The music festival season across the Southern Appalachians starts in early spring and goes full throttle all the way until the first frost. Smaller than Bonnaroo or Coachella, these fantastic music fests don’t come with the headaches of gridlock parking, midnight runs for bottled water, or random tent-hoppers who have decided they’re your new best friend, so get out for a little musical adventure and discover these hidden gems.
All Go West
June 7 • Asheville, N.C. • allgowest.com
As the transitional neighborhood becomes more user friendly, West Asheville boasts plenty of note-worthy eateries, bars, brew pubs, and music halls to get any local or adventurous out-of-towner excited. The ultra-cool All Go West music festival has grown in popularity over recent years. There’s a plethora of excellent homegrown food, music, and merch to enjoy as the burgeoning Haywood Road scene becomes a hip street fair that’s well worth exploring.
Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival June 13-14 • Tryon, N.C. blueridgebbqfestival.com
This well-known barbecue showdown held at Harmon Field in charming Tryon, claims it is “one of the most popular sanctioned barbecue competitions in the United States,” so pace yourself as you stuff your belly full of amazing ‘cue because there are two stages of Americana and country music over the two-day event. This year’s performers include: The Honeycutters, The Whiskey Gentry, Randall Bramblett Band, and plenty more.
Admission: $8 adults, under 12 free
Sirens On the Mountain
June 20-21 • Boone, N.C.
Located in the beautiful highland country of North Carolina, Sirens On the Mountain music festival is a celebration of women in the arts, pairing crafters, artisans, and world-renowned musicians in a vibrant and embracing atmosphere. This two-day event consistently is one of the well-attended festivals in the Southeast. With the artisan village and culinary arts on display, it’s easy to see why incredibly talented musicians like Rickie Lee Jones, Bettye Lavette, Michelle Malone, and Rising Appalachia would want to take part of this peaceful event.
Admission: $90 for a two-day pass, $50-$60 daily
Doc & Rosa Lee Watson
MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove
July 11-12 • Sugar Grove, N.C. musicfestnsugargrove.org
Since 1997, Music Fest has been one of the most treasured festivals in North Carolina. “A celebration of Appalachian music and cultural heritage,” this music festival was named after Deep Gap’s Doc Watson, who performed at the inaugural event. Its named changed to include Rosa, Doc’s devoted wife who was in constant attendance over the history of the festival. Held at the Historic Cove Creek School, artists such as Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Chatham County Line, He Said She Said, The 23 String Band, and many more fulfill one’s bluegrass craving.
Admission: $55 for a two-day pass, $20-$25 daily
July 18-27 • Locations across Western North Carolina
Recognized as “The State International Festival of North Carolina,” Folkmoot has drawn visitors from all over the country (and world) as the festival experience holds multi-national and cultural events featuring traditional dance and music. Workshops, performances, and a spectacular parade are among the many highlights of this distinguished festival. There’s a chance you may see performers from Taiwan, Turkey, Trinidad, Colombia, and of course the local flair from esteemed Appalachian musicians and cloggers.
Admission: ticket prices vary, parade and international festival events free
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival
July 31-Aug. 2 • Asheville, N.C.
A long standing tradition, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival dates back to 1928 when pickers of all stringed instruments would come together “along about sundown” on the first weekend of August to celebrate their mountain heritage. Expect to get in touch with Scot-Irish ancestry. This year’s performances take place at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville.
Admission: $55 for three-day pass, $20 nightly
NC State Bluegrass Festival
Aug. 14-16 • Marion, N.C., adamsandandersonbluegrass.com
Nestled in the foothills just on the eastern side of the continental divide, the quaint town of Marion will hit a milestone this year as it celebrates the 40th annual bluegrass festival. Held outdoors at the Tom Johnson Camping Center, some of the best old-timey, string band, bluegrass music can be heard over this three-day event. Catch artists like Gene Watson, Jimmy Fortune, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and a host of other talented pickers in this family-friendly event.
Admission: $75 for a three-day pass, $30 daily
Smoky Mountain Folk Festival
Aug. 29-30 • Lake Junaluska, N.C. lakejunaluska.com
As summer starts fading away, the Methodist community and retreat at Lake Junaluska becomes the heavenly backdrop to a unique and long-standing folk gathering. Focusing on traditional mountain music and dance, the festival features everyone from banjo players to ballad singers, bagpipers to fiddlers, as well as authentic buck dancing and square dance teams.
Admission: $125 two-night package includes lodging, food, and tickets
Mountain Song Festival
Sept. 12-13 • Brevard, N.C., mountainsongfestival.com
Hosted by the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Mountain Song Festival quickly is becoming one of the region’s most anticipated festivals. Benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County, lead singer of the Rangers, Woody Platt has helped organize this festival since its inception in 2006. Past performers have included Doc Watson, David Holt, Del McCoury Band, and Steve Martin. Tickets are a hot item, so consider grabbing some before summer air starts turning cool.
Admission: $80 for a two-day pass, $40-$47 daily
Sept. 20 • Asheville, N.C., brewgrassfestival.com
Even after having earned the esteemed title of “Beer City USA,” Asheville has seen a continued rise in brewing culture as craft breweries continue to pop up all the time while two major breweries are setting up shop in town (Sierra Nevada and New Belgium). It seems like beer might one day draw more visitors than the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Pairing nearly 50 different breweries and bluegrass music in its 17th year, the Brewgrass Festival is now the most popular and awaited festival in Asheville. Tickets always sell out and the attendance is mostly adults, so find a babysitter and a safe ride home.