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10 regional music festivals are just a short drive away 

These live music lineups are close to Charlotte and hotter than July


Ever since that rascally groundhog screwed up the weather forecast back in February, it feels like it's taken forever for the warm weather to finally arrive. And along with basking in the sun come plenty of regional music festivals. From the farmlands to city centers, there are inaugural events such as Charlotte's Tuck Fest and the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, large-scale national events including Bonnaroo in Tennessee and FloydFest in Virginia and local multi-day showcases including TreasureFest and RecessFest. Unlike that Punxsutawney prognosticator, we're confident in these 10 picks of noteworthy festivals worth attending.

Carolina Chocolate Drops @ Tuck Fest
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops @ Tuck Fest

DATE: April 19-21, 2013
LOCATION: U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte
PERFORMERS: Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Steeldrivers (Friday); Carolina Chocolate Drops, Humming House, David Wax Museum, Fruition (Saturday); The Infamous Stringdusters (Sunday)
ALSO: Kayaking, mountain biking, running, obstacle courses, cornhole tournament and more.
OUR THOUGHTS: When it comes to festivals, everyone's favorite word is free. For the Whitewater Center's inaugural Tuck Fest, celebrating the historic Tuckaseegee Ford and Tuckaseegee Trail, the music is free — but that's not all there is. The three-day shindig features outdoor events of every kind and for those, a registration fee is required. When it comes to the music, the Appalachian spirit comes to life thanks to the bluegrass of Larry Keel and the Infamous Stringdusters and the old-time string band sound of Carolina Chocolate Drops. (Jeff Hahne)

Avett Brothers @ MerleFest
  • Avett Brothers @ MerleFest

DATE: April 25-28, 2013
LOCATION: Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C. (85 miles from Charlotte)
TICKETS: $40-$60 for day passes; $135 for Friday-Sunday; $210-$235 for four-day passes
PERFORMERS: The Avett Brothers, Sam Bush, Chatham County Line, Charlie Daniels Band, Delta Rae, Donna the Buffalo, Jerry Douglas, Gov't Mule, Del McCoury, The New Familiars, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Leon Russell, Steep Canyon Rangers and more.
CAMPING: Campsites for $75; flattop parking $95; RV parking for $450
OUR THOUGHTS: If you want to know the state of Appalachian music in the modern age, look no further than MerleFest. Now in its 26th year, the festival is an annual celebration of "traditional plus" music — "the traditional music of the Appalachian region, plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play," as founder Doc Watson put it. The festival takes place over four days and 14 stages at Wilkes Community College and acts as a fund-raiser for the school. This year will be the first without Watson, though a number of tributes are planned. Though it lacks the hip cachet of shitshows like Bonnaroo, Merlefest has a lot to offer in its alcohol- and tobacco-free atmosphere. And the fact that attendees sleep off-site means no bug-eyed bros will wander through your campsite at night, looking to bum a cigarette. (Rachel Bailey)

DATE: May 4-5, 2013
LOCATION: Atlanta, Ga. (245 miles from Charlotte)
TICKETS: Only $61 single-day tickets available.
PERFORMERS: The Lumineers, Band of Horses, Jim James, Drive-By Truckers, Gary Clark Jr., Lucero, Dr. Dog, Kurt Vile, The Joy Formidable, Shovels & Rope and more.
OUR THOUGHTS: New to Atlanta this year is the Shaky Knees Music Festival, a two-day affair featuring 28 bands at outdoor stages in the Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Masquerade Music Park. With acts like The Lumineers, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and the Drive-By Truckers, Shaky Knees appears to be aiming squarely at the raucous folk- and country-rock set. Performances by the excellent Shovels & Rope and Kurt Vile & the Violators are probably why multi-day passes have already sold out. The festival is curated by longtime Atlanta music impresario Tim Sweetwood, who culled an impressive line-up for the May 4-5 event. Festival-goers must find accommodations off-site, leaving an opportunity after the days' events are done to explore the city's other offerings, such as nearby Clermont Lounge's delightfully seedy atmosphere or a number of great restaurants a short drive down the road. But be safe — it's not a neighborhood you want to wander alone at night. (RB)

Soundgarden @ Carolina Rebellion
  • Soundgarden @ Carolina Rebellion

DATE: May 4-5, 2013
LOCATION: Rock City Campgrounds, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte
TICKETS: $119 for weekend pass; $69.50 for single-day ticket; other packages available
PERFORMERS: Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Rise Against, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Papa Roach, Bush, 3 Doors Down, Buckcherry, Halestorm, In This Moment, Volbeat and more.
CAMPING: Tent packages from $125; RV packages from $150.
OUR THOUGHTS: Pay attention to the location, because this festival has bounced around every year — first at the Metrolina Expo and then at Rockingham Speedway. For its third year, the organizers found a bigger space at Charlotte Motor Speedway and diversified the lineup a bit from its pop-metal bro-fest. Sure, the music remains heavy, but they mined the archives to get Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, while hitting new strides with Deftones and Rise Against. They could have done without Limp Bizkit's "Nookie" or 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite," but there are enough other bands to make up for it, if you're into the rough-and-tumble stuff. A reunited Soundgarden is worth catching, if no one else strikes your fancy. (JH)

Mavis Staples @ Leaf
  • Mavis Staples @ Leaf

DATE: May 9-12, 2013
LOCATION: Black Mountain, N.C. (115 miles from Charlotte)
TICKETS: $47-$57 day passes; $159 weekend passes
PERFORMERS: Mavis Staples, Steel Pulse, Ozomatli, Oliver Mtukudzi & The Black Spirits, Solas and more.
CAMPING: Vehicle camping for $60; cabins available; RV passes sold out
ALSO: A kid's village, folk arts and handcrafts, poetry slam and healing arts.
OUR THOUGHTS: It's fitting that the 35th Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) takes place on the former Blue Ridge Mountain campus of Black Mountain College. Closed in 1957, the college included geodesic dome designer Buckminster Fuller on faculty and Albert Einstein as guest lecturer. Avant-garde composer John Cage also staged his first "happening" on the alpine valley campus. Maybe there's something in the mountain air, because the spirit of idiosyncratic eclecticism embodied by the long-shuttered school seems to have spilled over into LEAF's programming. Headliner Mavis Staples' gutsy and sensual R&B is complemented by L.A. collective Ozomatli's hip shaking concoction of salsa, hip-hop and jazz funk. The roots reggae rhythms and truth-to-power vocals of veteran British band Steel Pulse rubs shoulders with the fiery fusion of American folk and Celtic tradition performed by Solas. Oliver Mtukudzl's hypnotic mélange of Zimbabwean pop and South African songs with Zulu roots seals the musically diverse deal. (Pat Moran)

Sam Bush @ DrumStrong
  • Sam Bush @ DrumStrong

DATE: May 17-19, 2013
LOCATION: Misty Meadows Farm, Weddington, N.C. (just south of Charlotte)
TICKETS: From $30 individual tickets to $50 family tickets.
PERFORMERS: Sam Bush, Toubab Krewe, Jeff Sipe Trio, The Broadcast, Jeanne Jolly and more
CAMPING: Free, on site.
ALSO: Children's activities, 24-hour yogathon, belly dancing, thai chi, hooping and more.
OUR THOUGHTS: Now in its seventh year, DrumStrong continues to be one of the region's strongest rhythmic fund-raisers for cancer-fighting organizations. The laid-back weekend centers around a nonstop drum circle, with plenty of other music and activities. A Super Spontaneous CombustJam will take place on Sunday, featuring Jeff Sipe, Kalimbaman, Donnie Marshall, Jim Brock, Rick Blackwell and others. It's a great way to spend a weekend for a good cause. (JH)

DATE: May 17-18, 2013
LOCATION: Various venues in and around Plaza Midwood, The Milestone
PERFORMERS: Franz Nicolay, Whatever Brains, Museum Mouth, Center of the Sun, Pullman Strike, Bo White, Temperance League, Pig Mountain, Serfs, Sinners & Saints, Scowl Brow and more.
OUR THOUGHTS: If anything communicates Treasure Fest's vibe — and core values — it's the "adopt a band tab" on the Charlotte music festival's blog: you can volunteer your couch or spare bedroom to keep hard-earned tour money from going to pay for hotel rooms. Accordingly, Treasure Fest strikes a rare balance between the reckless inclusivity of underground show houses and the visibility of legal venues. It's win-win, really: to those in the know, here's a fest that respects the homemade wonder of the DIY underground. And to those who wouldn't know how to find a living room show, here's a chance to see what that's like. As in previous years, many of the most exciting bands are familiar Charlotte and North Carolina faces: Museum Mouth's giddily rambunctious ADHD rock; Center of the Sun's stone-gaze; Whatever Brains' shape-shifting punk; Pig Mountain's sledgehammer boogie. But look to Atlanta for the refreshingly organic thrash-grind of Dead in the Dirt, likely one of the fiercest bands on this busy weekend. (Corbie Hill)

Paul McCartney @ Bonnaroo
  • Paul McCartney @ Bonnaroo

DATE: June 13-16, 2013
LOCATION: Manchester, Tenn. (380 miles from Charlotte)
TICKETS: $269.50 for four-day pass
PERFORMERS: Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty, Bjork, Wu-Tang Clan, The Lumineers, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Cat Power, Jim James, Trombone Shorty, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Weird Al Yankovic, Foals, Porter Robinson, Calexico and more.
CAMPING: On site from $35; RV passes for $200.
ALSO: An air-conditioned comedy tent, workshops, Adult Swim area, Broo'ers Festival featuring more than 20 breweries, cinema tent, Silent Disco, silent auction, Splash-a-Roo water slides and more.
OUR THOUGHTS: It's exhausting to just think about it. The annual four-day musical smorgasbord known as Bonnaroo is the region's best opportunity to see a ton of bands in a short amount of time, as if your iPod comes to life. From massive headliners like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty to just about everything else under the sun — I think it's part of the No Genre Left Behind Act. Where else can you go to see such a variety in four days? The entire "farm" becomes its own city each June, with roughly 80,000 people enjoying the sounds and sights. Just make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated — it's gonna be a long weekend. (JH)

The Lumineers @ Floydfest
  • The Lumineers @ Floydfest

DATE: July 25-28, 2013
LOCATION: Floyd, Va. (142 miles from Charlotte)
TICKETS: From $80 and $100 day passes to $250 multi-day passes.
PERFORMERS: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, The Lumineers, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Butler Trio, Brandi Carlile, Gogol Bordello, Xavier Rudd, Michael Kiwanuka, Blitzen Trapper and more.
CAMPING: Onsite for multi-day ticket holders.
ALSO: Hiking, bike trails, river trips, "teen scene" activities, workshops and panels.
OUR THOUGHTS: Although FloydFest confines its tent city sprawl to a verdant 80-acre plateau off the Blue Ridge Parkway, sonically the mountain music blow-out is all over the map. True, the festival's signature mix of Americana and folk-infused pop is well represented by Mumford and Avett influenced balladeers & barn burners The Lumineers, rambling front porch string band Old Crow Medicine Show and trad-minded Jefferson Airplane offshoot Hot Tuna. Yet, raw and passionate Australia-based jam banders the John Butler Trio stray outside the folk-gospel-bluegrass orbit, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes' quirky fusion of Parliament, Flaming Lips and Paul McCartney's Ram goes even further. Leave it to Gogol Bordello though, to be the outstanding oddballs in this varied line-up. The Gypsy punks' meth-fueled mélange of slamming hardcore, mutated flamenco and lurid cabaret represents FloydFest's outer limits. (PM)

Junior Astronomers @ RecessFest
  • Junior Astronomers @ RecessFest

DATE: July 26-28, 2013
LOCATION: Plaza Midwood area venues
TICKETS: To be determined
PERFORMERS: Including Kreamy Lectric Santa, PC Worship, Alexis Gideon, Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch, Junior Astronomers and more. (Full lineup not available at press time.)
OUR THOUGHTS: Not sure whether there's any truth to the rumor that the sixth installment of Recess Fest has landed holographic rights to Tupac, Arthur Russell, Joey Ramone, Tony Orlando and a certain one-gloved propofol addict, but you underestimate organizers Casey Malone and Zachary Reader at your own risk. From the festival's humble one-afternoon beginnings to hosting four-day marathons (now scaled back to a liver-friendly three) featuring bajillions of regional acts and top-notch out-of-towners like Joan of Arc and last year's headliners, Archers of Loaf, Recess Fest has grown into the city's strongest indie music festival. This year's line-up hasn't been officially announced as of press time, but the boys in charge promise — and this is on the Internets so it is, of course, infallible — "to outdo ourselves in as many ways as possible." Among those promises are a return to the vibe of the festival's namesake, including happy-fun-time elements like "cookie flash mob party, a superhero costume party, the return of the dunk tank and some old-fashioned scavenger hunting." (John Schacht)


These music events didn't make CL's Top 10, but they're worth a look if you're in the area

Burn Neon 2
DATE: April 19-21
LOCATION: Catawba River Campground, Marion, N.C.
TICKETS: $60-$75
PERFORMERS: Splitbreed, Aaron Sigmon, Sarah Burns, Timepiece, Boy Beats World, Jonesy and more

Magnetic Music Festival
DATE: April 20, 2013
LOCATION: KSU Sports and Recreation Park, Kennesaw, Ga.
TICKETS: $50-$165
PERFORMERS: Kid Cudi, Flux Pavilion, Zeds Dead, Flosstradamus and more

French Broad River Festival
DATE: May 3-5, 2013
LOCATION: Hot Springs, N.C.
PERFORMERS: Langhorne Slim & The Law, Sol Driven Train, Yarn, Col. Bruce Hampton, Jeff Sipe and more

N.C. Brewers and Music Festival
DATE: May 11, 2013
LOCATION: Rural Hill (just north of Charlotte)
TICKETS: $7-$35
PERFORMERS: Acoustic Syndicate, Peter Rowen, Sol Driven Train, Sister Sparrow and more

Food Lion Speed Street
DATE: May 23-25, 2013
LOCATION: Uptown Charlotte
PERFORMERS: Including Jamey Johnson, Sister Hazel, SWV.

Bele Chere
DATE: July 26-28, 2013
LOCATION: Asheville, N.C.
PERFORMERS: To be announced

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