Five Festivals That Indie Pop Fans Need To Attend
Following the absolutely insanely good year of festivals that was 2022, we started thinking about which festivals were “must-see.” In the sea of festivals across North America, it’s easy to get lost, particularly if you’re a fan of indie pop. Though the genre is on the rise and many festivals are adequately representing the genre on their lineups, there are a few that any indie pop fan absolutely have to get to.
Below is my top five festivals that indie pop fans need to attend. While I have only been to three of them myself, I based this list on their most recent lineups. In the cases of three of them, that is the 2023 lineup, but two of them have yet to announce who will be performing at their 2023 iteration. I’ve ordered them in chronological order, since it was too hard to try and rate quality of experience when I hadn’t personally attended two of the festivals.
I think that’s enough of a precursor. Read on, and let your festival horizon be expanded!
Treefort Music Festival (Boise, ID)
Treefort Music Festival could easily be called the SXSW of the Pacific Northwest, but that could be doing it a disservice. There are thirteen forts covering all the bases of entertainment, art, and food. Every passholder can attend any of the events at any fort, and certain forts are open to the general public. Treefort really gets the entire city of Boise involved, and the party doesn’t stop until late, with shows going on around the city well into the early morning.
Of course, the festival is smaller in scale than some of the others that I’m about to mention, but that doesn’t mean it’s smaller in terms of lineup. Featuring hundreds of acts from around the world, Treefort is any music lover’s dream, but particularly for those fans of indie in all of its forms. The 2023 iteration – the festival’s 11th – boasts performances from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Whitney, Drugdealer, illuminati hotties, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and NNAMDÏ, among the literal hundreds of others. Boise is a city on the rise, and Treefort is ready to lead the charge for the city’s music and art community.
Kilby Block Party (Salt Lake City, UT)
While Kilby Block Party is only entering its fourth iteration, the growth it has seen over the past five years is exponential. Starting off as a literal block party next to the Salt Lake City venue it was started to celebrate (Kilby Court), the festival expanded into Liberty Square last year, and this year they have jumped from two to three days and moved the festival to the even larger Utah State Fairpark!
Admittedly, this is one I haven’t gotten to yet, and that pains me. Last year’s lineup was stacked, but this year’s lineup has somehow one-upped even that. This year features performances from indie pop legends like Japanese Breakfast, Dominic Fike, Caroline Polachek, Cuco, and Alex G, and it’s headlined by indie rock icons The Strokes, Pavement, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As they continue to expand, Kilby is sure to maintain the high level of bookings they already have, and I can’t wait until I can finally get out there to see it for myself.
Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago, IL)
You knew it was coming. The second you saw the title “Five Festivals That Indie Pop Fans Need To Attend,” you thought of Pitchfork. While I haven’t been to Pitchfork personally in quite some time, the quality of their lineups has always astounded me. They cover all genres, yes, but the magazine’s indie roots seeped their way into the festival, and you will not hear me complain about that.
Last year’s lineup boasted a Saturday headlined by Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Lucy Dacus, a Friday headlined by The National, and performances from Indigo De Souza and Ethel Cain. There were insane hip-hop and punk bookings, too, but that’s for another article. The indie pop scene has had a home in Chicago for years, and that home is called Pitchfork Music Festival. They haven’t announced this year’s lineup yet, but I will be first in line for tickets if the lineup is even half as good as last year’s.
Hinterland Music Festival (Saint Charles, IA)
This might feel like it’s out of left field, but since 2015, Saint Charles, Iowa, has been the host of the folk and indie pop centered Hinterland Music Festival. This is another one that I unfortunately have not been to, as it shares a weekend with my traditional hometown festival (which is, admittedly, Lollapalooza). However, every year, they make me question whether or not I want to make the trek to central Iowa.
This year’s festival features performances from Bon Iver, Wallows, Angel Olsen, Alex G, and Faye Webster (among others), and I’m certain it will be an incredible time. Having seen all but Faye Webster through various other festivals (all on this list, actually), I can only imagine how incredible the experience on an Iowa farm must be. This is also the only camping festival on this list, and though that may say more about me than the festivals themselves, it’s interesting to note.
Outside Lands (San Francisco, CA)
I mean, where do I start on this one? Since 2018, I have made a yearly pilgrimage to the Bay Area to bask in the glow of Golden Gate Park. I’ve met some great friends on the ground there. I convinced my parents to see Paul Simon one more time with me so that they could also experience Childish Gambino. Outside Lands is special to me, and the indie pop they bring to the festival each year is a big part of that.
While not a genre-specific festival, Outside Lands boasts the most indie pop talent of any of the major city festivals. Last year saw Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Dominic Fike, Mac DeMarco, and Local Natives bring their talents to the park, and that’s only a small sample size. While they haven’t announced their 2023 lineup, their history speaks for itself. Their place in my life adds to that history for me, obviously, and I stand firm in my believe that they are the best festival in the United States. Not just for indie pop.
And that about covers it for this round! If you’ve been to any of these festivals, let us know what your experiences were like. If you haven’t, let us know which one you’d be most excited to attend! Let me know if I missed something or if there is a festival you think should be on this list. I’m always looking to expand my festival horizons!