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Coachella 2016, Day 1, Weekend 1
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Music festivals within driving distance of L.A.

Hit up these hometown music festivals, as well as ones within driving distance of L.A., from Las Vegas to the Central Coast

By Michael Juliano

Whether a day trip or a Metro ride away, there’s no shortage of music festivals near Los Angeles. We’re not just talking about summer music festivals either—thanks to Southern California’s persistently pleasant climate, we can enjoy outdoor fests nearly year-round. So lace up a comfortable pair of shoes for these music festivals within driving distance of L.A., from free concerts to camping excursions.

As L.A. County has suspended all large events for the forseeable future, all of the region’s biggest spring and summer fests have been canceled, with a couple still slated for the fall. Some have flat-out canceled their 2020 editions or postponed them without a new date. We’ll update this story as more information becomes available (given Mayor Eric Garcetti’s assertion that major events are likely to be canceled until 2021, we’d expect to see more fests taking off this year).

Upcoming music festivals

Photograph: Courtesy Kaaboo


Music Music festivals

Kaaboo is moving over to San Diego’s Petco Park for another eclectic lineup of adult alternative favorites. The “mix-perience” (yep) comes with clean amenities, artisanal cuisine, fashion pop-ups and local artwork. Views of the main music stage can be enjoyed from a variety of vantage points: on a chaise lounge, in a pool, on a volleyball court or inside a premium cabana.

Ohana Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Ohana Festival

Ohana Festival

Music Music festivals

Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Festival once again lands at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, and the Pearl Jam frontman will be pulling double duty on the lineup. Kings of Leon, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam top this year’s fest, which goes down September 25 to 27. The rest of the lineup includes the likes of My Morning Jacket, Maggie Rogers, Pretenders, Yola, Mon Laferte, Sharon Van Etten, the Frames, Broken Social Scene, Mac DeMarco and more. The fest’s name comes from the Hawaiian concept of family, and as such the beachfront festival will give back to its own community by donating a portion of proceeds to the San Onofre Parks Foundation and the Doheny State Beach Foundation.

Desert Stars Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Desert Stars Festival

Desert Stars Festival

Music Music festivals

One of the most grassroots and crunchy granola music festivals around (and we mean that in the most flattering way possible) is held in an outdoor theater in Joshua Tree. Pack your camping gear and cruise out to the desert for two days of fresh air and killer tunes. Mercury Rev, Ringo Deathstarr, Twink, Pete International Airport, Alex Maas and Death Valley Girls top this year’s lineup. Passes are a steal compared to some other fests, making this comparatively chill music event a worthwhile way to round out your festival season.

EDC Las Vegas 2015
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Electric Daisy Carnival

Music Music festivals

On the outskirts of town at the Motor Speedway, Electric Daisy Carnival is pure, condensed Vegas. There is a VIP Ferris wheel. Helicopters shuttle in high rollers. The 135,000-strong crowd is soaked in ecstasy and spray tan. Every millionaire DJ that plays the laser-riddled nightclubs on the Strip is here. EDC introduced EDM as a Day-Glo spectacle for the masses in America, and its lineups in recent years have certainly lived up to the hype. Once you let the neon and bass wash over you, it is the time of your life.

Joshua Tree Music Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Foster Snell

Joshua Tree Music Festival

Music Music festivals

This year’s spring fest has been canceled, however the October edition is still planned.

Make your way to the desert for the Joshua Tree Music Festival, a gathering of like-minded indie musicians who will be rocking out to a dance-world-electro-funk’n groove. The biannual festival is a four-day party with over 30 bands in a unique lineup of artists who aren’t necessarily household names. There’s free water to all patrons, minimal service charges on tickets and yoga classes aplenty.

Coachella 2015, day 3
Photograph: Kate Wertheimer


Music Music festivals Empire Polo Club, Indio

Coachella 2020 has been canceled, with plans to resume the fest in April 2021. 

Nearly 125,000 music lovers make a pilgrimage to the Empire Polo Club during each identical weekend of Coachella, whether bound for campgrounds or shuttling over from golf resorts and midcentury modern homes. Coachella’s all-embracing three-day lineup consistently crafts the pool of performers from which all other summer music festivals borrow. Even in the face of an increasingly predictable pattern, it’s hard to argue with a fest that finds room for Frank Ocean, Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott, Run the Jewels, Thom Yorke and Lana Del Rey atop its bill.

Stagecoach 2015
Photograph: Kate Wertheimer

Stagecoach Festival

Music Empire Polo Club, Indio

Stagecoach 2020 has been canceled, with plans to resume the fest in April 2021.

Strap on your cowboy hat and make the pilgrimage to country music’s biggest jamboree, taking up residence at Coachella’s digs, the Empire Polo Club. Stagecoach is coming back for a three-day fest, and headlining the event this year are stars like Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church (plus Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus and Diplo). Expect the usual mix of contemporary and classic country.

Los Angeles State Historic Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Primavera Sound

Music Music festivals Los Angeles State Historic Park, Chinatown

The inaugural L.A. edition of Primavera Sound has been pushed back to September 2021.

We have no clue who’ll be playing the L.A. debut of Primavera Sound, but if last year’s lineup at its lauded Barcelona originator is any indication (Solange, Janelle Monáe, Robyn, Tame Impala, Future and James Blake, among others), this could quickly become L.A.’s go-to music fest.

Jimmy Eat World
Photograph: Michael J. Chen

Chain Fest

Music Punk and metal FivePoint Amphitheatre, Irvine

Chain Fest has been postponed to May 2021.

Have some sadness you’ve been bottling up since the early aughts? Let it all out at Chain Fest, an emo concert that features the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday, Circa Survive, Saves the Day, Anberlin, Glassjaw, Cartel and Acceptance.

Hard Summer

Music Music venues

This year’s fest has been canceled, with plans to return in 2021.

Though locally born EDM juggernaut HARD Summer has hopped around Southern California in recent years, its dedication to bringing the biggest names in the hip-hop and electronic scene has stayed the course. Though we’re still waiting for the 2020 lineup, last year included the likes of Kid Cudi, Major Lazer, RL Grime, Dillon Francis, Alison Wonderland.

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Looking for free concerts?

Movie screenings, live concerts, comedy and more happen here at the Santa Monica Pier.
Photograph: Courtesy Twilight Concerts

Free concerts in L.A.


Looking for free concerts in L.A.? Well, you’re in luck—music (aside from film, possibly) is the city’s most abundant form of entertainment.


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