venue with a century-long history. The event celebrates the city’s far-out freak scene and does its part to keep Austin weird.
By returning to an intimate two-stage setting between shady trees in the bar’s backyard, this independent, music-focused festival provides a throwback to the early days of the city’s now-sprawling SXSW. It also provides an alternative to the teeming Austin City Limits festival, as it sets a cap of around 2500 fans daily.
This year's performers include Toro y Moi, Yves Tumor, Crumb, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Angels, The Raveonettes, Cuco and Melody’s Echo Chamber – a sampling of acts for those looking for a heavier sound.
Kilby Block Party, Salt Lake City, Utah
May 12–14, 2023
Attendance: ~10,000 daily
Flanked by views of the majestic Wasatch Mountains and downtown skyline, Kilby Block Party will be held in the 65-acre Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City, a relaxing setting for this still under-the-radar festival.
This festival started four years ago as an actual block party to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the city’s longest-running, all-ages venue, Kilby Court. In 2022, it had already grown to book major acts like Phoebe Bridgers and Mac Demarco as headliners. Today, the festival has steadily grown to boast a major lineup at the Utah State Fairpark, while looking to maintain its all-ages-block-party vibe with an array of food trucks and art installations.
It seems the past editions have all been building to this moment, and the 2023 event will be the one music fans won’t want to miss. Headliners include The Strokes, Pavement and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Additional performers include the Pixies, Run The Jewels, Japanese Breakfast, The Walkmen, Caroline Polachek, Cuco and more.
Hangout, Gulf Shores, Alabama
May 19–21, 2023
Although Hangout comes in toward the larger side, the beachside oasis offers a late-spring-break vibe that can’t be overlooked. May in Alabama’s Gulf Shores usually brings temperate weather conditions and an unmatched setting for relaxing — and hearing some great music.
Let your feet sink into the sand while taking in the scene and playing a pickup volleyball match. You can overlook the entire site from the Ferris wheel or while paragliding along the water. The poolside hang at the main stage requires a VIP ticket, while the Thursday-night kickoff party usually features some of the weekend’s biggest upcoming acts performing special preview sets.
Marquee headliner SZA brings her waterfront-themed SOS tour to the beachfront, along with headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Calvin Harris, Paramore, Lil Nas X, Flume, Skrillex and The Kid Laroi.
Electric Forest, Rothbury, Michigan
June 22–25, 2023
Attendance: 40,000 campers
This ethereal woodsy gathering promises an immersive experience: fans can suggest art activations, projects and collaborations during the festival. The Wish Machine allows attendees to earn their pass by doing charitable deeds. There’s even an official sticker-design contest.
With headliners Osesza, Jamie XX, Illenium, Zeds Dead, Goose and what’s billed as “*2 incidents*” from The String Cheese Incident, this weekend is already sold out. But an official wristband exchange still allows for wait-list and fan-to-fan resales, so a miracle is not out of the question.
Levitate Festival, Marshfield, Massachusetts
July 7–9, 2023,
Founded initially as a surf and skate shop, Levitate has evolved over 20 years to host a full-fledged music festival in Massachusetts, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Camping is available if you want to settle in for the whole program.
Taking place at the historic Marshfield Fairgrounds, this grassroots fest is packed with more than 30 food trucks, live experimental art and vendors. Its relaxed and creative setting makes it an ideal choice for families. You can even go whale watching afterward.
Headliners this year include Stick Figure, Lucius, Trey Anastasio, Goose, Rebelution, Ziggy Marley, Shakey Graves and Brandi Carlile.
Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago, Illinois
July 21–23, 2023
The Second City’s second festival, Pitchfork boasts tomorrow’s Lollapalooza headliners today, always delivering a unique lineup. Although rumors for this year’s artists are scant, the tightly curated festival has always found a way to deliver even as the booking circuit has become more competitive over the last decade.
Taking place just a few stops west on the El from Lollapalooza’s Grant Park, the festival hosts its own record fair, as well as the touring rock poster festival Flatstock, with dozens of designers vying for your wall space with a wide variety of screen prints.
Headliners include Radiohead-spin-off The Smile, Big Thief and Bon Iver, Alvvays, Weyes Blood, King Krule and Kelela round out the music blog–curated festival.
The weekend also sees plenty of opportunities to take in Chicago’s rich music scene. The city’s newest venue, the Salt Shed (in a former Morton Salt factory) will host Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Mavis Staples, Robert Randolph and Ziggy Marley, with another set with Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Beyoncé takes to the city’s Soldier Field on Saturday and Sunday – so who knows? Maybe even Queen Bey will make an appearance – as Lady Gaga once did to catch Kendrick Lamar’s set back in 2013.
Newport Folk Festival, Newport, Rhode Island
July 28–30, 2023
Attendance: 10,000 daily
Simply put, the Newport Folk Festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something every festival-goer should endeavor to be a part of at least once. The legendary festival has been around since the 1950s and is now held in Fort Adams State Park in historic Newport, Rhode Island.
Tickets generally sell out long before the lineup is announced (tickets for this year are currently sold out, though you can join the wait-list). With the folk family in charge, you can trust that the lineup will be incredible. Think Kermit the Frog taking to the stage, or Joni Mitchell. Or important statement sets like Allison Russell’s “Once and Future Sounds: Roots and Revolution” in 2021, which showcased Black female folk singers culminating in a special appearance by Chaka Khan. Or Jon Batiste’s civil rights–themed set of protest songs in 2018. Almost every act that takes to the stage brings something to the fore you won’t find anywhere else.
The last few years the festival has used a slow-rolling lineup announcement, with artists self-confirming appearances, many remaining secret until the weekend. One thing that’s for sure this year (as every year)? Del’s frozen lemonade and a nap in the grass.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Colorado
September 15–18, 2023
Celebrating its 50th annual edition in the mountains of southwestern Colorado, one of the most scenic and storied festivals in America offers a chance to “dance under the solstice sun and embrace your truest self.”
Performers this year will include Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, The String Cheese Incident, Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Emmyloud Harris with Watchhouse, Punch Brothers and many more. NightGrass after shows take place in venues throughout the town of Telluride.