You want music fests?
Las Vegas has got ‘em.
In the past decade, this city has become a destination market for some of the biggest and best fests the country has to offer.
There’s something for pretty much everyone nowadays.
What fest is best for you?
Here’s a festival-goers guide to help you figure it out.
(Note: festival dates are subject to change)
Viva Las Vegas, Orleans, April
What is it: What’s bigger? The hair or the hot rods at this pompadour-and ’57 Chevy-heavy fest. It’s the largest rockabilly event in the world, bringing 17,000 travelers to Vegas annually and drawing 20,000-plus to its outdoor car show on Saturdays. There are burlesque bingo sessions, vintage fashion shows, tiki pool parties and a whole lot of Arthur Fonzarelli look-a-likes in the house.
Crowd: A dressed-to-impress array of hepcats and modern-day Rosie the Riveters, many of them clad in vintage threads, looking as if they’d pried open a wormhole to the 1950s, somehow.
Notable past acts: Stray Cats, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis
Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, May
What is it: Attending EDC is exactly like being Jonah swallowed by a whale — only this whale comes layered in a fuzzy Day-Glo hide with innards that emit more light than a cleaved atom while housing a couple of Ferris wheels, 190,000 fellow swallow-ees and lots and lots of stuff on fire. It’s the biggest electronic dance music festival in the world, but saying that feels like an understatement, even: This is far less a series of dusk-’til-dawn concerts than something akin to inhabiting a lucid dream where fantasy eclipses reality for three days.
Crowd: Everyone under the sun — err, Electric Sky — as EDC’s massive draws range from O.G. ravers, some of them in their sixties, to curious younger music fans of all stripes who just want to experience one of the most spectacular parties there is.
Notable past acts: Tiesto, Deadmaus, Swedish House Mafia
Sick New World, Las Vegas Festival Grounds, May
What is it: Nü metal is New again. Remember those glory days of the late ’90s, when big-top-sized JNCO jeans were roomy enough to provide affordable housing for a family of six, shirtless lads named Shifty Shellshock were rhyming “fierce” with “nipple pierce” and rage was all the rage? Well, even if you don’t, this fest is here to remind you, debuting in 2023 with a sold-out show that drew 65,000 fans.
Crowd: A lot of dudes and dudettes who cranked Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” back in the day when Mom and Dad wouldn’t let them stay out past curfew.
Notable past acts: System of a Down, Korn, Deftones
Lovers & Friends, Las Vegas Festival Grounds, May
What is it: It takes its name from a Lil Jon tune, and Lovers & Friends will surely elicit plenty of that rapper-producer’s trademark, larynx-agitating “Yeahs!!!” from fans of late-’90s, early-aughts hip-hop and R&B. Imagine a massive earthmover loaded with slow jams and/or strip club anthems, dumping its payload on an eager crowd of 30,000-plus. It’s kind of like that.
Crowd: A legion of R&B lovers getting all starry-eyed beneath the stars to songs that soundtracked many a high school prom slow dance in the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s.
Notable past acts: Missy Elliott, Usher, Ms. Lauryn Hill
Punk Rock Bowling, Downtown, May
What is it: Leather jackets, leather livers: Both come in handy at one of the most raucous gatherings of the year. It feels like a punk rock family reunion — you know, if Mom and Dad had septum piercings and considered Pabst Blue Ribbon a sacrament.
Crowd: A lot of brave souls rocking denim and leather in the merciless Vegas heat, plus an annual abundance of punk rock parents with young’ins in tow, introducing the kids to the glory of the circle pit.
Notable past acts: Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Devo
Psycho Las Vegas, August
What is it: The mother of all heavy music fests is like one-stop shopping for devotees of the riff, gettin’ weird with strangers and everything louder than everything else, to borrow a line from the mighty Motorhead, a touchstone act here. The fest took 2023 off due to line-up issues, but is expected to return in 2024.
Crowd: You will lose count of all those in attendance clad in black T-shirts with indecipherable band logos.
Notable past acts: The Misfits, Emperor, King Diamond
Big Blues Bender, Westgate, September
What is it: Plenty of performers will be singing the blues here. The fans? Not so much, as this four-day blues and R&B musical endurance test begins at noon most days and goes till 5 a.m. some nights/mornings. Bring plenty of Excedrin, maybe an oxygen tank or two.
Crowd: The crowd may be on the older side, but they party like they’re drinking from the fountain of youth in between all those sips of Budweiser.
Notable past acts: Blind Boys of Alabama, B.B. King, George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Life Is Beautiful, downtown, September
What is it: Vegas’ biggest music festival not named EDC, the multi-genre Life is Beautiful is the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Mickey’s wide mouth, the “Empire Strikes Back” of music fests that take place within city limits, spanning 18 blocks downtown. Time to get those walking shoes re-soled, pronto.
Crowd: A broad swath of concertgoers reflecting the fest’s diverse line-up, which ranges from alt-rock to hip-hop to EDM. There’s even been an indoor, hay-festooned country stage in recent years for you to get your yee-haw! on.
Notable past acts: Stevie Wonder, Billie Eilish, The Killers
IHeart Radio Music Fest, T-Mobile Arena, September
What is it: It felt like a bottomless bowl of hyperbole with a side dish of hype: Upon debuting here in 2011, this fest dubbed itself the biggest live music event in radio history. Over a decade later, though, it’s pretty much lived up to that lofty designation with an annual array of some of the biggest names in music. Also, it’s hosted by Ryan frickin’ Seacrest. Now, that’s more star power than any of us deserve.
Crowd: Seeing as how every act that performs here is a big-time headliner in their right, the audience is generally a wide-ranging mix of fans out to see their favorite band and then some.
Notable past acts: Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z
Reggae Rise Up, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, October
What is it: Time to chill out and enjoy some mood enhancement that doesn’t require a prescription. The reggae-centric festival is the antidote to road rage, squawking alarm clocks, the 40-hour workweek and any other of life’s nuisances. If you’re in a bad mood after this one, it’s just you, dude.
Crowd: As laid back as your average reclining beach chair, the crowd here conjures enough good vibes to choke horse — nay! A whole stable full of the creatures.
Notable past acts: Slightly Stoopid, Stick Figure, Atmosphere
When We Were Young, Las Vegas Festival Grounds, October
What is it: “We’re celebrating emo, right?” Paramore singer Hayley Williams asked from the stage during this fest’s sold-out 2023 debut. Rhetorical question, there. A big ‘ol bear hug to early aughts pop punk and the aforementioned scene, When We Were Young is kind of like your local Hot Topic store outfitted with amplifiers.
Crowd: The massive crowd of tens of thousands came dressed in the deepest shade of asphalt in 2022, almost exclusively clad in black, their shirts spelling out what this day was all about: “Emo’s not dead,” “Make America emo again,” “Every nite is emo nite,” “Sad music.”
Notable past acts: My Chemical Romance, Paramore, AFI
Contact Jason Bracelin at [email protected] or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram