With the music industry capital in its backyard, California is fertile ground for America’s biggest music and most in-demand music festivals. The year-round sunshine and clear skies doesn’t hurt its efforts, either. From the coast to the valley and everywhere in between, here are some of the top music festivals that call The Golden State home (in no particular order).
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – Goldenvoice
What more can be said about Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that hasn’t been said already? The fact of the matter is this Indio, California festival is a cultural hub, and one of the biggest venues any major touring artist can possibly play. Needless to say, there’s a reason Coachella dominates the conversation year after year and there’s no sign of its pristine status fading any time soon.
Nocturnal Wonderland – Insomniac
Of course, as America’s longest-running dance music festival, Nocturnal Wonderland, is a Southern California highlight. In many ways, for artists coming off of the summer tour circuit, Nocturnal Wonderland represents the next chance to test out new music. The Insomniac-powered festival typically features five stages, a vibrant setting full of lights and color, and music until midnight.
Second Sky Music Festival – Goldenvoice
Second Sky Music Festival is a newcomer to the California festival scene. From the start, the boutique project commanded high expectations. The Porter Robinson-curated venture featured around a dozen artists, and included multiple sets from Robinson both as himself and as his alternate alias, Virtual Self. Those fortunate enough to snag elusive tickets to the festival also may have caught a set from Skrillex, the festival’s surprise guest. By all accounts, Second Sky more than delivered on its promises and it’s nearly a certainty that it will be around for the foreseeable future.
Lightning In A Bottle – Do LaB
Few festivals embody the holistic cultural spirit of central California’s Lightning In A Bottle (LIB). This electronic-focused festival features interactive art, yoga classes, guest speakers, and meditation workshops. LIB has become a turn of phrase defined by capturing something elusive, harnessing a fleeting, great energy. The LIB team has done a lot to reinvest back into their community and culture, managing to build up a dedicated community year after year.
HARD Summer – HARD Events
In its formative years under Gary Richards, HARD Summer became a peak summer draw for any electronic music fan. From unmissable headliners to attention-grabbing undercards, curation and branding have been consistent strong suits. Richards has since moved on from HARD Events, but the spirit of what he started continues to thrive. HARD Summer draws over 100,000 attendees consistently in its two days of action – and its 2019 edition, which drew in 170,000, broke the record for biggest festival in Fontana, California history.
CRSSD Festival – FNGRS CRSSD
San Diego’s CRSSD Festival presents a unique house and techno focus for listeners transitioning beyond mainstream electronic music. With San Diego’s flawless year-round weather, a beachfront setting, and the steady beats of the best in house music, CRSSD has a recipe for success on its hands few could replicate elsewhere.
Beyond Wonderland – Insomniac
Insomniac festivals are all about community and atmosphere. When it comes to the latter, Beyond Wonderland has the competition beat. The fantasy theme of the festival is widely embraced by its patrons creating a setting that keeps attendees savoring every moment. With the success of Nocturnal Wonderland, Beyond Wonderland became a sister-brand that would bring the focus back toward the fantastical environments that brought Insomniac its fame. Beyond Wonderland continues to accomplish that mission today.
Countdown NYE – Insomniac Events
California is fortunate to have multiple New Year’s festivals to choose from and bass heads in particular should give Countdown NYE a look. The extraterrestrial-themed festival does not hesitate to bring the heavy hitters. For a high energy rush into the new year, Countdown in San Bernardino has you covered.
Desert Hearts – Desert Hearts Records
Since 2012, when Desert Hearts had just 200 attendees, organizers made a commitment to maintain the intimate energy that started it all. Since then, Desert Hearts has gained significant popularity among dedicated house and techno listeners, but the event has stayed true to its loyal fans. As they themselves state, “What started as a nomadic gathering has evolved into the darling of the West Coast house and techno scene.” That targeted approach has built their longtime base into the tight-knight sort of group that many festivals can only hope to achieve.
Dreamstate SoCal – Insomniac
Insomniac’s Dreamstate SoCal beckons trance fans from all over the world – and there are a lot of them. From uplifting to psytrance, many forget that trance music is an umbrella that covers numerous different subcultures. Dreamstate puts the spotlight on these subgenres and explores them from unique perspectives not often seen elsewhere.
Escape: Psycho Circus – Insomniac
Insomniac’s horror-themed music festival is the perfect Halloween event. In true Insomniac fashion, Escape: Psycho Circus is an immersive experience. Themed stages, sinister sights, and a heavy dose of bass are sure to leave a lasting impression on those who dare enter.
Splash House – Goldenvoice
Palm Springs California’s Splash House is resort meets pool party meets music festival. This gathering typically bookends summer on two separate weekends, usually one in June and the other in August. With hotel resources at a moments notice, Splash House is a music festival with all the comfort and perks one could want.
HARD Day of the Dead – HARD Events
For festival goers seeking their fix in between Halloween and the holiday season, HARD Day of the Dead may be your best bet. This one day event brings artists and 75,000 fans together in the spirit of “Dia de los Muertos” unlike any other.
LED OMFG! NYE – LED Presents
San Diego’s LED OMFG! NYE event is a well curated two day event featuring the best in rising and established bass music talent. Taking place at the Pechanga Arena San Diego, this venue makes for an ideal setting with a reasonable capacity of around 12,000. As you well know by now California is in no shortage of New Year’s related events, but OMFG’s near decade of operations is the clearest indicator they’re doing something right.
Outside Lands Music Festival – Another Planet Entertainment
Outside Lands Music Festival is a San Francisco favorite and Northern California’s largest music festival. The established late summer attraction draws a diverse mix of talent. Outside Lands sees itself as a pop-up city with a mission to showcase the best of the Bay Area. In addition to top-notch music, Outside Lands has expanded to include a dedicated food and wine area, a comedy and podcast tent and much more.
Dirtybird Campout – Dirtybird Records
Each year Claude VonStroke‘s Dirtybird Records accomplishes the unique endeavor of putting together a summer camp music festival experience. Dirtybird Records has been home to some of house music’s key personalities since 2002. The Dirtybird Campout experience gives fans ample opportunity to embrace the activities of a traditional summer camp experience including swimming, archery and more.
The Untz Festival – The Untz
The Untz bring a diverse offering of underground bass music artists to central California for their own music festival. The Untz have staked their ground in facilitating the discovery of hidden talent. True to their reputation, lineups have helped their mission serving as blueprints for the best in emerging bass music.
Wobbleland – Another Planet Entertainment and Vital
If the name of this festival was not a big enough indication, the lineup will be sure to drive home the point. Wobbleland represents the best in dubstep, and more broadly heavy bass music. Taking place shortly after the new year, headbangers looking for a rush need search no further.
SnowGlobe Music Festival – MTV
If you’re escaping to California’s climate for the holidays, you may want to book those New Year’s plans at SnowGlobe Music Festival. Winter festivals have been on the rise, and SnowGlobe’s focus on Lake Tahoe snowboarding and skiing has made it a benefactor. With 10,000 attendees on average attending, the event has a boutique feel while simultaneously drawing in the main stage acts consistent with festivals far bigger.
What festivals do you think are a must-see in California? Let us know your thoughts on social media!