Music Festival Guide: Top 10 Unique Fests

There exists those music festivals which defy any easy definition and refuse to be categorized. While the next ten festivals have vastly different crowds and music, they all share the defining characteristics of a passionate fan base and one-of-a-kind twists.

1. Gathering of the Juggalos
Where: Cave-In-Rock, Illinois
When: August 7-11, 2013

When most of the music industry wrote off The Insane Clown Posse over a decade ago, they didn’t just fade away. Instead, ICP went underground and tapped into the Internet to bring fans closer together. Now without any middlemen to deal with, ICP boasts a rabid fan base that gorges on anything the band puts out. Case in point: The Juggalo Gathering — a three day twisted carnival themed festival that has become a mecca for ICP fans around the world.

2. Water Hill Music Festival
Where: Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: May 5, 2013

You probably haven’t heard of the Water Hill Music Festival because there’s no corporate sponsors, no headliners, and no venue. Water Hill is that rare experiment which actually pulls a community closer together. So who’s in the lineup? Anybody in the neighborhood who wants to perform on their porch or lawn.

3. Nerdapolooza
Where: Orlando, Florida
When: July (unconfirmed)

If nerdcore hip hop, chiptunes, comedy rock, video game music, and VG remixes sound like a foreign concept, you’re not alone — except at Nerdapolooza. Traditionally held in an Orlando Marriott, Nerdaplooza proudly states that “Tonight, the nerds will rock.”

4. ATP: I’ll Be Your Mirror
Where: Asbury Park, New Jersey
When: September 21-23, 2012

Here’s how your typical All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) festival works. ATP invites a wicked band like The Afghan Whigs to headline, then lets that artist pick the rest of the lineup or as they explain it —  it’s like seeing a mix tape live. ATP throws parties like this around the world and lately have been dipping into the NYC area. It’s very far from your ordinary music festival, more like going to a hipster summer camp.

5. Burning Man Festival
Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
When: August 26-September 2, 2013

If you’ve ever tried to tell someone about an acid trip who wasn’t there tweaking out with you, then you’ll understand that we can’t possibly explain Burning Man with a a few sentences. Suffice to say that Burning Man takes the concept of a “festival” and twists it into something so insanely glorious that you’ll never forget it.

6. Punk Rock Bowling Festival
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
When: May 25-27, 2013

Leave it to Sin City to blend two amazing concepts into a tasty sandwich of punk rock and bowling. Three days of music featuring the best of old school along with new acts. It starts in the late afternoon so that it doesn’t interfere with the 200+ teams competing in the bowling tournament. Strike!

7. Sturgis Rally
Where: Sturgis, South Dakota
When: August 5-11, 2013

A massive biker rally set in the desolate Black Hills of South Dakota sounds like the last place for a music festival. Boy, were we ever wrong. There’s at least a dozen massive campgrounds at Sturgis and each boasts an amazing and baffling collection of headliners and artists. And if you need a break from the music, there’s sanctioned ultimate fighting downtown at The Knuckle Saloon.

8. Wanderlust
Where: Colorado/Vermont/California / Hawaii
When: Year-round

Bucking the trend of a weekend of debauchery, Wanderlust aims to have its fans leaving the event feeling better in body, mind, and soul. The multiple festivals, usually located at scenic ski areas, have yoga backing up the music along with organics, workshops, outdoor activities, and general well being.

9. Cypress Hill Smokeout
Where: San Bernadino, CA
When: March 3, 2012

The stoner world held its breath when the Cypress Hill Smokeout was postponed last year, but now we can collectively exhale (with only a small cough). The second edition of the Smokeout will feature the bands you love and the medical marijuana expo that you crave. Light one up for us if we can’t make it.

10. Musink
Where: Costa Mesa, CA
When: March 8-10, 2013

Tattoos and punk rock go together like…well, exactly like tats and punk. Musink fuses the two together into a three day show with over 200 tattoo artists from around the world — and of course the epically awesome Miss Musink contest.