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10 awesome California music festivals this spring that aren’t Coachella

Lightning in a Bottle festival lettering with sun behind on a lake
Lightning in a Bottle, held over Memorial Day weekend, is less a festival than a five-day dry run for Burning Man. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

It might be the dead of January, but it’s already festival-planning season, with organizers dropping lineups left and right. In addition to San Francisco’s uniquely wonderful Noise Pop, with its two weeks of shows at indoor venues, the spring calendar is rapidly filling up with two-to-four-day fests with massive outdoor stages. And we’re not even talking about the 125,000-attendee Coachella, with its impossible-to-squeeze-into Sahara Tent and hourlong shuttle rides back to Palm Springs.

Here are 10 incredible California festivals between now and Memorial Day whose lineups have already been released.

A close up of Gwen Stefani in a blond ponytail and sequin dress
Orange County native and former No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani is among the bigger draws at Cali Vibes. | Source: Courtesy Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The Chillest of Them All: California Vibes

Long Beach’s Marina Green Park will once again welcome the most laidback of festivals: California Vibes. Largely reggae and old-school hip-hop, it’s upped its game this year by luring hometown heroes Sublime back to play their 1992 debut 40 Oz. to Freedom in its entirety.

Other notables include Wiz Khalifa, the Roots, Shaggy, Stick Figure, Ice Cube and half-brothers Damian “Jr. Gong” and Stephen Marley. None other than Gwen Stefani gets top billing on Saturday night. Long Beach may not be the No Doubt frontwoman’s native Orange County, but it’s close.

📍 Marina Green Park, Long Beach
🗓️ Friday-Sunday, Feb. 16-18
🎟️ $330 GA for all three days, single-day wristbands available
🔗 calivibesfest.com

A singer in a green dress on a dark festival stage is lit from behind and shot at a low angle
Yukimi Nagano is the lead singer of the Swedish indie band Little Dragon, who will perform at CRSSD in March. | Source: Courtesy Frank Hoensch/Redferns/Getty Images

The Closest Thing to Treasure Island Music Fest: CRSSD

Anyone who fondly remembers the Treasure Island Music Festival, which bowed out more than five years ago, should consider San Diego’s twice-a-year electronic-heavy festival, CRSSD. To be clear, CRSSD—pronounced “crossed,” not “cursed”—is hardly a mainstream festival.

But the house-and-techno lovers who hang out at San Francisco’s Monarch and the Midway will feel right at home. If Armand Van Helden, Richie Hawtin, Little Dragon and Jan Blomqvist aren’t familiar names to you, ask your friends who party until the wee hours and watch their eyes bug out.

📍 Waterfront Park, San Diego
🗓️ Saturday and Sunday, March 2-3
🎟️ $239 GA for both days
🔗 crssdfest.com

A drag queen strikes a pose while deejaying
Outside Lands no-show Trixie Mattel will perform at Stagecoach, the Coachella Valley's other huge festival. | Source: Courtesy Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix

That Other One in Indio: Stagecoach

One week after the influencers depart from Coachella, Indio’s Empire Polo Club plays host to a second festival. Eclectic almost to a fault, Stagecoach’s lineup is a delightful mishmash of genres and styles, from up-and-comers whose agents were definitely at Coachella to legacy acts whose grandkids were, too. 

Though it’s already sold out, try your luck with the waitlist because there’s nowhere else to see Chris Stapleton and Miranda Lambert on the same roster as ZZ Top and Melissa Etheridge, along with Elle King, the Beach Boys, Diplo, Willie Nelson and drag queen Trixie Mattel—who canceled her 2023 Outside Lands appearance for unspecified reasons. It’s 105 degrees, it’s absurdly expensive and, as with Coachella, you can only drink alcohol in designated areas. But you can’t put a price on those desert sunsets.

📍 Empire Polo Grounds, Indio
🗓️ Friday-Sunday, April 26-28
🎟️ Sold out; $724 waitlist GA for all three days
🔗 stagecoachfestival.com

A SoCal Party That's Gonna Get Bigger: BeachLife

The “Best Music Festival in Los Angeles” isn’t actually in LA, but apart from that little white lie, BeachLife represents a lot of bang for the buck. Get thee to Redondo Beach for a three-day jolt of headliners Sting, Incubus and My Morning Jacket, who are likely to attract very different crowds on all three days.

The fest’s second tier is equally off-beat, ranging from Devo and Seal to Phish’s ex-frontman Trey Anastasio and the should-be-more-famous Santigold. Considering all that talent, this is an oddly affordable, low-profile festival that’s almost certain to get way bigger in the years to come. Go in 2024 and be one of those people who remembers BeachLife before it blew up.

📍 Redondo Beach Pier, Redondo Beach
🗓️ Friday-Sunday, May 3-5
🎟️ $359 GA for all three days, single-day tickets available
🔗 beachlifefestival.com

Thundercat in sunglasses and blond hair giving a thumbs up
Grammy Award winner Thundercat will headline Shabang's 10th anniversary festival. | Source: Courtesy Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

The Central Coast Festival That Could: Shabang

Ten years after it began as a mountainside “festival” for fewer than two dozen people, Shabang has become a four-stage affair that’s gradually capitalized on the Central Coast’s undeniable appeal.

An electronic-heavy weekend that sidesteps Vegas megaclub-style shenanigans, Shabang nabbed Grammy-winning Thundercat and Vancouver alt-rockers Peach Pit to top the bill, with a strong indie house presence from festival circuit mainstays Walker & Royce and Nala. There’s also an actual, furnished house with a silent disco called Haüs Party that’s one big ode to SLO.

📍 Dairy Creek Golf Course, San Luis Obispo
🗓️ Friday-Saturday, May 3-4
🎟️ Early bird tickets sold out, regular tickets TBA
🔗 shabangslo.com

Noise Pop's Party in Marin: Mill Valley Music Festival

Headlined by two quintets—the harmonic indie folk darlings Fleet Foxes and the visually dazzling Greensky Bluegrass—Mill Valley Music Festival is basically the anti-Coachella, an all-ages party with plenty of jams.

For the third year running, Noise Pop and the Mill Valley Chamber will join forces for a relaxed, manageable weekend that doesn’t require a camping pass. As with Outside Lands, the commitment to good food from local restaurants is a strong plus.

📍 Friends Field, Mill Valley
🗓️ Saturday and Sunday, May 11-12
🎟️ $209 GA for both days
🔗 millvalleymusicfest.com

Debbie Harry of Blondie looking over her shoulder in a cloak.
Debbie Harry of Blondie is almost 80, and she's definitely still got it. | Source: Courtesy Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press via Getty Images

Where Gen X Is King Again: Cruel World

Relive Prom Night 1986 in Pasadena when goths and New Wave kids swoon en masse for Duran Duran, Simple Minds, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Adam Ant and Blondie. To spice it up a little, Interpol and the Faint will be there, too.

Held at Brookside at the Rose Bowl—in other words, the golf course next to the stadium—Cruel World is Gen X catnip for anyone who’s not too cool to sing along to Soft Cell’s irresistible cover of “Tainted Love.” Gary Numan is playing his 1979 debut The Pleasure Principle in full. Yes, that’s the one with “Cars.”

📍 Brookside at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena
🗓️ Saturday, May 11
🎟️ $209 GA
🔗 cruelworldfest.com

Millennial Nostalgia Hour: Just Like Heaven

The festival’s first two years were top-tier geriatric millennial bait. But the third iteration of Just Like Heaven promises maximum indie nostalgia for anyone who ever had a MySpace Top Eight.

Taking place one week after Cruel World, this is a well-run, geographically compact festival that likewise manages to pack a ton of action into a single day. With headliners the Postal Service, Phoenix and Death Cab for Cutie, the lineup is strongly tilted toward straight white guys. But given the golf course setting, at least it’s thematically consistent. 

📍 Brookside at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena
🗓️ Saturday, May 18
🎟️ $159 GA
🔗 justlikeheavenfest.com

St. Vincent seen on a screen projection above her as she plays on stage with her band.
The multitalented St. Vincent is among the many highlights of BottleRock 2024. | Source: Courtesy Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Your New Favorite Reason To Go to Napa: BottleRock

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of summer, and once again BottleRock packs an entire summer’s worth of concerts into a single weekend. This impressively comprehensive festival has long put all its growing pains behind it, and now there’s something for everyone whether you’re of drinking age or not.

Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam and Ed Sheeran top this year’s bill, with plenty of undercard acts who don’t appear to be playing many other California festivals in 2024, like Megan Thee Stallion, St. Vincent, Action Bronson, Kali Uchis and T-Pain. And, of course: wine, wine, wine.

📍 Napa Valley Expo
🗓️ Friday-Sunday, May 24-26
🎟️ $199 single-day tickets available
🔗 bottlerocknapavalley.com

The Burning Man Dry Run: Lightning in a Bottle

A kind of prep sesh for that famous, end-of-summer party in Black Rock City, Lightning in a Bottle is an experience unlike any other festival. EDM-centric, but with a strong hippie undercurrent, it’s as if the Do LaB stage at Coachella expanded to a very long weekend with numerous stages of its own. In other words, it’s a multiday rave on an artificial lake.

Held outside Bakersfield beyond the reach of any curfews, LiB is the rare camping festival whose official programming runs until 4 a.m. The lineup was released by accident last week, and it’s full of gems from Fatboy Slim, M.I.A., Lane 8, James Blake and Mura Masa. Hot, dusty and occasionally prone to extreme weather—like 2019’s famously stormy “Lightning and a Puddle”—this one’s not for the newbies.

📍 Buena Vista Lake, Bakersfield
🗓️ Tuesday-Monday, May 22-27
🎟️ $369 for 3 days
🔗 libfestival.org

Astrid Kane can be reached at astrid@sfstandard.com