The South’s Best Music Festivals You Should Attend

From jazz to rock, country to pop, there’s something for everyone when it comes to live music in the region.

Music is an integral part of Southern culture and is woven into many of our earliest memories, from our first dance to a road trip to singing a favorite song. Most of us have easily noticed Willie Nelson singing “Take Me Home” from John Denver, but there’s something about live music that grabs people’s attention, especially when it’s played on the lawn. With friends, refreshing drinks and delicious food.

Southern music festivals are a cultural experience that goes beyond standing in line, from the food and drink to the art and environment. While there are plenty of other festivals worth visiting outside of this short list, like Darius Rucker’s New Revival Revival, the Savannah Music Festival, or the Wilwood Revival in Athens, Georgia, these are some of the best music festivals in the South to add to your wish list—from iconic to long-awaited new and essential music collections. you should.

Austin city limits

Austin has many reasons to visit, especially for music lovers, from South by Southwest every spring to two consecutive three-day weekends at Zilker Park’s ACL Music Festival each fall. From its humble beginnings in 2002, the festival has been so successful that it has grown to two consecutive weekends, doubling the reasons to attend. At the top of the list are rock, folk, country, indie, hip-hop and electronic acts with big names and local legends like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, George Strait, Stevie Nicks and The Chicks. With many artists performing throughout the weekend, check the lineup to find your favorites on the right side.

When: First weekend of October.

Where: Austin, Texas

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Bonnaroo is one of the most popular music festivals in the South for a reason: there’s an endless list of acts from this tent, that tent, and more to grace any stage, any stage, any stage. In the year Since its inception as a jam band festival in 2002, Panic Widespread, The Cheese Phenomenon, Umphrey McGee and Moe. They were among those on stage. Today’s diverse lineup of over 150 artists covers every genre. You’ll find names like Tyler Childers, Sheryl Crow and Chris Stapleton, as well as Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, Billy Strings and many more upcoming acts. The 700-acre farm in central Tennessee hosts a four-day festival and adventures beyond music, including food, silent discos, ferris wheels and hundreds of other rides and activities, as well as tent and RV camping. Skip a minute.

When: Mid-June

Where: Manchester, Tennessee

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

In the year What began in 1970 as a showcase of New Orleans culture for a few people has since grown into a beloved Southern institution that now attracts nearly half a million people of all ages, nationalities, cultures and tastes to the city. Music in the world. Popular and local headlines. Cultural and musical excitement flows over two long weekends and over 12 stages at the New Orleans Fair during the last week of April and the first week of May. Jazz, R&B, rock, gospel, funk, folk and more are on every corner, along with plenty of local snacks from jambalaya to beignets. Find the full Jazz Fest guide here.

When: Late April/early May

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Hajj Music and Culture Festival

Produced by local music producer Kevin Griffin, the family-friendly festival features a 230-acre farm in rural East Tennessee and a variety of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, indie, country, jazz, gospel and blues, among others. More than 60 artists perform on six stages every year. In addition to music, it has a strong cultural focus, bringing together hundreds of local artisans, chefs, brewers and producers from across the region. Pilgrimage turns nine in 2023 and features musicians such as Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews Band, Keith Urban, Daryl Hall, John Oates, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Edie Vedder.

When: At the end of September

Where: Franklin, Tennessee

Moon River Music Festival

In the year Founded in 2014 by musician Drew Holcomb, Moon River began in Holcomb’s hometown of Memphis, but moved to Chattanooga in 2018. The family-friendly festival that showcases local culture with local food and drink vendors is now in College Park on the banks of the Tennessee River. Based on American music, the Saturday and Sunday festival brings together 20-30 artists on two stages each year. According to Leon Bridges, St. Paul’s, Broken Bones, Brandi Carlile and Marcus King Band, some Southern life favorites include The Avett Brothers, Margot Price, Holly Williams and Madeleine Edwards.

When: Second weekend of September

Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Knee shaking music festival

In the year Since its inception in 2013, the festival has stayed true to its indie rock roots with a unique lineup of over 60 bands, from The Killers and Future Birds to Alabama Shakes and The Luminaries. You’ll definitely wake up on the weekend to find out that your new favorite artist is on the rise, even if you make the headlines. Even in Atlanta’s Central Park, you won’t go hungry with offerings from the city’s favorite spots and the Southeast’s favorite food trucks.

When: First weekend of May

Where: Atlanta, Georgia

Bourbon and more

As a relatively new festival in the South, Bourbon & Beyond took place in 2010. In 2017 It featured Stevie Nicks, Eddie Vedder and the Steve Miller Band. Expand your palate when it comes to four jams and bourbons. – Full days of fun, from Angel’s Envy Glass to Ryan Bingham’s Beat. As America’s largest bourbon bar, you won’t want to miss a drink or a tune from bands like Brandy Carlyle, Midland and The Black Crowes and Boy Banjo.

When: Mid-September

Where: Louisville, Kentucky

High water party

Shovels & Rope High Water was formed by musical couple Michael Trent and Carrie Ann Hurst to bring a major live music event to their hometown. For two days in mid-April, you can hear the sounds of American rock and folk and the smells of delicious country food wafting from Riverfront Park, mossy Spanish oak trees. While you’ll always see shovels and rope on the line-up, notable acts from the past include My Morning Jacket, Trucks, Mavis Staples and Wilco.

When: Mid-April

Where: North Charleston, South Carolina

The shadow of the bear

Bear Shadow originally launched in 2021 as a sister festival to the Highlands Food and Wine Festival in November and is growing rapidly. This spring gathering celebrates the changing of the seasons with daytime adventure offerings including fishing, hiking, and outdoor yoga classes on the Highland Plateau until the music fades into the evening. The 2023 lineup includes The Head And The Heart, Jason Ezell, 400 Units, Neil Francis, Woody Platt and Shannon Whitworth.

When: End of April

Where: Highlands, North Carolina

Bend River Festival

Chattanooga’s first and oldest music festival is named after a bend in the Tennessee River. The city celebrated Riverbend for the first time in 2011. Over 40 years of music featuring icons such as Willie Nelson, The B52s, Styx, Lionel Richie, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, as well as Maren Morris, Martina McBride, A Little Big Town and Tricia Yearwood and Darius Rucker and Thomas Rhett.

When: the first weekend of June

Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee


Grammy Award-winning guitarist Doc Watson founded MerleFest in 1988 in honor of his son Merle. The festival celebrates the “ultra-traditional” music they played together — a mix of traditional Appalachian music and other styles that influenced the father-son duo. For 35 years, the four-day festival, which has served as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College, has maintained its foundation through gracious collaboration and unexpected voices. The 2023 lineup includes The Avett Brothers, Maren Morris, John Paul White and Jerry Douglas, as well as several newcomers.

When: End of April

Where: Wilkesboro, North Carolina

crushing the moon

In the year The talk of Florida Beach in 2020, Moon Crush is designed as a music retreat where the festivities don’t start until the sun goes down, allowing you to fully relax on the beach or pool. Start the summer with four nights of music at Rose Moon in April and end the sunny season with three nights of family music at Blue Moon in September.

When: end of April – beginning of September

Where: Miramar Beach, Florida

Rock on the south

What was once considered a one-time event has now seen performances by some of country music’s biggest names, from Alan Jackson and Chris Stapleton to Luke Bryan and Brett Eldridge for more than a decade. First held in 2012, Rock the South Today continues to raise funds for partners across the state to celebrate how the region has stuck together since the April 2011 tornadoes in Alabama.

When: mid-July

Where: Cullman, Alabama

Bristol Rhythm and Root Encounter.

Held at the birthplace of country music, the three-day annual music festival showcases the city’s musical heritage and influences on modern soundtracks. Located in historic downtown Bristol, State Street features 20 indoor and outdoor venues featuring over 100 artists showcasing the best of Appalachian and world music. Since 2001, Doc Watson, Steel Riders and Winona Judd have been gathering on the Tennessee-Virginia border. While you’re there, visit the Country Music Museum.

When: Early September

Where: Bristol, Tennessee, Virginia.

SMA party

CMA Fest began in 1972 as the ultimate music experience for country fans and has been Nashville’s premier country music event ever since, welcoming fans from around the world. Through the CMA Foundation, a portion of the proceeds go to support music education programs across the country. Celebrating more than 50 years as the longest-running country music festival, this four-day festival brings together more than 250 artists across nine stages in the city. You’ll discover new artists and see performances from the likes of Alan Jackson, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan and The Zac Brown Band.

When: Mid-June

Where: Nashville, Tennessee

The shape of the holidays

This extraordinary event includes everything: art, music and technology. In the year In 2022, C3 Presents launched the FORMAT Festival with the Walton Family, making a huge impact in Bentonville. Working with artists and architects, they created a truly unique experience, including several fun stages such as “Drag Me to the Disco” and “The Cube”, as well as two more traditional stages. . The festival offers everything from watching the works of famous artists to immersing yourself in the music, everyone can customize the experience according to their needs. The 2023 lineup includes superstars LCD Soundsystem, Alanis Morissette and Leon Bridges, who will close each night of the festival from Friday through Sunday.

When: At the end of September

Where: Bentonville, Arkansas

Bell Street Music Festival

First held in 1977 at the corner of Holiday Street and Third Street, the three-day extravaganza became part of the Memphis International Festival. It’s happening right now in Tom Lee Park, between the Mississippi River and the Memphis skyline, not far from the World Championship of Barbecue, so a weekend trip to the famous city is in order. More than 60 musical guests this year include The Lumineers, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Greta Van Fleet and The Roots.

When: the first weekend of May

Where: Memphis, Tennessee

A two-story art festival

In the year Inspired by a double-decker bus from Oxford, England in 1994, the two-day festival will celebrate the art’s 26th anniversary in 2023. night. Throughout Saturday, you’ll find more than a hundred art vendors and live performances, as well as local food vendors from fried catfish to snow cones on the historic courthouse square.

When: End of April

Where: Oxford, Mississippi


There’s nothing quite like this five-day festival of music and adventure against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With strong Appalachian roots, Floyd, Virginia’s diverse American music event is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2024 by traveling a few miles down the road. Floyd Fest’s lineup consists of folk rock, bluegrass, jam band and blues, and is distinct from hip-hop – jump. New Orleans Pioneers of Hop and Funk.

When: At the end of July
Try it, Virginia.

Party with big ears

In the year Since its debut at the festival in 2009, it has brought generations together, from the sounds of Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winners to emerging artists in genres such as jazz, rock, folk, pop and more. The Oxford Gazette of America called it “one of the quietest, brightest and most vibrant festivals”. Performances are scattered throughout downtown Knoxville at unique clubs, theaters, historic churches, parks, art galleries and more, so it’s not just music. Organized by the non-profit organization, the four-day festival is a cultural experience with interactive workshops, sound performances, installations and more.

When: Late March/early April

Where: Knoxville, Tennessee

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