I am a music addict and try to find a way to go to every concert possible. How fortunate I am to live in Tennessee with the wonderful variety of musicians that play here. For me, the best way to experience music is at a festival. When it comes to festivals its hard to beat this state. Here are some of the best Middle Tennessee Music festivals! Please note: this post may contain affiliate links.
Middle Tennessee Music Festivals
Bonnaroo – June 8-11, 2017
I have to start the list with Bonnaroo! This is by far my favorite festival. Held on a 500 acre farm in Manchester, TN, Bonnaroo brings the best of a diverse group of artists. It started as a jam festival in 2002 and has grown into one of the United States premier camping music festivals. For 4 days in June, around 80,000 people descend on Manchester for some of the best art and music to be experienced.
Past headliners include Jay-Z, Paul McCartney (yes a Beatle!), Elton John, Dead & Co., My Morning Jacket, and so many more. While the headliners are always outstanding, where Bonnaroo really shines for me is the under card. You may have heard of some of the bands that have played small shows there like: Adele, Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show or Kings of Leon. All of the artists played at Bonnaroo on one of the Smaller Stages before they really took off. This festival is one it think everyone should attend once, it is truly unforgettable.
Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival – September 24-25, 2016
Another on of my favorite Middle Tennessee Music Festivals is The Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival. Starting in 2015 at Harlinsdale Park in Franklin, TN, this festival combines great art and music with a family friendly atmosphere. The first years line up was amazing. Weezer, Willie Nelson, Cage The Elephant, Chris Stapleton, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear all blew me away. 2016 has a solid line up too with Jason Isbell, Hall & Oates, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, and Beck! The Pilgrimage also scored a huge partner to help them move forward in the future with Tennessee native Justin Timberlake joining the team. Look for this festival to stick around for some time and to keep getting better!
Vanderbilt Rites of Spring – April 21-22, 2017
Even Nashville’s top University is in on the festival game. Vanderbilt Rites of Spring was first put on in 1971 as part of Vanderbilt’s effort to connect with the community around it. Since its launch it has pulled major headliners including Smashing Pumpkins (1994), Dave Matthews Band (1995), Kid Cudi (2011), Chance the Rapper (2015), and lots more. The event is held on the Alumni Lawn at Vanderbilt University. This is an event not to be missed.
Muddy Roots – September 1-4, 2017
Muddy Roots just wrapped on their 7th year in September 2016 and has already announced the dates and first artist for 2017! This year featured a solid batch of performers including the Melvins, The Del McCoury Band, and Splitlip Rayfield! This 3 day camping festival has a diverse music , cars, and pin-ups. It is located at June Bug Buggie Ranch in Cookeville and also has free showers and camping (a true blessing in the Tennessee heat). Spend your Labor Day Weekend getting down in Cookeville next year!
CMA Fest – June 8-11, 2017
Although not my style, there is no denying the influence that CMA Fest has on Nashville, and the Country Music Industry. Formerly known as Fan Fair, CMA Fest got its start in 1972. This festival brings the top names in popular country music to Nashville to give a little back to their fans. Artists often hold autograph and :meet-and-greet” sessions and play multiple shows throughout the weekend. Concerts are held on stages at riverfront and at Nissan Stadium.
With a lineup of over 400 artists there is no shortage of music to be heard. The festival usually has estimated attendance numbers of around 200,000 people. The main shows aren’t the only draw though. Artists are known to show up in some of Nashville’s many Honky Tonks and give surprise performances! If you are a fan of Country Music, this is your festival!
Americana Festival – September 20-25, 2016
Americana Festival is a music festival and conference run by the Americana Music Association in Nashville. This dispersed festival is a little different from the larger camping festivals, or big venue fests. The concerts and events take place in multiple locations (most located within walking distance of downtown Nashville hotels). The lineup is centered around Americana Music and has featured artists such as the Avett Brothers, Bob Dylan, the Civil Wars, and the Punch Brothers. The festival usually draws heavily from local artists too. 2016 will have Nashville regulars Aaron Lee Tasjan, Jon Latham, and so many more. Don’t miss the chance to see these folks!
Live on the Green
Live on The Green is a free month long festival / concert series help on the courthouse lawn in Nashville. Like its predecessor, Dancin’ in the District, LOTG books amazing national and local artists. Dawes, Ben Harper and the Innocent Crimainals, Band of Horses, Andra Day, and many other amazing artists were headlining this year. The shows are held every Thursday until the last weekend of the series which weekend runs for 3 days! Did we mention this is free?
Other Tennessee Music Festivals
Riverbend – 2017 Dtes TBA – Chattanooga, Tennessee
Beale Street Music Festival – May 5-7, 2017 – Memphis, Tennessee
Big Ears Music Festival – March 23-26, 2017 – Knowville, Tennessee
2016 has been a great year for festivals, and I’m sure next year will be just as good. I’m anxiously awaiting lineup announcements already. If there is any problem I can think of with Middle Tennessee Music Festivals, it is that there are just too many good ones to choose from! What are your favorite festivals? Tell us in the comments. Consider subscribing to our updates so you don’t miss anything.