Indie is a tough term to define. It’s more of a “know it when you see it,” situation, but broadly it’s music and artists that are a little outside or bubbling just underneath the mainstream. Rock can, of course, be indie, but there’s also indie hip-hop too, and indie poop. You can catch a variety of different indie acts at the big festivals around the country — Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, etc. — but that doesn’t necessarily make them indie festivals.
The hallmark of the great indie festivals around the country are that they are two-and-three day-long events filled with programming off the beaten path, that generally spurns those same three to five headliners you’re likely to see on every other major event going down in the summer. That also means a general dearth of shiny, major label acts you’ve never heard of padding out the lineup.
With all of that in mind here are the best indie music festivals around the country in 2018.
The premier music festival in the great state of Massachusetts is Boston Calling, an annual event that takes place in City Hall Plaza and hosts a sizable 40,000 people. Though it’s only been around since 2013, Boston Calling has solidified its reputation as one of the better festivals in the country by continuously booking a wide and diverse array of indie acts. Shoutout to The National’s Aaron Dessner who serves as one of Boston Calling’s co-curators.
Eau Claire, WI: July 6-7
As the brainchild of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon — and again, Aaron Dessner, who serves as a co-curator — Eaux Claires has an unshakable indie pedigree that most other fests can’t even come close to touching. While visitors to rural Wisconsin can almost be guaranteed to witness Vernon in whatever configuration he so chooses, the singer has also gone to great lengths over the years to book some truly interesting acts to fill out the bill. In 2018, he abandoned lineup announcements altogether, asking fans to simply trust his taste, which thousands were more than happy to oblige.
Des Moines, IA: July 6-7