After the twin disasters of the Fyre Festival and the less sensationalized but no less alarming cancelation of the Pemberton Festival in Canada, there were rumblings throughout the music industry that we may have finally hit peak music festival. The collapse of Fyre and Pemberton were signs of more than just bad management, the argument went — they were also harbingers of a shrinking festival market, one in which consumer dollars had been spread way too thin and slow ticket sales were likely to doom many more festivals in the months ahead.
But try telling all that to the concert promoters here in Southern California, where the festival market continues to grow almost as quickly as housing prices and the Dodgers' home run tally. To some extent, it's a good old-fashioned arms race, as the region's major players (Live Nation, AEG Live, Spaceland Presents, KCRW) all compete for those sweet festival dollars by booking more and bigger events throughout the year. But it's also a reflection of how vibrant the SoCal music scene is currently. There's room here for more festivals because no other city in the country is home to more talented artists, savvy promoters and dedicated fans willing to shell out for those higher ticket prices in exchange for cramming an entire Spotify playlist's worth of music into one weekend.
To see how much our music festival cup runneth over, you need look no further than October — once the time of year when festival season started winding down, now packed with 10 festivals all worth a closer look.
Music Tastes Good (Sept. 30-Oct. 1)
Less than a week after this Long Beach festival made its debut last year, founder and main organizer Josh Fischel died after a long battle with liver disease, casting Music Tastes Good's future in doubt. But instead of calling it quits, Fischel's partners, including KCRW and talent buyer Jon Halperin, will keep the festival going in his memory. Now officially rechristened Josh Fischel's Music Tastes Good, the retooled event will run over two days instead of three, and take over Marina Green Park instead of the streets of Long Beach's Arts District. Ween (“Josh's favorite band,” Halperin told Billboard) and Sleater-Kinney headline, and another diverse, well-curated mix of local and international acts, including Ride, Charles Bradley, Bomba Estéreo, Of Montreal, Joyce Manor and Big Freedia, rounds out the bill.
CRSSD Fest (Sept. 30-Oct. 1)
MTG isn't the only festival kicking off October with a beachfront location. Down in San Diego, the semiannual CRSSD Fest returns to Waterfront Park with three stages of DJs and live acts turning out various strains of electronic dance music, from Chromeo's cheeky synth-pop to Richie Hawtin's futuristic techno to Rüfüs du Sol's anthemic mix of house beats and pop hooks. Compared with past editions of CRSSD, which have featured such headliners as Flume, The Flaming Lips and TV on the Radio, this one feels a little scaled-back — but that's probably a good thing, as CRSSD's strength has always been not as another mini-Coachella (we've already got plenty of those, thanks) but as a niche festival for dance music fans looking for something a little more chill than the usual EDM headliners. Other lineup highlights include Hot Since 82, Dixon, Cut Copy and Marcel Dettmann.
Red Bull Music Academy Festival (Oct. 6-29)
Replacing Red Bull Sound Select's 30 Days in L.A., which was less a festival than a monthlong set of Red Bull–branded concerts in venues all over town, the far more ambitious RBMA Festival also will sprawl all over the city for most of a month, but with events that are far more curated and, occasionally, can be legitimately be described as “once-in-a-lifetime” without hyperbole. Among the dozens of participating artists, the biggest names are probably Ice-T and St. Vincent — but this is less about big names and more about events, such as a festival-within-a-festival dedicated entirely to Mexican and Latinx extreme-metal bands, or a night of Japanese video game music featuring both current electronic music artists and some of the original 8-bit composers who worked on games like Shinobi and Streets of Rage. It's all a bit hard to explain succinctly, so read this if you're intrigued, which you should be.
Dirtybird Campout (Oct. 6-8)
A summer camp–themed party in October? We live in California, so why not? Besides, Claude VonStroke's Dirtybird Records has always marched to the beat of its own drum, turning out dark, dirty tech-house and G-house workouts way before it was cool (in fact, it arguably popularized those sounds with this generation of dance music fans, at least here in the States). Now in its third year, Dirtybird Campout is as well known for its lineups as it is for its many camp activities, which include everything from karaoke and talent shows to three-legged races, nature hikes and a kickball tournament. Besides the usual Dirtybird suspects (VonStroke, Justin Martin, J. Phlip), this year's lineup includes Matthew Dear, Egyptian Lover, Mija, Low End Theory's Daddy Kev and AraabMuzik. The festival has moved from its previous home in Orange County's Oak Canyon Park to Lake San Antonio Recreational Area in Bradley, which also hosts Lightning in a Bottle — a much longer haul from L.A., but a pretty scenic spot in its own right, and big enough for the Campout to have a dedicated second stage, something it couldn't do at Oak Canyon.
Desert Daze (Oct. 12-15)
From its earliest days (daze?), this homegrown psych-rock festival has been ambitious — in 2012, founder Phil Pirrone decided to spread the whole thing out over 11 days, with 122 bands. It has since scaled back to a relatively modest four days, held at a desert retreat in Joshua Tree called the Institute of Mentalphysics — but the bookings have only gotten more ambitious, especially since Spaceland Presents signed on to co-promote. Last year, Primus, Television and Brian Jonestown Massacre topped the bill; this year, that honor goes to Iggy Pop, Spiritualized, Sleep, John Cale, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and perhaps the lineup's most intriguing act: the newly formed super-duo of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, playing one of their first shows together with their new band, The Sea Lice. As you've probably guessed by now, Desert Daze's offerings stretch far beyond its garage- and psych-rock origins; also on the bill are hip-hop–influenced jazz crew BadBadNotGood, retro-soul stirrers Lee Fields & the Expressions and boogie-rock favorites Eagles of Death Metal.
Festival of Disruption (Oct. 14-15)
Curated by David Lynch, this two-day event at the Theatre at Ace Hotel is more than just a music festival — though the musical offerings, including Bon Iver, The Kills, TV on the Radio and a Moby DJ set, are pretty stellar. In addition, Lynch will present screenings of his own Lost Highway and rare short films; talks with Ed Ruscha, Bill Pullman, Sheryl Lee, Pete Holmes and various Twin Peaks collaborators; photo exhibits by Lynch and William Eggleston; and “meditations” featuring music by Brian Eno and Bob Roth.
Cloak & Dagger: Dusk Till Dawn (Oct. 20-21)
This new festival in downtown L.A.'s Broadway Theater District, co-presented by Spaceland and Restless Nites, is sort of the coming-out party for its namesake club night, a private Tuesday party hosted and DJed by She Wants Revenge's Adam 12. Cloak & Dagger, the club, is famous for its all-black dress code and a creative soundtrack heavy on the usual goth and industrial stuff, but with touches of everything from hip-hop to techno to synth-pop. Cloak & Dagger, the festival, takes a similarly dark but broad-minded approach. The Jesus and Mary Chain, KMFDM and new Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love & Rockets spinoff group Poptone all make sense for an all-black-everything affair, but it's nice to see more left-field artists such as beat-scene madman The Gaslamp Killer and queer hip-hop provocateur Mykki Blanco on the bill, too. Other highlights include Com Truise, Health, Cold Cave, Ho99o9 and, of course, She Wants Revenge.
Escape: Psycho Circus (Oct. 27-28)
Started in 2011, when it was called Escape From Wonderland, Insomniac's Halloween festival still lives in the shadow of its older siblings, Nocturnal Wonderland and EDC Las Vegas. But for EDM fans, Escape offers no shortage of action — especially this year, when the lineup is packed with acts capable of filling the main stage at EDC, including Marshmello, Tiësto, Zedd, DJ Snake, Afrojack and Flosstradamus, as well as plenty of more “underground” acts thanks to partnerships with Basscon, Audiotistic, Jamie Jones' Paradise and Nicole Moudaber's MoodZone. There will be plenty of spooky and carnivalesque touches, as well, including fortune tellers, burlesque dancers, a haunted maze and lots of creepy costumed characters wandering the grounds of the NOS Events Center.
Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival (Oct. 28-29)
Speaking of carnivalesque … the seventh edition of Tyler, the Creator's hip-hop carnival moves to Halloween weekend for the first time with a scary-good lineup. (Yep, we went there.) In addition to Tyler, hot off his excellent Flower Boy album, headliners include Kid Cudi, Solange, Mac Miller and perhaps the festival's most eye-catching booking — the enigmatic Lana Del Rey, whose hip-hop–infused latest, Lust for Life, should hype up the Flog Gnaw crowd, especially if she can bring out any of the album's many guests (A$AP Rocky, also on the festival lineup, should be a no-brainer; The Weeknd is more of a long shot, but you never know). There are too many other lineup highlights to list here, but among them are Vince Staples, Denzel Curry, Brockhampton, Earl Sweatshirt, Steve Lacy and Kelis. It all goes down at Exposition Park, which also hosts FYF, and is one of the most easily accessible festival locales anywhere in Southern California, with ample parking and public transportation options.
Growlers 6 (Oct. 28-29)
Last year's Beach Goth festival was a mess in more ways that one — in addition to rain and well-documented issues with logistics and crowd flow, it also ended in a lawsuit in which host venue the Observatory sued The Growlers, the Orange County psych-rock band that coined the term “Beach Goth” and were listed as presenters and headliners of the festival during most of its five-year run. The outcome of that lawsuit hasn't been publicly disclosed, but in the meantime, The Growlers are soldiering on with a renamed festival in a new location, pointedly tagged with a “6” lest there be any doubt that this is really, by any other name, a continuation of Beach Goth. The Growlers 6 will take place at the L.A. Waterfront in San Pedro and feature headliners Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Dan Auerbach (of Black Keys fame), Butthole Surfers, Beth Ditto and The B-52s, plus The Growlers themselves.