Since its inaugural year in 1999, Coachella has become one of the nation's biggest and most influential music festivals. (Photo: Sebastian Artz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images )
Whether it's patchouli-smelling kids freestyle dancing to a jam band or senior citizens kicked back in lawn chairs enjoying a traditional bluegrass rendition of "John Henry, " the West Coast of the US is sure to have a music festival to please most any type of fan or age group. Some are catch-all fests spotlighting different musical genres and featuring other perks, such as art exhibits and carnival side-show type attractions. Others are more about a singular style of music, dancing or the after party.
The Coachella festival had its inaugural year in 1999 and has since become one of the biggest pop/rock festivals in the country. This desert-based festival in Indio east of the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California has had a huge influence on the US concert and festival industry, and its success has spawned many imitators. Coachella's lineup each year features the hottest current acts along with legends. The six-day festival held over two weekends in the spring has only weekend passes available; no individual day tickets are sold. The Stagecoach festival takes place on the same grounds as Coachella each spring. Stagecoach is like a country-western version of Coachella, featuring top country artists and emerging regional and national acts.
Oregon's major music festivals are genre-specific, ranging from old-school blues to modern electronica. In Portland, the Waterfront Blues Festival in early July gives all proceeds to help local food banks. The What The Festival had a successful inaugural year in 2012 featuring deejays and electronic dance music acts in the rugged and scenic outdoor setting of White River Canyon. The Northwest String Summit in North Plains focuses on traditional bluegrass and folk music, while the Willamette Country Music Festival in Brownsville brings the top mainstream country acts to the state each summer.
In Washington, Bumbershoot and Sasquatch are the two biggies that draw popular national acts from multiple genres each spring and summer. Sasquatch takes place in and around the Gorge Amphitheater in George. The Gorge is widely regarded as one of the more spectacular natural settings for a music venue in the country: The Columbia River, its surrounding foothills and a river gorge serve as its backdrop. If you've seen the viral video of the guy who starts an impromptu dance party on a hillside at a music concert - over 6.5 million views on YouTube at the time of publication - that was at Sasquatch in 2009. If you haven't seen it, do a YouTube search for "dancing guy Sasquatch" to get an idea of what this festival is like. Bumbershoot is Seattle's major annual music and arts festival held every Labor Day weekend in the shadow of the Space Needle.
Every music festival is different. Some attract younger, college-aged crowds, while others are more family-friendly events. Some allow camping on the grounds, but others don't. Lots of planning should go into any West Coast music festival trip. Coachcella and Stagecoach take place in a desert, so hydration is a major consideration. What The in Oregon probably wouldn't make for a nice family outing. Sasquatch might not have a music lineup that appeals to everyone, but outdoor enthusiasts who are music lovers will find the setting appealing. Festivals come and go, or change dates and locations, so double-check all these things before purchasing tickets or heading out.