The warm weather in the northern hemisphere means the start of US music festival season, where all of your favourite bands play their hits for throngs of revellers. If you don't want to spend a fortune on airfares or can't stand the crowds, there are alternatives. Here's how to bring a little of that experience home so you can enjoy it from the comfort of your couch.
Title photo by Tina Mailhot-Roberge
Of course, there's nothing like the thrill of feeling physically moved by walls of speakers and soaking up the energy of a great crowd, but even if you love the music, odds are you can do without the pressing wall of people, expensive refreshments, hot temperatures, subhuman bathrooms and transport woes. Luckily, many the most popular festivals make it easy to experience the music from afar.
Check For Live Streams During The Event
Many music festivals actually stream live performances on the internet, or offer them up after a short time delay. Coachella and its YouTube channel are some of the most popular examples of this, but plenty of other music festivals do the same thing, including the massive Bonnaroo, the electronic mecca Ultra Music Festival, and the Pitchfork Music Festival.
Check to see if your favourite festival has a YouTube channel, then look back over their uploaded videos for "completed events" or other live streams that have been concluded. You may not be able to watch the stream recordings, but at least you'll know that they offer live streams.
If you don't see a YouTube channel, you may not be out of luck. Check the festival web site and see if there's mention of a live stream (you'll probably have to dig past ticketing and lineup information). For good measure, check out the festival's Facebook or Twitter accounts as well. Look back over their mentions or posts from the previous year -- if there's an official stream or a way for fans at home to listen in on what's happening at the show, they will mention it.
Look For Live Mixes On SoundCloud Or YouTube After The Event
I was lucky enough to enjoy many of Coachella sets during the live streaming weekend right from the comfort of my couch. However, I was a few weeks late to enjoy any of the live sets at Ultra, so I had to make up for it later on by doing a little digging.
If your festival has a YouTube or Vimeo channel, odds are they have posted videos of some of the biggest, most interesting sets at the event. How much of the set you'll be able to watch depends on the festival (and the artist), but you'll probably be able to check out some of your favourite bands, and explore some musicians you wouldn't have otherwise listened to. See what's available to enjoy. You may even be able to go back beyond last year's festival to previous events and watch recorded sets from years gone by -- or even musicians who don't tour or do live shows anymore.
Official video of live sets is great, but you'll have much better luck finding the actual music you would have heard at the event over at SoundCloud. Set up an account (if you don't already have one) and follow your favourite musicians there -- or just the ones who performed at the festival you want to recreate. In many cases they will post their sets to their SoundCloud page after the show, sometimes within hours. Even if they can't (due to licensing issues with the festival or the venue) you'll probably be able to find live sets from other events, or just at-home performances and special mixes for SoundCloud fans and followers to fill in the gap.
If you don't find your favourite artists on SoundCloud, it's possible they have defected due to the usual music industry shenanigans. That's OK -- check out these SoundCloud alternatives and see if your favourite musician, DJ, or band has a presence there. SoundCloud is the biggest option, but it's not the only one, and you'll find some gems on Mixcloud, Bandcamp and other sites you may not hear anywhere else.
Build Your Own Playlists To Match The Set Lists And Stage Lineups
Once you've done all of this digging, and have a great list of YouTube channels, SoundCloud profiles, and other sources of music, it's time to put them together into a playlist so you can have your own little at-home music festival.
YouTube and SoundCloud both have tools to make playlists, but if you don't want to hop around from site to site between songs or sets the same way you'd walk from stage to stage at a festival, there's a better way. Previously mentionedWhyd can organise songs, sets and videos from YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and others into a single seamless playlist (or set of playlists) for safe keeping. Best of all, you can come back to those playlists whenever you want to.
Similarly, Songdrop, another service we love, does a great job at this too, and if you'd rather take your music festival with you on your phone, previously mentioned Playmoss sacrifices broad support for lots of music sites for mobile apps that keep the music going when you're out and about. Once you have your own perfect setlist or lineup, just let the playlist rip and enjoy your own personal version of that big music festival from the air conditioned comfort your couch, or in your headphones at the office while you work. If you really like the outdoor music experience, grab a portable Bluetooth speaker, pack a few drinks and a lunch, and head out to a public park or down to the beach with a few friends. Alternatively, you can just commune with the music through your favourite headphones and a comfortable chair. It's entirely up to you.