Monday, March 3, 2014

Five St. Louis-Based Music Festivals that Draw Out-of-Towners

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 3:45 AM

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at LouFest this year. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at LouFest this year.

Our beloved St. Louis -- celebrating its 250th birthday this year -- is on an uptick. The city has tech startups out the wazoo, gets recognized for all kinds of cuisine and is one of the most literate cities in the nation. Basically, we're surrounded by awesome stuff at all times.

But new residents and visitors also are flocking to St. Louis because of its music community, which has grown significantly in national visibility over the past five to ten years. Earning a reputation for both quality and quantity, the Gateway City has plenty of festivals that stack lineups of nationally known artists for surprisingly low (or free) ticket costs. In fact, we may even get another one downtown in 2015! In the meantime, here are five local music festivals that keep the tourists visiting, the music playing and the beer flowing.

See also: St. Louis City Committee Talks of New Major Downtown Music Festival

The Killers at LouFest in 2013. - THEO WELLING
  • Theo Welling
  • The Killers at LouFest in 2013.


When the inaugural LouFest was announced way back in 2010, we were excited but secretly wondered if this was going to be a one-and-done deal. A large-scale festival in Forest Park sounded like a good idea, but could it really work? Well, it could and it did. Over the years, LouFest has drawn major acts like Built to Spill, the Hold Steady, the Flaming Lips and Girl Talk while also spotlighting great local talent. In 2013, LouFest's local founders teamed up with C3 Presents (which manages Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Festival) to offer the festival's best headliners yet of Wilco, the Killers, the National and Alabama Shakes, drawing its largest and most diverse crowd so far.

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Norah Jones and Cory Chisel's band at the Open Highway Music Festival in 2013. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Norah Jones and Cory Chisel's band at the Open Highway Music Festival in 2013.


In 2012, Steve Pohlman and John Henry coordinated Off Broadway's first Open Highway Music Festival after noticing regional and national interest in "red dirt" music -- a combination of earthy country with good old rock & roll. The four-day event was a near-sellout each night, so Pohlman and Henry upped the ante in 2013 with a broader scope of musicians and genres. The gambit worked, with folks traveling from all over to see Lucero, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Murder by Death and more. Concertgoers received an extra treat during the first night when Americana great Cory Chisel brought out Norah Jones for a surprise performance.

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These family-friendly, sunshine-on-our-shoulders events are great, but they don't necessarily get the job done for all music lovers. Enter Gateway to the West Fest, a hardcore-punk bonanza not for the faint of heart. As one of the largest hardcore events in the region, Gateway to the West Fest has brought out the big guns for six installments since its debut in 2005, delivering Blacklisted, Bitter End, No Class, Rival Mob, Cast Aside and more to St. Louis venues and rabid fans. In recent years, local hardcore promoter and fest founder Adam "The Devastator" Greer handed the baton off to local tattoo artist/hardcore scene veteran Donna Klein to expand the fest even more, bringing hardcore fans in by the van full from all over the Midwest.

Learn more:

Continue for more festivals that draw national crowds.

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