Music Festivals

Want to Get Away? Head to Florida's Best Music Festivals

Want to Get Away? Head to Florida's Best Music Festivals
Photo by George Martinez
South Florida, particularly Miami, hosts a great many music events. Big names often begin or end world tours in the Magic City because of its global culture and location at the prick end of the United States.

So many Miamians never bother to leave the city. More than a few people think Palm Beach County exists in a far-off dimension, light years away, unreachable by any known means of transport. Though, yes, it is a dystopian nightmare to drive more than 20 minutes anywhere in Miami, escaping the clutches of that clingy, abusive lover is worthwhile if done for the right reasons. Namely, music festivals.

The top of this list would and should rightfully include Okeechobee Music Festival, held annually in March. In only three years, it became the bright, shining example of what a proper music festival could be.

But with no official dates posted as of this writing and no social media updates other than the fest's last tweet in September — “Hang in there... info coming soon #omf19” — the worry grows that Okeechobee will not return, a fear raised by several outlets over the past few months. As the silence grows louder, our concern deepens.

Nevertheless, there are other out-of-the-area music festivals for the brave and the bold. Just around the corner are Electric Daisy Carnival Orlando, an actual neon carnival with a thumping EDM lineup and half-naked college kids; and Suwannee Hulaween in Live Oak, the answer to the question, "What does it look like when stoned, jam-band-loving hippies wear SpongeBob costumes?"
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Although we might not get OMF in March 2019, there is a quainter, lesser-known fest in Tampa we shouldn’t sleep on: Gasparilla Music Festival. Sharing the same name as a giant orgy of tipsy pirates that invades the downtown area, GMF is a personal favorite because it never fails to please or surprise with consistently strong lineups that have included everyone from Cage the Elephant to the Flaming Lips to Erykah Badu. Also, instead of forcing you to camp in your own funk, the fest is located in the city, so you can rent a lovely hotel room where you can shower and sleep in a nice bed like a civilized human being.

Up near the border in Jacksonville, the home of the Jaguars and some business parks, exists a headbanger’s wet dream: Welcome to Rockville. No lineup has been announced yet, but the May festival last year featured Ozzy Osbourne and the Foo Fighters as headliners. Hellz yeah.

If the tricounty area of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach is as far as your gas money can take you, there's an abundance of options. As rock-steady as an eight-minute techno beat, there’s always Ultra, the EDM granddaddy. That said, this old man seems to be getting a makeover in the form of a new location thanks to the squares living in downtown Miami kicking the giant rave out of their front yard.

Another Miami staple, despite its relative youth, is III Points, which has shifted its weekend of weird and wonderful to February 2019. Easily the artsiest and most eclectic of the area's fests (with an absurdly awesome roster this time around), III Points is a total hipster event that somehow the hipsters have not yet ruined.

Each spring brings a pair of sunny, waterside fests perfect for drunken staycations. The first, Tortuga Music Festival in April, is a country-music smorgasbord of Jimmy Buffett-style beach livin’ and high-quality, pop-concert-style production. Past guests have included Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, and... aw, who gives a shit. You get to pound Budweisers on the beach! Legally! Yee-haw.

Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Then there’s the more subdued SunFest in West Palm Beach. Its claim to fame, aside from having been around as long as air conditioning in Florida, is the lineup typically includes everyone ever. Each year feels like someone put their parents' Spotify collection on shuffle after mischievously sprinkling in a few new acts they won't recognize. The festival roster is then the first 20 songs that play. Boom. Let’s party (but be gone by 11 p.m. because curfew).

If planning that far ahead ain't for you, two smaller South Florida gems — House of Creatives (HOC) and Riptide — are fast approaching. Both take place in November at the best kind of concert venue, the beach. The indie-flavored HOC will be held at Virginia Beach Key Park, while Riptide brings two days of genres as close as distant cousins — rock and R&B — to Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Whether you stay close or venture past Aventura, get out and take advantage of all these great fests while our state is still above water and the music isn’t just bubbles.
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you.
Contact: Angel Melendez