Have Music Will Travel

3 outdoor music festivals worth a road trip

So what if you missed Coachella or Stagecoach? Slip on your sandals, grab someone you love and head toward the tunes. From San Francisco to Simi Valley, from jazz to hip-hop, there is music of every kind within easy reach this season. 

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival

August 8–10

Considered by many to be the best music festival in the country, Outside Lands is centered in San Francisco’s best attraction: Golden Gate Park. The site is magically transformed into stages and sideshows for nearly 200,000 people to enjoy over the three-day event.

Big-name headliners, with a full range of genres, are a guarantee here. This year the lineup includes, for the first time, a rapper: Kanye West. Other performers include Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, The Killers, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and the Valley-born sister group Haim. 

Outside Lands is known as something of a "gourmet" music festival, featuring special sections like Taste of the Bay Area, Cheeselands and Chocolands—where concertgoers can nosh. 

If you want to actually see a band perform on stage, it takes some effort. Attendees typically camp out in front of a designated stage for at least an hour or two before an act begins.  

Check out the website for ticket sale dates and prices. The process of getting tickets is similar to Coachella; be at your computer the moment the online sale begins or expect to pay a premium. sfoutsidelands.com

Written by Linda Grasso


Lone Pine Annual Concert in the Rocks

June 7

Every year on the first Saturday night in June, a natural amphitheatre in the Alabama Hills is transformed into a magical, under-the-stars venue for this truly unique dinner concert event.

Near the base of Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,497 feet), surrounded by huge, granite, backlit boulders, some 300 guests wine and dine to a full bar and charcoal-grilled steak (there is also a vegetarian option) before enjoying music from some world-class jazz musicians.

This year the “Jazz Comes West” concert will feature the Monty Alexander Trio with special guests Frank Vignola, Hassan Shakur and Jeff Hamilton. Hailed as one of the top five jazz pianists of all time, Monty Alexander has performed worldwide with an unending list of music royalty including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones.

But there is more to this event than an extraordinary dinner concert in an unforgettable setting. The Lone Pine area oozes Hollywood history.

Founded in the 1860s to provide supplies to the local gold and silver mining communities, Lone Pine became known as “Hollywood’s Old West” after filmmakers discovered the mountainous backdrop, rugged canyons and dramatic boulders to be the perfect location to shoot Westerns. From the 1920 silent Western The Roundup starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to the popular The Lone Ranger TV series in the ‘50s to the more recent Iron Man, countless productions have been shot here. 

When the music ends, take advantage of fishing, hiking, photography, rock climbing, golf or camping. Don’t miss the “Movie Road” self-guided tour, available online or from the Lone Pine Film History Museum.

 Concert tickets: $80. 

760-876-9909, lonepinefilmhistory museum.org/concert

Written and photographed by Mary Herne


Cajun & Blues Music Festival

May 24-25

Take a leisurely drive along the rarely congested 118 freeway past the rocky Santa Susanas and enjoy the scenery. After a short jag, you’ll arrive at the park venue feeling like you’re in the Deep South or at Mardi Gras in Louisiana. 

There are two stages at each end of the park—a blues stage and a Cajun stage—with nearly a mile of food vendors, record stores, blues societies and wineries. The vibe here is very chill with free parking and easy entry. It is never annoyingly crowded. 


This year’s headliner is “sacred steel” guitarist Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Other performers include two Valley dwellers: Northridge-based blues legend Swamp Dogg and Woodland Hills-based British blues legend John Mayall. Another musician, C.J. Chenier, will make his Simi festival debut.

Equal parts music and food, the eats here are out of this world—from authentic Cajun to Creole to soul. Grab an alligator on a stick when you arrive—they sell out early. Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for kids. simicajun.org

Written by Linda Grasso


A Little Closer To Home… 

JazzReggae  Festival

May 25-26

Head down the 405 to see big-name acts like Santigold, Ziggy Marley and more for what’s become a Memorial Day weekend tradition at UCLA Intramural Field.


Playboy Jazz Festival

June 14–15

The event, which kicks off the Hollywood Bowl’s summer concert series, starts in the late afternoon and goes into the evening on both days. Dianne Reeves, Jamie Cullum, Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, George Benson and Earl Klugh are among the performers. Comedian/actor George Lopez hosts. 


17th Annual Doheny Blues Festival

May 17-18

A weekend of performers who will take you down memory lane, including Gregg Allman, The Doobie Brothers, Buddy Guy, Rosie Flores and James Intveld. The venue, Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, offers ocean breezes to boot.