A Packed Fall Festival Season Is Upon Us: ACL, Hardly Strictly, Life Is Beautiful, ZONA & More
September is here, which means school is back in session and the return of pumpkin spice season (for those who celebrate), while bidding farewell to summer vacations and leisurely days in the sun. Fortunately, the fun doesn’t have to stop because festival season is far from over.
From September to early December the calendar is jam-packed with events including Austin City Limits Music Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, AmericanaFest, Ohana Fest, Desert Daze, Riot Fest, Primavera Sound LA, See. Hear. Now., Firefly, Rolling Loud NYC, All Things Go, When We Were Young, III Points Miami, Roots N Blues Festival, Sound on Sound Music Festival, Life Is Beautiful and San Diego’s Waterfront Festival. Danny Wimmer Presents is also putting on a bunch of fests including Bourbon & Beyond, Louder Than Life, GoldenSky and Aftershock.
“I think as we as a festival have continued to grow and evolve, so has the music industry,” Craig Asher Nyman, Head of Music & Programing at Life Is Beautiful, says. “New music Tuesday became new music Friday night and … if you look at the other side of the world [and] all the festivals that are still going on right now, essentially festivals have become a year-round cycle. I think it’s because of how we’re accessing music, allowing the industry to work at a faster pace with more events popping up.”
The multi-genre festival, which began in 2013, returns to downtown Las Vegas Sept. 16-18 with a lineup topped by Arctic Monkeys, Calvin Harris and Gorillaz.
Asher notes he’s looking forward to the debut of the Pizzeria, offering a selection of pies from restaurants across the city. From an art standpoint, the festival will have a lot more installations and new programming at LIB 2022 includes the Latin-themed “Casa Bacardi,” headlined by Farruko.
Over in San Francisco, the beloved, free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass returns to Golden Gate Park’s Hellman Hollow Sept. 30-Oct. 2 with performances by Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi and more.
“We’re most excited to be returning to the park and the gathering of the community. Looking forward to people enjoying great music and vibes at our Golden Gate Park event for the first time since 2019!” Chris Porter, HSB’s music curator, says. “This year’s lineup is a mix of performers I booked or intended to book back in 2020 along with other great opportunities that came up in recent months.”
Austin City Limits Music Festival has long been an anchor of the fall festival season since 2002. It returns to Zilker Park Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 14-16 with a lineup headlined by The Chicks, P!nk and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Our approach is simple: make sure our lineup represents the best in diversity and variety,” promoter Amy Corbin of C3 Presents says. “Every year, we start with a blank slate with more than 130 performance slots to fill. Margaret Galton and I take our time with the booking process, so we don’t get too far down one path that we lose sight of what is important. We strategically keep track of all categories and if we start to see holes, we stop and begin to only seek to fill that slot until it’s complete. We love to see the stages filled with national acts, international acts, and our very own local and Texas artists. With less travel restrictions this year, we are excited to host a few more international artists than last year.”
Some 2021 festivals were pushed from summer to fall thanks to COVID, including Outside Lands and Bonnaroo (though ’Roo 2021 was ultimately rained out) and those events moved back to their traditional slots in ’22. But in their places, fall 2022 is welcoming the debut of several new festivals including Primavera Sound Los Angeles Sept. 16-18, Goldenvoice’s Portola in San Francisco Sept. 24-25 and ZONA Music Festival at Hance Park in Phoenix Dec. 3-4.
The inaugural ZONA – headed up by Beach House, Portugal. The Man and Bleachers – is a joint undertaking by Psyko Steve Presents and Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Steve Chilton is founder of Psyko Steve Presents and local venue The Rebel Lounge, and developed Phoenix’s biannual 8123 Fest.
“What works in other markets isn’t what will be best in Arizona. No one wants to go to a festival in Phoenix in the summer when it’s 120 degrees outside, but historically that’s when festival tours have been,” says Chilton, who is also the VP of the National Independent Venues Association. “The weather will be beautiful the first weekend of December. … The other great advantage is that I am not competing with 50 other festivals for the same summer weekends.”
He added, “One of the main goals of ZONA, to me, is to create a platform to promote the acts we truly believe in. I’m not trying to get artists to promote my festival, I’m trying to build a festival to promote the artists. The other focus was on Arizona artists. We started with a lot of offers to all the Arizona artists I knew I would want. Artists like Upsahl, Sydney Sprague and Breakup Shoes got offers very early because I knew we needed them or it wouldn’t be right.”