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A Guide to the Best Mountain Town Music Fests

How to fill nearly every weekend this summer with nearly every genre of music

“Huntahhh’s” (as the locals say) Mountain Jam is the first stop of the summer for a bunch of bands who will be all over the country for the rest of the season. (Joshua Timmermans)
mountain jam

How to fill nearly every weekend this summer with nearly every genre of music

We’re sliding into summer, which means mountain towns across the country are transitioning from ski season to warm-weather music festival mode. That means more bands and more beer to be enjoyed in the sunshine. Great musical acts to suit every taste are heading to the mountains over the next few months, so we made you a playlist and a plan.

Mountain Jam

Hunter Mountain, New York
When: June 14–17

“Huntahhh’s” (as the locals say) Mountain Jam is the first stop of the summer for a bunch of bands that will be all over the country for the rest of the season, like Chicano Batman, Woods, and Sturgill Simpson. Not to mention George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, the greatest show on earth.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Telluride, Colorado
When: June 21–14

Telluride has been the standard bearer of mountain town music festivals for 45 years. The best musicians in bluegrass, like Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, and Chris Thile, show up pretty much every year. Also on the lineup this year are the new queens of old-style Americana, I’m With Her, a power group including Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, who first played together in Telluride while there with their own bands.

High Sierra Music Festival

Quincy, California
When: July 5–8

Earlier this month, Pitchfork analyzed the gender breakdown at major festivals and noted a lack of female headliners. High Sierra bucks the trend with a lineup stacked with powerful female voices, including Margo Price, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. The String Cheese Incident is playing two nights, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Newport Folk Festival

Newport, Rhode Island
When: July 27–29

So technically Newport isn’t a mountain town, but we’re willing to push the line a little for the best couple in music, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, who are playing the festival both alone and together. They’re just the start of it. If you make it to Fort Adams State Park, you also get to see Brandi Carlisle, Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent, Gary Clark Jr., Shakey Graves, and Toots and the Maytals(!).

Travelers Rest Fest

Missoula, Montana
When: August 4–5

Last year, The Decemberists decided Missoula—where lead singer Colin Meloy grew up and formed the late, great band Tarkio—needed a music festival. It went so well that they’re doing it again. The band is playing both nights, and they’re bringing in Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Lucy Dacus, and Waxahatchee.

Pickathon

Happy Valley, Oregon
When: August 3–5

Happy Valley isn’t a misnomer. Pickathon is a Portlandy zero-waste utopia of stages set in the forest, complete with food trucks and Fred Armisen sightings (both in and out of character). Don’t let the name throw you off—in addition to traditionalish musicians like Shinyribs and Shovels and Rope, you’ll get to see acts like Jamila Woods and Broken Social Scene. Every band plays twice, and some have been known to throw impromptu jams in the campground, so you never have to be stressed about missing a show.

Otis Mountain Get Down

Elizabethtown, New York
When: September 7–9

What were you doing the summer after college? I was living in a tent and drinking too much. The crew of recent University of Vermont graduates behind the Otis Mountain Get Down were pulling together one of the coolest music festivals in the country by bringing a bunch of bands to a tiny town across the lake from Burlington. Six years later, it’s a love letter to the local food, biking, and arts scene in the Adirondacks and a launchpad for upcoming musicians. This year, that means bands like Weaves, the Shacks, and Swale. Proceeded go back to Otis Mountain, the hometown ski hill where they host the event.

Get a taste of some of our favorite musicians making the festival rounds below.

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