Part of the fun in heading out to a summer festival is getting there: hitting the road, rolling down the windows and blasting the radio. The trip north (to the Portland area) is as adventurous as the music offering: The swooping charm of the cliffs and bluffs, and the awe-inspiring vistas of satin-draped Mt. Hood are sure to put you just in the right mood for, well, really, any type of music: epic rock, complicated electronica, uplifting jazz or heart-pounding punk.
Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts
June through August
Merle Haggard at a zoo? There's a joke in there somewhere. Tori Amos summoning singer-songwriter gusto and jamming piano? Yes, and yes. But most appropriate will be when stringband Carolina Chocolate Drops and Portland's rootsy Sallie Ford perform July 12. (Have you ever seen elephants dance? Seriously. Head to where the elephants are, and watch them stomp their feet along with Carolina Chocolate Drops.) With so many shows scheduled spanning the summer months, there's even a chance to catch soul crooner Charles Bradley. Or Huey Lewis, who makes an appearance toward the end of the season and gives the Northwest a chance to see how hip or square a 60-year-old can be.
What the Festival
June 19-June 22
Comfortable camping situations are sometimes hard to come by at weekend festivals. But at this electronically-inclined party, ridiculously plush tent accommodations with air conditioning are available for $1,000. Even if that seems a bit steep—and it is—there are cheaper options to catch the UK's Nighmares on Wax, a heady mix of hip-hop and electronica, headline a bill comprising performers from the electro-ether. South Carolina's Washed Out shines down summery pop-electronica, while a darker take on the genre, one replete with ominous bass pulsating through its compositions, gets offered up by The Glitch Mob. Bendite producer Ells is scheduled to perform as well.
Waterfront Blues Festival
July 3-July 6
An expansive understanding of the blues informs the lineup at this Portland mainstay. Maceo Parker, James Brown's sax player, isn't necessarily going to relate the same guttural vibe as keyboardist Greg Allman. But adding in Bombino, an African guitar virtuoso who fronts a funky rock ensemble, to contrast with Lee Fields' southern soul encapsulates virtually everything the blues can be. Oh, and there will be fireworks, too.
Northwest String Summit
Yonder Mountain String Band's protégé music festival—for which they close each night with a stringy, plucky, hippie's fantasy set— Northwest String Summit brings in all the usual bluegrass suspects: Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Steep Canyon Rangers and Danny Barnes. The beautiful Horning's Hideout serves as a perfect backdrop for the bohemian summit.
North Plains, Ore. $195-$215.
Aug. 1-Aug. 3
Despite its name, this Oregon festival staple has moved to include a sampling of music to suit any concertgoer, not just those seeking a lineup inclined toward acoustic interplay. L.A. punk pioneers X and the Modern Lovers' Jonathan Richman (the guy who narrates There's Something About Mary) perform. There's also hip-hip from People Under the Stairs, garage rock workouts by Mikal Cronin, cultish folk from Foxygen and jazz-tinged jamming by pianist Marco Benevento.
Happy Valley. $75-$260.
Aug. 16-Aug. 17
A number of changes come along with this year's installment of MusicFestNW. It's been pared down from five to two days and centralized at a single location: Waterfront Park. But there's still a huge swath of music to catch, ranging from Spoon's sophisticated take on indie rock, to sister act Haim and its breezy pop, to Run the Jewels' tough-guy hip-hop and Canada's hypnotic rock ensemble, Pink Moutaintops.
Aug. 30-Sept. 1
It's unlikely that the Wu-Tang Clan's going to perform The Wu: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the crew's latest project that's been produced as a multimillion-dollar collector's piece in a single edition. But there's always a chance. The weekend also features hip-hop sets from RA Scion, ScHoolboy Q and J. Cole. But a pair of '80s rock trailblazers—boozy Midwesterners The Replacements, and gauzy psych purveyors The Dream Syndicate—are set to perform in addition to Portland metal band Red Fang, soulful folk singer Valerie June and scores of others.
Seattle, Wa. $50-$350.