Coachella is the Pitchfork or even the Vice of music festivals, magisterial yet pompous and over exposed enough to become an irresistible target. On the one hand they make headlines with awesome things like the At the Drive In reunion and emotionally confusing things like holographic Tupac. They are probably largely responsible for the existence of the social disease that has been dubbed “festival fashion.” (Yes, I find American flag muscle shirts and pyramid spiked cut-offs personally offensive, especially when you combine them.) Tickets are also so expensive that they are available on a payment plan.
Let’s talk about value. It’s hard to compete with the Coachellas, Glastonburys and Bonnaroos of the world (you know, if that’s what you are into) but there are festivals where your fun dollars might go just a little bit farther. Any way you crunch the numbers you are paying money to get mud on your nice festival wear and a sunburn on your inner thighs as you watch dreadlocked trust fund babies have performative makeout seshes and, finally, pay even more money for overpriced food and beer.
Add to that the harsh reality that outdoor acoustics are almost by definition the worst acoustics, and you are going to want to choose very wisely. (Maybe choose one that’s held indoors.)
Because we care, here’s a list of ten low budget but potentially high yield and low hassle events to consider next time you feel like spending money on a ticketed “experience.” If you are in the US, a few might be a little far afield, but totally worth it if you happen to be in the neighborhood. And remember kids: mud is where ringworm comes from.
1. Festival Nrmal: The best value by far on this list is Festival Nrmal. held in Monterrey, Mexico you can catch some bigger names like Sky Ferreira and Ariel Pink, elusive underground legends like Dan Higgs of Lungfish, and amazing, genuine underground music from all over the world. It’s priceless, really. But tickets are 350 pesos, under 30 American dollars. Can you believe that? There is nothing nrmal about these savings!
2. AC3 Festival: This is one of the absolute best kept secrets. You can go see Nas, A$AP Rocky and Macklemore at Bonnaroo while trying to avoid jam bands and the people who love them for upwards of $224. It might be worth it, but you’ll be in Manchester, Tennessee. Tennessee is pretty, but it’s also possible to hang out in Atlanta for three days of solid, unadulterated hip-hop and pay only $60. Raekwon and GZA will be there, also Los Rakas, Trinidad Jame$ and significantly better food. Consider AC3.
3. Igloo Fest: Goa is warm, Tomorrowland is massive and Electric Daisy Carnival is in glamorous Las Vegas, Nevada, but Montreal’s Igloofest is forty bucks! Those other electronic music festivals are, oh, more than that. Held in January and February in Canada, it is, of course freezing, but there will be an ice village as well as an ugly snowsuit contest in addition to up and coming DJs and producers like A Tribe Called Red and KenLo Craqnuques.
4. FYF Fest: Formerly known as Fuck Yeah Fest, FYF a big ball of rad the goes on in downtown Los Angeles and it costs $77. The only reason not to go to Fuck Yeah Fest is if you don’t like rock music or Los Angeles. That’s okay if you don’t. No one is perfect. Last year, not a single shitty band played and the bands that did play included Refused, M83, Dinosaur Jr., Converge, Wild Flag and all of the other good bands.
5. The Fest: FYF Fest not punk enough for you? Then for at most $125 you can head down to beautiful Gainesville, Florida for all the pop punk with gruff vocals you can possibly handle. The Fest is three glorious days of cheap beer and power chords and chances are you can find someone who will let you crash on the floor of their dorm or motel room. But our advice is to just not sleep. You’ll get the most out of your ticket that way.
6. Primavera Sound: Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is 175€. That’s $230 US, but it’s in Barcelona and everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Wu-Tang is playing. Sometimes a good value doesn’t mean cheap it just means Primavera Fest exists so don’t go to Indio unless you already live in California. Actually, don’t go to Indio even then. If you live in California, see number 5.
7. Pop Montreal: Pop Montreal is $300 dollars for five days, but that’s Canadian dollars. So you save like eight dollars? Still cheaper than Coachella and you don’t even need to do that, see. You can just buy day passes for $33 and bail when you are bored instead of being locked into a package. Plus, you aren’t trapped in the middle of nowhere so you can track down some cheap poutine and Molson when you get hungry/thirsty. Plus it’s where all the cool bands play. Grimes? Lunice? Mirel Wagner? Xray Eyeballs? They all played there last year.
8. All Tomorrow’s Parties: Leeds, Bestival and the behemoth that is Glastonbury bring together some of the hottest acts from the UK and beyond. All Tomorrow’s Parties does that for a bit less. Day tickets can be had for £180, which is around 274 US dollars. Real talk: This is still a good buy because it is curated by the awesome likes of TV on the Radio. Value is about quality. If you are going to spend that much to see music, spend it on this. There are even cheaper one off I’ll Be Your Mirror festivals all over the world for those who can’t get to the UK and/or spring for the main event.