Musical Space: Music Festivals Within Driving Distance

Mar 27, 2018

Credit Debbie Greene / wichitariverfest.com

You could travel to some amazing music festivals all over the world this season, but the best place to connect with people is in your own backyard. There are all kinds of festivals within a day’s drive, and I’m willing to bet they’ll give you a more meaningful time than if you went to California to join 75,000 other people at Coachella.

For heavy fock you might want to check out Rocklahoma in Pryor, Oklahoma, starting May 25. Less than 4 hours away, prog virtuosos A Perfect Circle are headlining. That same weekend, though, is the Westport Roots Festival just up the road in Kansas City, celebrating all sorts of strange neo-retro Americana. Be sure to hear the 1920s flavor of White Ghost Shivers.

And then, of course, there’s the Walnut Valley Festival, known to everybody around here as just “Winfield.” Starting Sept. 12, one of the world’s most important bluegrass festivals is less than an hour away. Be sure to bring an instrument to bang on, because most of the real picking happens not on the main stage, but in the campgrounds.

There are lots of others. WoodyFest celebrates the music of Woody Guthrie in his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. For classical music there’s the Sunflower Festival in Topeka. And for subwoofer fans, Dancefestopia in Kansas City is advertising “massive bass.”

The best way to think local, though, is to not travel at all. The Wichita Riverfest has become a musical powerhouse - something worth bragging about to non-Kansans. If their schedule is anywhere near the quality of last year, we’re in for another mind-blowing experience.

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Listening list:

Rocklahoma:
A Perfect Circle, “Disillusioned,” brand-new album (2018)


Maybe last year’s best news in metal was the reformation of the band “A Perfect Circle.”

Norman Music Festival, Norman, OK
Parquet Courts, “Human Performance,” Human Performance (2016)


You might not like this, but I like the raw, direct delivery, reminescent of The Velvet Underground or ealy punks like The Modern Lovers.

Walnut Valley Festival:
Byron Berline, “Flying Fingers” Flying Fingers (2016)


A local fiddle celebrity; just announced that he’ll be headlining Winfield 2018.

Westport Roots Festival, May 25-17
Shawn James and the Shapeshifters, “The Bear,”  The Bear (2014)

Wichita River Fest:
J.D. McPherson, “North Side Gal,” Signs and Signifiers (2010)


Riverfest hasn’t announced the 2018 lineup yet, but 2017 was amazing. I could have gone with a headliner like The Flaming Lips or Mavis Staples, but I thought you would want to know about J.D McPherson, from Broken Arrow, OK

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