Shaky Knees in Atlanta
7 Can't-Miss Spring Music Festivals in Georgia
Here in Georgia, we have weather on our side for a festival season that lasts all year long. The best of spring includes the best of Georgia's signature music festivals, where a cross-section of genres take you all across the state for a full experience of live music, local flavor, cultural celebration and more.
Savannah Music Festival, March 26-April 11, 2020
Georgia's largest musical arts event and one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world, the Savannah Music Festival is a world-class celebration of musical arts. Find a true medley of melodies where music ranges from country to folk to jazz to chamber. Venues showcase the best of Savannah’s walkable vibrancy and include intimate churches, synagogues and club venues, breezy outdoor streets settings and revered cultural centers and historic theatre spaces, like the Johnny Mercer Theater. With a strength in classical music, Americana, acoustic and jazz -- but also rock n’ roll, dance events and a variety of world music -- the Savannah Music Festival is the tie that binds an immersive, global music experience to peak spring in an iconic Southern city.
SweetWater 420 Fest, Atlanta, April
With its annual dynamic blend of music, arts and local brew, plus a healthy dose of food, entertainment and respect for Mother Earth, the SweetWater 420 Fest is a revered annual tradition that celebrates springtime in the city. What started on the small stage at SweetWater Brewing Company has blossomed to today’s jam-packed, mega-festival status in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.
But even with major headliners like Widespread Panic, the Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and more, SweetWater 420 Fest still has the heart of the local brewer. In addition to the entertainment, you can taste more than 25 unique styles of SweetWater beers, enjoy presentations on topics “as wide as our brewers’ bellies,” such as sustainability and experience an artist market, food village and 420 Disco. This is where beer, music and the spring season get the best of each other.
Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Dahlonega, April
Bear on the Square is as authentic as it gets. This Appalachian heritage festival and experience will play you some mountain music -- or you pick your own fiddle, bajo, dulcimore and more and join in on this annual town tradition. Dahlonega's historic public square is prime music territory for two full days, kicked off with pre-festival jam sessions on Friday as live music circulates all weekend. Spotlighting bluegrass and old-time music, Bear on the Square also includes a juried artist marketplace featuring traditional mountain crafts, storytelling, free music workshops and demonstrations, local wine and beer, a Sunday Gospel Jam, children’s activities, dancing and more against a backdrop of mountain city springtime charm.
West Georgia Jazz Festival, Villa Rica, April
Villa Rica is the birthplace of the Father of Gospel Music Thomas Dorsey, but before he wrote his best-known composition “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” he was also a revered blues pianist who accompanied Ma Rainey with his Wild Cats Jazz Band. So, while Villa Rica is worth a return visit for the annual Thomas Dorsey Birthplace Festival in June, consider the West Georgia Jazz Festival a perfect spring primer to the city’s festival season, where jazz, blues and gospel remain rooted. This rain or shine festival takes place at The MILL Amphitheater and features multiple acts during the day and an evening headliner. The event is free to attend and reserved seating can be purchased.
Little Roy and Lizzie Music Festival, Lincolnton, April 30-May 2, 2020
Elijah Clark State Park makes the perfect spring setting for the Little Roy and Lizzie Music Festival, a regional bluegrass experience featuring on-site camping and more bluegrass acts than you can shake a fiddle stick at. This rain-or-shine event has a big tent for inclement weather and has become a destination festival headlined by the talent of “Little Roy” Lincoln and Lizzy Long of the Little Roy and Lizzie Show. Little Roy has carried the Lincoln Family’s “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel” music tradition with him, recognized today as one of the foremost five-string banjo pickers in the country.
Blind Willie McTell Music Festival, Thomson, May
Awarded and recognized as one of the finest small festivals in the South, this blues heritage festival in Blind Willie McTell’s hometown of Thomson is an all-day tribute to one of the founding fathers of American roots music. McTell was a blind street performer who got his start as a sought-after guitarist and lyricist who gave the world “Statesboro Blues” and influenced everyone from the Allman Brothers to the White Stripes. While McTell is acclaimed for his blues-country style, the festival has now grown in its diversity of music genres and acts, with performances by local, regional and national musicians, local Southern food and merchandise. Also worth mentioning: their iconic artist-rendered posters have become collectible!
Shaky Knees Festival, Atlanta, May
It's one of the youngest, biggest, hippest music festivals in Atlanta, and with its cityscape landscape and stellar line-up of 60-plus acts, Shaky Knees is on solid ground in Georgia. Since its inception in 2013, Shaky Knees has featured a diverse lineup, ranging from world-renowned acts to up-and-coming artists. It’s more than a music festival but a full-throttle, three-day extravaganza with late-night shows and post-fest parties at local venues featuring more intimate sets from many of the festival's acts. With heavy-hitting headliners like Beck and Cage the Elephant, Shaky Knees is three day take-over of a rock lover's dream.
Worth mentioning: Athens Twilight Criterium, April
Cycling may be center stage, but the Athens Twilight Criterium is a 40-plus-year tradition that doesn't just attract 150 eager cyclists from around the world and now plays up what Athens does best: live music! The festival-like atmosphere is full of large, energetic crowds, kid-friendly events and an outdoor music stage with free performances on Friday.