While production in a studio is the life force behind dance music, no one can deny that festivals, big or small, are the driving force behind EDM. Whether it’s festivals like Insomniac’s renowned Electric Daisy Carnival, SFX Entertainment’s TomorrowLand festival, Ultra Music Festival in Miami, or even one of the countless smaller festivals, dance music would not be where it is now without them.
More and more of these massive festivals are growing in size year in and year out, but bigger isn’t always better. After attending EDC for 3 or 4 years, or spending an entire weekend packed in a crowd in Miami’s Bayfront Park, many festival-goers may start to look for something with a different vibe. We thought we would highlight some of the best "lesser-known" festivals in America, and each of them present a theme that every dance music fan must experience at least once in their life:
1. Lightning In A Bottle
Lightning in a Bottle promoters may be most known for The Do Lab at Coachella, rather than their own festival. Considered by many as one of California’s “premiere” underground festivals, LIB has it all. Nestled in the hills at the beautiful San Antonio Recreation Area in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, LIB offers a variety of activities that you won’t find at your typical festival. A camping-only festival with yoga instruction, sustainability workshops, inspirational speakers, and the Lucent Temple of Consciousness, LIB festival-goers leave the festival with a fresh perspective on life and a vision for living.
In addition to their unique activities and experience, LIB’s lineup is no slouch either. Last year, LIB hosted names like Moby, Phantogram, Claude VonStroke, and even people like Chet Faker, What So Not, and Baauer. Tickets and information for the 2015 rendition of LIB have not been announced yet, but keep your eye out!
2. Northern Nights
Northern Nights Music Festival is a 3 day celebration of music, art, food, and culture that takes place annually the 3rd weekend of July. Taking place in Northern California, almost 200 miles north of San Francisco at Cook’s Valley Campground, Northern Nights Music Festival is founded on the basis of passionate support and understanding of the underground music community. In addition to a strong lineup (think Justin Martin, Odesza, Beats Antique, and Christian Martin), Northern Nights offers yoga during the day, local organic food offerings with regional craft beers, and helps support many local non-profit vendors.
On top of it all, Northern Nights donates a portion of all their proceeds to the Mendocino and Humboldt school districts. Perhaps nothing is more telling about this festival than that.
Northern Nights will be taking place July 17-19 at Cooks Valley Campground in Northern California, and holiday tickets go on sale December 13th and you can grab yours here.
3. Desert Hearts Music Festival
One of the younger festivals on this list, Desert Hearts just finished hosting the second anniversary of their illustrious festival, and yet they have made a name for themselves as one of the premiere underground festival destinations. Headed by the Desert Hearts crew run by Mikey Lion and joined by people like Deep Jesus, Pork Chop, and Lee Reynolds, Desert Hearts is committed to creating more than a festival. Taking place on an Indian Reservation northeast of San Diego where there are no curfews or police, Desert Hearts creates a much more intimate community-oriented atmosphere dedicated to house and techno.
Tickets can be purchased online or in advance, and beyond the ticket price, everything was self-sustainable. A food kitchen fed hungry festival-goers on the dance floor with no additional charge, and Desert Hearts offered beautiful art, decor, performers, yoga sessions, and more. With the creation of their brand new record label, Desert Hearts Records, the Desert Hearts crew has made a name for themselves and it seems like they are here to stay.
4. Decibel Festival
Seattle’s Decibel Festival is definitely one-of-a-kind. Decibel doesn’t call any campground or forest its home, rather the entire city of Seattle participates during the Decibel Festival. Unique, single events are held at clubs, theaters, and bars all over the city, and a ticket to the Decibel Festival grants you admission to every single event. Hosting over 25,000 attendees each day over the span of the four day festival, Decibel Festival is uniquely yours. You can choose to go where you’d like, and enjoy performances in intimate club settings or massive festival stages.
5. BUKU Music + Arts Project
Taking place in the heart of one of the most soulful cities in America, New Orleans, BUKU Music+Arts Project is probably the biggest festival out of the 5 we have listed. Taking place on the shores of the Mississippi River, Buku has one of the most unique vibes of any festival in the nation. A quirky boutique event that delivers a big festival punch in terms of lineup and size, while maintaining its roots in the underground house-party vibe, Buku has seen massive success in New Orleans, drawing artists like R.L. Grime, Baauer, Skream, and David Guetta to grace their decks.
One of the most unique aspects of BUKU is their dedication to New Orleans culture. A quick glance around the festival will reveal countless New Orleans food vendors, and one of their stages is actually nestled inside of a Mardi Gras float manufacturing warehouse. Their VIP section is not a platform to the side of the stage, rather it is a 3-story riverboat, with its own stage included. The party ends at 12, but BUKU is only a short walk away from the French District, one of the liveliest nightlife hot spots in the nation. BUKU 2015 is taking place on March 14 and 15, and you can grab your tickets here.