Best of 2011: Festivals of the year - Reverb

Best of 2011: Festivals of the year

All week long we’re looking back at the year in music. Here’s a look at the best festivals of the year, from the direct words of the writers who covered them.

10. Fun Fun Fun Festival, Austin, Tex., Nov. 4-6

“Sizable enough to warrant a new location this year at Auditorium Shores on the banks of the Lower Colorado River, the festival admirably weathered a few growing pains while still retaining its intimate atmosphere. Clouds of dust from the drought-ridden grounds presented challenges, forcing many festival-goers to don face kerchiefs and resemble G-20 protesters, or perhaps the Occupy Austin folks across the river at City Hall. And the relatively early 10 p.m. curtain times left some acts singing and strumming into powerless amplifiers, their fans yelling for more. But after three full days of performances, including late-night shows sprinkled throughout downtown Austin, Fun Fun Fun had proven why it’s one of the country’s very best smaller-scale festivals.” –Sam DeLeo

9. CMJ Music Marathon, New York, N.Y., Oct. 18-22

“Larger crowds are generally a good thing for any performance. It means more buzz in the room, more energy from the tired artists. Though it also means more talking and texting during quiet parts of songs, more impatience, more preoccupation with who’s getting the next round of drinks rather than who’s on stage. It’s these factors that separate the annual South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex. from CMJ — where a once-industry conference has evolved into a sprawling zoo of parties, celebrities and enough unofficial events to make the coveted badges relatively obsolete. As CMJ continues to grow in both size and popularity, it will undoubtedly come to a head with this quote-un-quote ‘fatal flaw.’ ” –John Hendrickson

8. Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Lyons, Colo., Aug. 19-21

“The 21st annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival concluded in fine form. By the third day of the festival, many people are tired and wander in late, particularly after a late two-hour set of Grateful Dead tunes on Saturday night. However, for those who made the trek in early instead of waiting for the later headliners, there was some amazing music to be heard.” –Candace Horgan

7. Lollapalooza, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5-7

“A series of intense storms swept through the festival, completely flooding streets and fairgrounds, so soaking everyone that it was impossible not to just laugh at the spectacle of it all. Mud pits were soon everywhere, and the more adventurous ones created impromptu slip-n-slides of filth while others snapped pictures and pointed. The shared experience of being bone-soaked and caked in mud created a sense of harmony which, by the time Deadmau5 (the stand out of the night and maybe the entire festival, easily defending his headlining slot) took the stage, made for one hell of a closing party.” –Matt Hoffman

6. Outside Lands, San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 12-14

“While many festivals end up being just bands on stages, Outside Lands is a true San Francisco event, representing the variety and diversity of the city in its signature park. Performances by Major Lazer, Arcade Fire, the Decemberists and Girl Talk packed the main stages, house legend Doc Martin rolled out the beats in the Domes, and hundreds of people donned trash bags and dodged flying bits of watermelon as Gallagher wielded his trademark sledgehammer.” –Matt Cohen

5. Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, Colo., June 16-19

“The box canyon was shrouded in a dense fog for the entire evening, and a steady rain fell for two-plus hours, giving a certain weight to the air that filled Town Park. Clouds hung low. Entire peaks and waterfalls disappeared.” –Ricardo Baca

4. The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase, Denver, Colo., July 21-24

“After four days of nonstop music, the event felt like a true, if slightly hungover, neighborhood party — with all the attendant food trucks, street artists and frequently hilarious fashions a music festival implies. Event director Kendall Smith estimated 11,000 attended, including the nearly 1,500 individual band members and assuming wristband holders came most of the days.” –John Wenzel

3. Austin City Limits, Austin, Tex., Sept. 16-18

“Promotion company C3 presents has found a recipe that truly works — a recipe that short-lived mega-fests like All Points West, Langerado, Rothbury and Denver’s Mile High Music Festival were never able to get quite right. At the top of that list is community engagement. The festival retains its character through exclusively local food vendors, craft merchants and metro transit that feel the weekend’s economic impact far more heavily than corporate stage sponsors Bud Light and Honda. Couple that with a built-in concert-going core of Austinites, and you still have an authentic community festival with roughly 70,000 of your neighbors, friends and out-of-towners.” –John Hendrickson

2. Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio, Calif., April 15-17

“Coachella sunsets are idealized in promo materials, though Sunday’s was something of amazement. As L.A.’s Best Coast played “Summer Mood,” “When I’m With You” and other jangly surf-rock tunes at the Outdoor Theatre, the Indio sky glowed pink and purple and blood red as it slowly set behind the mountains.” –John Hendrickson

1. South by Southwest, Austin, Tex., March 16-19

“It’s a good life down here. Obligations are minimal. Everything is outside. Southern girls are pretty. But still, South by (and Austin, as a whole), felt more like a fantasy land than a living and breathing city.” –John Hendrickson

See other lists from this week: Songs of the year, concerts of the year and local artists of the year.

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