Roadside Americana: Delaware – Indiana
State to state, America is alive with the sound of acoustic guitars, some of them in jingle-jangle mode, others flatpicking a rustic bluegrass tune, or sliding into a Delta-blues lament, or strumming behind a cowboy poet, or soaking in the swampy vibe of Louisiana bayou country, or maybe playing an intricate Bach rondo.
Put your (unplugged) pedal to the metal and experience roadside Americana for yourself.
Here’s your travel guide—50 states, 50 must-attend events.
Delaware’s largest music festival, the Firefly Music Festival has featured such acoustic-pop artists as the Avett Brothers, Grizzly Bear, the Lumineers, Django Django, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, performing in the 87-acre Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, just a few miles from the mouth of the Delaware River. There’s also outdoor movies and, if fireflies aren’t your bag, check out the arcade of free vintage pinball, Skee-Ball, and foosball games. June 20–22. fireflyfestival.com
The Suwannee Springfest, held in north Florida’s wooded 580-acre Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near the farming town of Live Oak “way down upon the banks of the Suwannee River.” This year it will feature the Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Jason Isbell, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and Steep Canyon Rangers, among others, along with camping and 12 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails, as well as canoe and bike rentals. March 20–23. suwanneespringfest.com
Looking for a more urban experience? The Savannah Music Festival is a two-week celebration of the musical arts held in a half-dozen theaters throughout downtown Savannah, March 20–April 5. As well as such (mostly) acoustic performers as Rodney Crowell, Richard Thompson, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Sarah Jarosz, the festival hosts a five-day Acoustic Music Seminar under the direction of Mike Marshall, with instructors including jazz guitarist Julian Lage, fingerstylist Martin Taylor, guitarist and fiddler Bruce Molsky, dobro great Jerry Douglas, and others. savannahmusicfestival.org
Seeking a tropical clime? Founded in 1982 in tribute to legendary guitarist and singer “Gabby” Pahinui on his home island of Oahu, the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival honors the past, present, and future of ki-ho’alu (slack key) with four fests on Oahu, Kona, Kauai, and the Big Island. The fests run from early summer to late fall. slackkeyfestival.com
The Festival at Sandpoint is an eight-night outdoor concert series held in far-north Sandpoint along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake. Featuring a wide range of music, acoustic performers in 2013 included Rosanne Cash, the Greencards, the Avett Brothers, and Indigo Girls, along with the Spokane Symphony, Steve Miller Band, and Cake. See ya under the stars August 7–17. festivalatsandpoint.com
Catch a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf, local blues-guitar heroes, a national all-star teen band (you might even find those kids jamming at Buddy Guy’s Legends nightclub) or bask in the sonic glory of such legendary players as Bonnie Raitt, Bo Diddley, and B.B. King. The Chicago Blues Festival, June 13–15, is held in and around Millennium Park, in the shadows of the spectacular Mylar-balloon-like, Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a reminder that Chicago remains the Midwest’s cultural center. cityofchicago.org
Take note: this event has a beer tent specializing in craft brews, folk-arts demonstrations, and a three-ton weight limit and 36-foot length limit on the bridge that will get you there. Held in Madison, the River Roots Music and Folk Arts Festival will be hosting the likes the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, among others, May 16–17. Bet we had you at “craft brews.” riverroots.org
See more Roadside Americana: 50 States, 50 Must-Attend Events articles.