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12 of the region's hottest music festivals 

Camping gear optional

Ah, warmer weather. Everyone's ready to get out of the house, soak up some rays and listen to good music. These days, it looks like there's nearly a festival every weekend and each year, the lineups continue to get stronger. From local one-day events to four-day fests that require camping out, you can easily find something worth traveling to — whether it's the bluegrass of MerleFest or the variety of Bonnaroo. Here's a guide to the region's best events:

SHAKORI HILLS GRASSROOTS FESTIVAL

DATE: April 17-20, 2014

LOCATION: Pittsboro, N.C.

TICKETS: $23-$43 single-day tickets; $100 weekend passes; kids under 12 free

PERFORMERS: Afrobeta, Ben Sollee, BIG Something, Del McCoury Band, Des Ark, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Donna the Buffalo, Indigo Girls, Jim Lauderdale and more

LOCALS: Ironing Board Sam (Rock Hill), Pat "Mother Blues" Cohen

CAMPING: $15-$75

ALSO: Dance, movement and music workshops, art demonstrations, healing arts, crafts, kid areas and more

MORE INFO: shakorihillsgrassroots.org

OUR THOUGHTS: Shakori Hills' billing as a grassroots festival is accurate, in as much as the acts spread across four days and four stages are specialists in one form of roots music or another. Yet, "roots" here is far more contemporary than traditional, encompassing the lush, folk-inflected confessionals of Indigo Girls; the high, lonesome, gospel-haunted bluegrass of the Del McCoury Band; the zydeco-reggae-Cajun-country mish-mash of Donna the Buffalo; and the Crescent City funk 'n swing of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Look past the established acts, and keep your ears pricked for up-and-comers like the mountain hoe-down-by-way-of-West Africa sister act Rising Appalachia. (Pat Moran)

TUCK FEST

DATE: April 25-27, 2014

LOCATION: U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte

TICKETS: $35 for competition registration; music is free

PERFORMERS: G. Love & Special Sauce, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Blue Dogs, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Yarn, Mandolin Orange and more

ALSO: More than 20 competitions including rail running, kayaking, biking, climbing, stand-up paddleboarding, slacklining and adventure racing

MORE INFO: tuckfest.org

OUR THOUGHTS: The second annual festival celebrates the outdoor lifestyle through a bunch of events and music. Outdoorsy types can get their fill of competing before relaxing along the rapids and soaking in the variety of music. From the acousti-funk of G. Love, the soulful style of Sister Sparrow and plenty of jam-filled bluegrass, it's a laid-back variety that will make for a fantastic (close-by) weekend outdoors. (Jeff Hahne)

MOOGFEST

DATE: April 23-27, 2014

LOCATION: Asheville, N.C.

TICKETS: $89 single-day; $199 night passes; $299 day/night passes

PERFORMERS: Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, M.I.A., Flying Lotus, Zeds Dead, Chic f. Nile Rodgers, Janelle Monae and more

CAMPING: None

ALSO: Conferences during the day

MORE INFO: moogfest.com

OUR THOUGHTS: Whatever ugliness went on behind the scenes that resulted in Moogfest parting ways with AC Entertainment, host to the first three late-fall events, the festival in honor of Bob Moog has re-emerged in the spring with an aesthetic and lineup more in keeping with the innovator's vision. Iconic synth acts from across the spectrum and various eras — the Pet Shop Boys, Kraftwerk, Flying Lotus, Dan Deacon, M.I.A. and Moderat among them — highlight the evenings' entertainments, while a heavyweight roster of daytime panelists and presenters include the Warp Records brain trust, Laurie Anderson, Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, Futurama creator David X. Cohen, members of Google's creative team, TONTO creator Malcolm Cecil (who won a Grammy working on Stevie Wonder's '70s LPs), Black Rock Coalition co-founder Greg Tate and dozens of other key names in the electronic music world and environs. Having taken a turn toward more pedestrian festivals, Moogfest's focus is back squarely on the innovators, where it should be. (John Schacht)

MERLEFEST

DATE: April 24-27, 2014

LOCATION: Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C.

TICKETS: $40-$60 single day; $145-$260 weekend passes

PERFORMERS: Alan Jackson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Donna the Buffalo, Merle Haggard, Holly Williams, Steep Canyon Rangers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Keller Williams and more

LOCALS: Jim Avett (Concord), Overmountain Men, Darin and Brooke Aldridge (Cherryville), Jack Lawrence (Harrisburg), Time Sawyer, WBT Briarhoppers

CAMPING: $75 campsite for four people; $450 on-campus RV parking

ALSO: Midnight jam, silent auction, kids showcases and more

MORE INFO: merlefest.org

OUR THOUGHTS: Raleigh's Hopscotch and Asheville's Moogfest have grabbed national attention in recent years, but MerleFest — held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College — has long dazzled Tar Heels and interlopers alike with a litany of folk and rock luminaries. Modern country megastar Allen Jackson, banjo master Ralph Stanley, old-time ambassadors Carolina Chocolate Drops, and mainstream bluegrass champions Steep Canyon Rangers highlight the 2014 lineup, which has the goods to please seemingly any roots music itch. But don't sleep on the acts further down the bill: Carrboro's Mandolin Orange, for instance, is as nuanced and potent as any folk outfit you'll find in this state. (Jordan Lawrence)

CAROLINA REBELLION

DATE: May 3-4, 2014

LOCATION: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord

TICKETS: $79.50 single-day tickets; $119 weekend passes

PERFORMERS: Avenged Sevenfold, Kid Rock, Anthrax, Five Finger Death Punch, Rob Zombie, Seether, 311, Black Label Society and more

CAMPING: Packages available starting at $249.50

MORE INFO: carolinarebellion.com

OUR THOUGHTS: Let's assume the weather will be nice and organizers will avoid the frustration of last year's rained-out Sunday clusterfuck. If you like your rock heavy, manly and with lots of chugging riffs, this would be the place for you — there'll be plenty of it for two days. There's not one female in the lineup, so this dude-fest will feature plenty of testosterone-fueled aggression on the stage and in the pits. Motörhead has dropped off the lineup (replaced by Anthrax) and people are still scratching their heads at the inclusion of 311, but live performances by Rob Zombie and Kid Rock are worth checking out. Even if their music isn't your cup of tea, those guys put on a hell of a show. (Hahne)

SHAKY KNEES

DATE: May 9-11, 2014

LOCATION: Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Ga.

TICKETS: Single-day $84; three-day $169; 0x000AVIP $575

PERFORMERS: The National, Spoon, Gaslight Anthem, Foals, Cage the Elephant, Modest Mouse, The Replacements, Jenny Lewis, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Violent Femmes, Jason Isbell and more

MORE INFO: shakykneesfestival.com

OUR THOUGHTS: If you're anything like me, you, uh, don't make a lot of money. So summer festivals, then, become matters of economics — the higher the sunk cost, the richer the return on investment must be. The three-day Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta offers such rewards: It's relatively inexpensive — a full three-day pass runs just $169 (early-bird festival passes are even cheaper at $99) — and its daily lineups are packed from head to toe with marquee names you'd be paying a premium to see anyway. Between Spoon, The National, Charles Bradley and Foals, you're making your money's worth on Friday alone. Throw in big-name reunion acts The Violent Femmes and The Replacements and you're playing with house money. (Patrick Wall)

LEAF

DATE: May 8-11, 2014

LOCATION: Black Mountain, N.C.

TICKETS: $48-$58 single-day passes; 0x000A$163 weekend pass

PERFORMERS: Bootsy Collins, Los Lobos, Beats Antique, Zach Deputy, The Lee Boys and more

CAMPING: $65 vehicle permit

ALSO: Arts and crafts, healing arts, poetry and more

MORE INFO: theleaf.com

OUR THOUGHTS: A growing Charlotte contingent has been attending LEAF since its inception, drawn by the festival's life-affirming atmosphere and bucolic setting in historic Black Mountain College's former campus. As always, LEAF's eclectic programming balances tradition and innovation. Headliner Bootsy Collins' glammy slap bass-fueled funk is counterweighted by Los Lobos' rootsy connection to Tex-Mex, R&B and Latin folk. Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars' pop 'n' roll update of traditional West African music rubs shoulders with Red Baraat's propulsive collision of Indian bhangra and hip hop. It's a sign of LEAF's commitment to community that several of these acts, Bootsy and S.L. Allstars included, participate in local educational programs. (Moran)

DRUMSTRONG

DATE: May 16-18, 2014

LOCATION: Misty Meadows Farm, Weddington, N.C.

TICKETS: $15-$30 advance day passes; $50 advance weekend passes; $200 advance VIP

PERFORMERS: Railroad Earth, Felice Brothers, Kopecky Family Band, Chatham County Line, American Aquarium, Lost in the Trees, The Mantras, Joe Pug, Bombadil and more

LOCALS: The New Familiars, HRVRD, Overmountain Men, Junior Astronomers, Elonzo, Sinners & Saints, Grown Up Avenger Stuff, Super Ape, Time Sawyer, Modern Primitives, Ancient Cities, Miami Dice and more

CAMPING: Included with admission

ALSO: Fundraising and drum circles

MORE INFO: drumstrong.com

OUR THOUGHTS: The region's reigning rhythmic fundraiser for cancer-fighting organizations gets a shake-up as it enters its eighth year. Jam-banders like Railroad Earth are still on hand, and a continuous drum circle remains at the heart of the Weddington festival. Yet this year, Drumstrong rocks up the joint while retaining its acoustic Americana and bluegrass cred. Dylan and The Band's spiritual descendants The Felice Brothers share stages with ramshackle roots 'n rollers American Aquarium, horn-and-strings-infused popsters Kopecky Family Band and Carolina Chocolate Drops founder Dom Flemons. The wider musical net had also pulled in alt rockers like HRVRD – further proof that this ain't your daddy's Drumstrong. (Moran)

BLACKSTOCK MUSIC FESTIVAL

DATE: May 30-31, 2014

LOCATION: Blackstock, S.C.

TICKETS: $140 in advance; VIP $290 advance; Saturday pass $100

PERFORMERS: Galactic, Papadosio, Leftover Salmon, Boombox, Will Hoge, Toubab Krewe and more

LOCALS: Sunny Ledfurd (Mooresville), The New Familiars (Charlotte), Simplified (Charlotte), Brandon Kirkley and the Firecrackers (Charlotte), Sun-Dried Vibes (Charlotte), Jon Linker Band (Charlotte), The Calm and Repose (Huntersville), Floating Thought (Charlotte), Key (Charlotte)

CAMPING: Included in ticket price; RV pass $150

ALSO: Craft brew tent, disc golf course, sand volleyball courts

MORE INFO: blackstockmusicfestival.com

OUR THOUGHTS: Making its debut in 2014, the Blackstock Music Festival seems to be seeking some of that Bonnaroo magic in the heart of the S.C. Midlands. The top-line acts — Galactic, Papadosio, Leftover Salmon — drift in directions that range from folk-y to psychedelic, but they all specialize in exhaustive displays that should delight jam-band devotees looking for one more spot to pitch their tent. But there's some diversity here, as well: Folk-pop lifer Mason Jennings brings his wry and witty hooks to bear, and Durham's Hiss Golden Messenger pose probing spiritual questions while dissolving influences from raga to bluegrass into one blissfully confused melting pot. (Lawrence)

BONNAROO MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL

DATE: June 12-15, 2014

LOCATION: Manchester, Tenn.

TICKETS: $284.50 weekend pass; VIP passes $1499.50 per pair

PERFORMERS: Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, Lionel Richie, Vampire Weekend, Skrillex, Arctic Monkeys, Kaskade, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Chvrches, John Butler Trio, Little Dragon, Superjam and more

LOCALS: The Avett Brothers (Concord)

CAMPING: Included in ticket price; other packages available

ALSO: Crafts, games and more

MORE INFO: bonnaroo.com

OUR THOUGHTS: This is continually one of the nation's best festivals. Four days of music featuring some of the biggest and brightest bands around, playing full sets until the wee hours of the morning. The superjams alone provide for once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences, but the camaraderie and talent abound on stage and off. If you were going to go to one big festival in your lifetime, this is about as good as it gets. (Hahne)

MERGE 25

DATE: July 23-26, 2014

LOCATION: Carrboro, N.C. area

TICKETS: $35 and up

PERFORMERS: Wye Oak, Caribou, Lambchop, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Rock*A*Teens, Bob Mould, The Mountain Goats, Superchunk, The Love Language and more

MORE INFO: mergerecords.com/merge-25

OUR THOUGHTS: A quarter-century in, Chapel Hill's little indie label that could stands as both a model of Net-conscious savvy today and a throwback to what record labels were meant to be — home to a couple of popular money makers that bankroll a roster of lesser-known eclectic artists, regional heroes and promising up-and-coming acts. Naturally, the four-day festival's stellar lineup mirrors the label's sonic diversity, highlighted by Lambchop performing Nixon at Duke University Wednesday; label founders Superchunk, the Rock*A*Teens and pastoral Brit rockers the Clientele Thursday at Cat's Cradle; Destroyer, Wye Oak and The Mountain Goats Friday at Cat's Cradle, and a big outdoor Carrboro shindig Saturday featuring a full-band reunion of Neutral Milk Hotel, a resurgent Bob Mould, Caribou, Ex Hex and the Love Language. If Merge 20 was any yardstick, there'll be transcendent moments aplenty here. (Schacht)

FLOYDFEST 13

DATE: July 23-27, 2014

LOCATION: Floyd, Va.

TICKETS: Three-day passes start at $205; four-day starts at $220; five-day starts at $240' single-day passes from $90; kids (age 6-12) $30

PERFORMERS: Lauryn Hill, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Ray Lamontagne, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Ziggy Marley, JJ Grey & Mofro, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lettuce and more

LOCALS: Ancient Cities (Charlotte), Elonzo, Paleface (Concord), Super Ape, The New Familiars

CAMPING: From $50

ALSO: Mountain biking, disc golf, hiking, kayaking and more

MORE INFO: floydfest.com

OUR THOUGHTS: The unpleasant part of camping at festivals — OK, one of them — is often the view. At Burning Man, all you see is desert. At Bonnaroo, all you see is a teeming mass of humanity, or, worse, Tennessee. FloydFest, at least, carries the fringe benefit of being nestled in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, so you'll have a pretty great view while you decompress between festival days. Then again, you're not going for the camping, you're going for the music, right? FloydFest offers plenty in that regard, too: The lineup, not surprisingly, leans toward roots and mountain music — Ben Harper! Underhill Rose! Carolina Chocolate Drops! — but rolls in plenty of funk (Lettuce), reggae (Ziggy Marley), electronic music (Thievery Corporation, Conspirator) and world flavors (Incendio, Groundation) to carry an incredibly broad appeal. Oh, and the divine Lauryn Hill is headlining. Lauryn Hill in the Blue Ridge? Yes, please. (Wall)

Elsewhere...

Sweetwater 420 Fest
DATE: April 18-20, 2014
LOCATION: Atlanta, Ga.
TICKETS: $10 single day; $18 weekend pass; $60-$135 VIP
PERFORMERS: Sublime with Rome, Steel Pulse, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Galactic, G. Love and Special Sauce, Eoto, Anders Osborne and more
MORE INFO: sweetwater420fest.com

Counterpoint
DATE: April 25-27, 2014
LOCATION: Kingston Downs, Ga.
TICKETS: $90 single-day tickets; $180 weekend passes; $600 VIP
PERFORMERS: Outkast, Pretty Lights, Foster the People, STS9, J. Cole, Krewella, Flux Pavilion, Big Gigantic, Matt & Kim, Janelle Monae, Sleigh Bells, Phantogram, Run the Jewels and more
CAMPING: Packages available
MORE INFO: counterpointfestival.com

17th Annual French Broad River Festival
DATE: May 2-4, 2014
LOCATION: Hot Springs, N.C.
TICKETS: $50 Saturday; $80 weekend pass
PERFORMERS: Toubab Krewe, Sol Driven Train, Jeff Sipe Trio, Floating Action, Dangermuffin and more
CAMPING: $30 campground pass
MORE INFO: frenchbroadriverfestival.com

Aiken Bluegrass Festival
DATE: May 9-10, 2014
LOCATION: Aiken, S.C.
TICKETS: $20-$30 daily; $60-$90 VIP
PERFORMERS: Keller and the Travelin' McCourys, Town Mountain, Greensky Bluegrass and more
CAMPING: $30 tent camping; $50-$100 RV parking
MORE INFO: aikenbluegrassfestival.org

North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival
DATE: May 10, 2014
LOCATION: Rural Hill, Huntersville
TICKETS: $22, $35 with tasting
PERFORMERS: Greensky Bluegrass, Big Daddy Love, Sol Driven Train and more
CAMPING: $17 per tent, $30 for the weekend; RVs $35, $60 weekend ALSO: A whole bunch of N.C. brewers offering samples of their beers
MORE INFO: ncbrewsmusic.com

Mountain Sports Festival
DATE: May 23-25, 2014
LOCATION: Asheville, N.C.
PERFORMERS: Robert Walter's 20th Congress, Honey Island Swamp Band, Earphunk
ALSO: Running events, biking events, disc golf, dodgeball, river events
MORE INFO: mountainsportsfestival.com

Coca-Cola Speed Street Presented by Chevrolet
DATE: May 22-24, 2014
LOCATION: Uptown Charlotte
TICKETS: Free
PERFORMERS: .38 Special, Thompson Square, Who's Bad
LOCALS: The Stranger, School of Rock, Zach Ludlam (Rock Hill) MORE INFO: 600festival.com/speed-street

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