Bypass the crowds this summer by heading to these music festivals – where napping is accepted and dancing is encouraged

Words by Claudia Williams
Photos by Meanz Chan | meanzchan.com | @meanzchan | freelance@meanzchan.com

Hinterland – St.Charles, IA

A Hinterlander is a child blowing bubbles under the hot Iowa sun, a woman hula hooping, a man dressed like an American Flag and a couple dancing with their arms wrapped around each other. And come Aug 4, you can find out what a Hinterlander is for yourself, when Hinterland Music Festival comes to life in St. Charles, Iowa.

Sam Summers, founder of Hinterland, started the music festival in 2015 because he saw a void that needed to be filled. “At a lot of festivals, there is multi-stage, so you are running around from festival stage to festival stage,” Summers said. “We have a single stage during the day so everyone is keyed in on that same performance.” At Hinterland, there is a chance to hear every artist at the festival because no performance overlaps, and that’s part of what keeps Hinterlanders coming back each year.

“In order to separate myself from other festivals, it was about curating a festival that people would enjoy from start to finish,” Summers said. Acts in the past have included Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Willie Nelson, and Old Crow Medicine Show.

This year, the lineup includes music performances from Grammy-winners Dwight Yoakam and Gary Clark, Jr.; Grammy-nominated artists Ryan Adams and Alt J; The Head and The Heart; Shakey Graves; Foxygen; Nikki Lane; JD McPherson; The Cactus Blossoms; Max Jury; and Annalibera.

Nella Thomas has been to the festival two years in a row and has already bought her tickets for this year’s festival. “The bands that Hinterland brings to Iowa are totally my cup of tea,” Thomas said. “I love that both years I have seen bands that I know and love, but also left having learned about a bunch of new bands too.” Between each act is a 30-minute break that allows Hinterlanders to catch up and explore the array of vendors the festival offers.

Walk away from the amphitheater, and you discover a whole new world of refreshing craft beers and creatively curated cuisine. You can sink your teeth into a corn dog  as you continue your walk to the marketplace where local artists sell everything under the sun, including little surprises for baby Hinterlanders. “What I love about Hinterland is how accessible it is to everyone,” Thomas said. “All ages are welcome, and all ages feel comfortable there. Last year, they even had a Hinterland coloring book made for the kids.”

Hinterland doesn’t end when the musical curtain comes down. Campers head back to their handmade homesteads to continue the night under the moonlight. Camping at the festival has its perks, with a late night party at the Campfire Stage, early morning breakfast and closer-proximity to the amphitheater.

The 200-acres of Iowa farm land that houses Hinterland is not only speckled with tents, visitors and vendors, but also hundreds of oak trees. Most importantly, the Hinter-Tree. According to Summers, the Hinterland Tree, or Hinter-Tree, is a coveted spot for visitors as it is a central place between the amphitheater and the other aspects of the festival. It’s also a good resting place. “If you are looking to dance, there’s always a crowd right in front of the stage,” Thomas said. “If you’re looking to relax, there’s always someone napping under the Hinterland Tree.” Whether you want to dance your socks off until the break of dawn, or lay under the sun to the sound of live music, Hinterland strikes a chord in the heart of every music lover.

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All photos courtesy of Meanz Chan

Read UP: Other Midwestern music festivals

Euax Claires – Eau Claire, Wis. June 16-17
Recently named one of the “Top 10 Music Festivals in North America” by online music publication Consequence of Sound, Euax Claires Music Festival has captured the hearts of music junkies and nature lovers. Legends like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner of The National started the festival in 2015. Sing your heart out to music from Paul Simon and Chance the Rapper when the festival starts on June 16.

Nelsonville – Nelsonville, Ohio. June 1-4
Not only has Billboard named Nelsonville Music Festival “one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. music festival circuit,” but the festival is also a Zero Waste event in order to make a positive impact on the community. Performers such as the Avett Brothers, the Flaming Lips and Iron & Wine have performed here in the past. If you love beer gardens, on-site camping, four days of music and saving the environment, Nelsonville is for you.  

MoPop – Detroit, MI. July 29-30
If their lineup for 2017 is anything like last year’s, MoPop Music Festival goers have a lot to look forward to. The two-day event “celebrates ingenuity, creative expression and craft” and focuses not only on the music, but the people who are there to listen. Sip on local Michigan beer, eat your way through the Food Truck Alley and buy a souvenir from an artist at the craft bazaar.