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Tennessee music festivals you shouldn’t miss

By Amanda Stravinsky

You don’t have to travel around the nation to hear the Soundtrack of America. Just come to Tennessee where it was born and bred.

Credit: Tennessee Tourism

Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis 

Fuse TV named this event one of the top music festivals in the U.S. and for good reason. The Beale Street Music Festival takes place for three days, bringing together an eclectic mix of bands and solo artists to four stages, giving its thousands of fans something to sing about. Previous performers have included Lil’ Wayne, Weezer, The 1975, 21 Savage, The Avett Brothers, Three 6 Mafia, The Lumineers and more.

Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass, Sevierville

Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass features some of the top barbecue teams in the U.S., bluegrass entertainment by the likes Trinity River Band, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Shenandoah, Bobby Osborne and more. The Mountain Soul Voice Competition is a special event, honoring the songwriting of Sevierville native Dolly Parton. Competitors sing one of her more than 3,000 songs in his or her own vocal style. 

Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s, Crawford

Spend a May weekend at Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s in Crawford, Tennessee, a music festival that preserves and celebrates Americana roots music. Tent and RV campers can purchase a weekend camping pass and enjoy a Thursday morning entrance, potluck dinner, Thursday night headliner and a bonfire. The three days are stuffed with music workshops, picking, family-friendly activities, swimming and more.

Riverbend Music Festival, Chattanooga

Every summer more than 500,000 people hit the streets of downtown Chattanooga to enjoy great music and delicious food, with the view of America’s Scenic City glowing in the background. Riverbend Festival offers five stages with more than 100 bands featuring world class entertainment. The festival is wrapped up every year with one of the region’s best fireworks displays. Previous performers have included Ashley McBryde, Blackberry Smoke, Brothers Osborne, Darius Rucker, Here Come The Mummies, Mavis Staples and more. 

CMA Music Festival, Nashville

CMA Music Festival takes place on several stages in downtown Nashville. Big-name country stars like Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton and Miranda Lambert have performed during the night concerts. Each day, however, thousands of festival goers can take advantage of the free concerts happening around downtown. You never know who will show up to play on stage, but get there early each morning for your chance to see classic bands and rising stars. 

Defeated Creek Bluegrass Festival, Carthage

For over 15 years, the Defeated Creek Bluegrass Festival at the Defeated Creek Marina in Carthage has celebrated the genre with family-friendly activities and, of course, bluegrass music. Experience live bluegrass bands, barbecue, square dancing, shop locally-made crafts, see classic cars and antique tractors and more.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester

Artists like  Lizzo, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Miley Cyrus, Tool, Bassnectar and more have played for the thousands who flock to the 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. The farm becomes a city with various events like yoga, silent disco, food, merchandise and sustainability practices on top of some of the best artists on the charts. 

Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree, Smithville

Heralded as the official festival for the state of Tennessee, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree draws hundreds of musicians and crafters as well as thousands of visitors from around the world to remember the ancestral music and crafts passed down over generations. Enjoy an array of crafts booths, some barbecue and one of the biggest free shows filled with toe-tappin’ music. 

Savannah Bluegrass Festival, Savannah 

Picking, jam sessions and live music performances are on tap for the free Bluegrass Festival, occurring at Wayne Jerrolds Park on Friday night and in Court Square on Saturday in downtown Savannah. The festival celebrates national fiddling champion and hometown legend Wayne Jerrolds.

James D. Vaughan Quartet Festival, Lawrenceburg 

The birthplace of Southern Gospel hosts well-known groups during the James D. Vaughan Quartet Festival at the Historic Crockett Theater in Lawrenceburg. Free shows fill the two days.

Music City Jazz Festival, Nashville

The Music City Jazz Festival in downtown Nashville’s Public Square Park is more than an outdoor concert. It’s an event of eating, drinking, mingling, relaxing, soaking in the rays and amazing music performed by national recording smooth jazz artists. The festival features classy veterans who have set the jazz standard and young proteges taking the jazz scene by storm. They all capture the spirit of smooth jazz that knows no boundaries in exhilarating performances.

Fire on the Water Music Festival, Gallatin

Enjoy two stages of more than 10 acts, craft brews from local breweries, bonfires, fire entertainers, food trucks and more at the Fire on the Water Music Festival on the banks of Old Hickory Lake. Listen while floating on a boat or while lounging on land as the festival celebrates Sumner County as the home of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. 

Muddy Roots Festival, Cookeville

Named a top festival by both Rolling Stone and Garden & Gun, Muddy Roots Festival offers three days of music with artists in a variety of genres from traditional country to punk, camping, vintage cars, vendors, and pinups. You can also chill at Waterloo Falls near the festival grounds; and pre- or post-festival, explore more than 150 waterfalls within a 40-mile radius of downtown Cookeville. Come for the music and leave with a newfound community.

Riverfest, Clarksville

Art, music and a family-friendly atmosphere are set along the banks of the Cumberland River during Riverfest in downtown Clarksville. Three stages of music with artists performing country, R&B and more provide a nice soundtrack as guests enjoy food, kids’ activities like games and inflatables and a wealth of competitions. 

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, Bristol

At this award-winning music festival, the roots of traditional Appalachian music are brought to life through talented musicians. Known as the birthplace of country music, Bristol’s music history runs deep and has been celebrated by nationally-known artists. Recent artists have inlcuded Tanya Tucker, Blackberry Smoke, Dr. Dog, Junior Brown, Rhonda Vincent, The Steeldrivers, Yola, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and more.

Americana Music Festival, Nashville

Thousands of artists, fans and industry professionals will make their way to various venues around Nashville at this fun festival. Jewel, The Vespers, Patty Griffin, Glen Hansard, Buddy Miller, and Parker Millsap are just some of the artists who have participated in the past. More than 165 showcases in venues around downtown Nashville give guests an insight on why Nashville truly is Music City.

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival, Kodak

Mountain roots are honored as 15 regional and national bluegrass acts flock to the Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival in Kodak, Tennessee. Enjoy the views of the Great Smoky Mountains while hearing some of the best bluegrass talent with fans from across the country. Picking and jam sessions, food and merchandise add to the fun.

Cooper-Young Festival, Memphis 

The city’s largest historic district, Cooper-Young welcomes thousands and more than 400 artisans from around the U.S. to share their art. Music performances range in sound from R&B to reggae to pop and gospel.

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, Franklin

The festival was created to bring a meaningful, music experience to its attendees. The region’s best food and drink are available and merchants selling art and crafts round out the festival’s offerings. Everyone from Justin Timberlake to Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson and Beck have played at this festival.

Uncle Dave Macon Days, Murfreesboro

Hear traditional American roots music during Uncle Dave Macon Days on the lawn of the Courthouse in downtown Murfreesboro. The festival’s national competitions in music and dance are some of the best worldwide. Hear old-time music as the festival pays homage to Uncle Dave Macon, Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Fame member. 

National Quartet Convention, Pigeon Forge

More than 40,000 music fans will head to Pigeon Forge’s LeConte Center for nightly concerts and showcases featuring some of the biggest quartet groups in Southern gospel. The National Quartet Convention is one of the biggest events for the genre. Previous performers include the Chuck Wagon Gang, Kingdom Heirs, Mark Bishop, High Road, Greater Vision, Kingsmen, Heart 2 Heart, The Porter Family, and Triumphant.