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Beyond SXSW: The Top 6 Festivals for Music & More

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SXSW starts tomorrow, but music insiders are already complaining that this year’s festival has become too commercialized….Have you seen that one of the stages is sponsored by Doritos? If you’re looking for a new  festival experience, Darra Stone shares six alternatives to SXSW.

It’s grown to become one of the largest all encompassing events in America, SXSW was originally conceived as a music festival to showcase the best big name and independent artists. The festival has grown to include film, technology, art, comedy and so much more. You don’t have to fight crowds at SXSW to experience good music and arts. Instead, discover 6 alternative music festivals for 2013.

A Music Festival for Cinephiles

Chicago International Music and Movies Festival  held April 18 thorugh 21 highlights the relationship between films and music. The 2013 festival housed at various venues around Chicago celebrates their 5th year. With an emphasis on how important music and films are to each other, the festival showcases musical artists, DJs, and filmmakers that contribute to this important relationship.

Experience the combing of film and music by watching silent films with live accompaniment. The Silent Film Society of Chicago showcases silent films throughout the year with live performers. Silent films were intended to be seen with this kind of musical accompaniment and The Silent Film Society helps preserve the integrity of the films intended display.

A Music Festival for the Bluegrass Fan

The CBGB Festival held October 9 – 13 in New York  highlights Country, Bluegrass, and Blues. The iconic CBGB was once located in Manhattan. Originally it intended to focus on folk based sounds, but the club became famous more punk rock and New Wave music. Although CBGB closed in 2006, the festival lives on. The five-day event is held across 150 venues, screens roughly 120 films and hosts more than 700 performers.

Manhattan visitors can still experience country influences at the Big Apple Ranch. This country bar has line-dancing and folk music with a LGBTQ friendly atmosphere .

A Music Festival for the Wine Taster

Bottle Rock scheduled for May 9 through the 12 with pre-festival events starting on May 8 is a new festival in Northern California that will combine food, wine, comedy and music for a five-day experience. This festival hosted in Napa Valley will provide microbrews and wines for its patrons while they enjoy some top headliners like Zac Brown Band, Kings of Leon, and Jane’s Addiction. Taking place on two streets of downtown Napa, the event hosts both roaring crowds for rock shows and intimate acoustic settings. No matter your music style or wine taste, there is a stage and a glass for you.

After sipping samples of various vineyard’s vino, become a winemaker for a day and create your own blend. Raymond’s Vineyards offers a blending experience that allows travelers to blend, bottle, and label their own bottle of wine. The sessions are fun, informative, and have tasty results.

A Music Festival for the Outdoors Traveler

Wakarusa on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas from May 30 through June 2 is a grassroots outdoor festival that has grown since its inception in 2004. With a 2013 lineup that includes Of Monsters and Men, GROUPLOVE, and The Black Crowes just to name a few, this budding festival is starting to gain notoriety nation wide. Beyond music the festival includes games, rides, and interactive art instillations.

Take a break from the festival and find some solitude in the great outdoors! Turner Bend offers canoe and kayak rentals for those wanting to ride down the Mulberry River. There are also multiple hiking trails and camp grounds to further enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks.

A Music Festival for Hippies

If you’re looking for a mellow get away to immerse yourself in music, aim for the All Good Festival held July 18 through the 21 in Thornville, Ohio. The main focus of the festival is solely music and you can camp out here and enjoy the good vibes for days with fellow Dead Heads. Their returning headliners are former Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir and other acts include Pretty Lights and Primus.

If you need a break from the festival crowds head down to Papa Boo’s over looking the Buckeye Lake. This local favorite offers good food, music, and other entertainment nightly.

A Music Festival for the Person who Wants Everything

If you are still looking for another all-inclusive festival head north to Seattle, Washington for Bumbershoot held August 31st through September 2nd at the Seattle Center. This is considered America’s largest urban arts festival because of the variety of arts offered. The event features a wide music lineup, films, spoken word, comedy, dance, theatre, live performance art, and so much more. Past musical artists have included Gotye, Missy Higgins and Keane.

Outside the festival, visitors to Seattle should check out the burlesque scene. Seattle has a rich vaudeville history and these acts that can be seen at venues like the Can Can. Or the more adventurous can take their own one day class at the Academy of Burlesque.

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By Darra Stone for

Feature image credit: Mindy Best