Fall Fests for Southern Music Lovers

Whether you’re hopping from stage to stage in Texas, making a “Pilgrimage” to Tennessee, or grooving for a good cause in West Virginia, the arrival of cooler weather brings a stellar roster of live music gatherings

Photo: Courtesy of Bourbon & Beyond

Bourbon & Beyond Festival in Louisville, Kentucky.

Summer music festivals get a lot of love, and for good reason. For those of us in the South, though, fall fests bring a new level of awesome, dialing down the sweat in favor of earlier sunsets, crisp breezes, and, in some cases, a backdrop of colorful changing leaves. Yes, you’ll have to schedule some of these events around college game days and the occasional outdoor wedding. But from multi-day music marathons to a culinary-themed gathering to a bourbon-meets-music bash, these eight upcoming fests offer plenty of reasons to make room on your fall docket.

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Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival

September 8–10

Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia

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Held on the border of Tennessee and Virginia—often touted as the “birthplace of country music”—Bristol Rhythm & Roots boasts a whopping hundred-plus bands across thirteen stages, with a little something for roots music fans of all stripes. This year’s lineup is once again dominated by Southern women (and plenty of G&G faves): Margo Price, Larkin Poe, Allison Russell, Adia Victoria, Sierra Hull, and Kelsey Waldon will all make appearances at the iconic event. Other must-catch sets include Tommy Prine, Nickel Creek, and Marty Stuart. Feel free to bring the kids along for the fun: Children twelve and under are admitted at no cost.

Bourbon & Beyond

September 15–18

Louisville, Kentucky 

photo: Courtesy of Bourbon & Beyond

Billing itself as the “world’s biggest bourbon and music festival,” Bourbon & Beyond kicked off its inaugural event in 2017 with 50,000 attendees, and it’s easy to see the Kentucky fest’s allure. Catch sets from Brandi Carlile, Jon Batiste, Billy Strings, or Brittany Howard while sampling bourbons from distilleries across the state—including an impressive selection of rare and vintage pours in the on-site Hunter’s Club. While tent or RV camping is offered on festival grounds, there’s always the option to headquarter at one of the fest’s many hotel partners and spend some time exploring downtown Louisville’s booming bourbon scene.

Americana Music Festival

September 19–23

Nashville, Tennessee

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You don’t have to bring a blanket or pitch a tent to enjoy a marathon of live Southern tunes. Just ask patrons of Americana Music Festival, the multi-day, multi-venue showcase and conference that has taken over downtown Nashville for more than twenty years. The marquee event is the mid-week Americana Music Awards at the Ryman on Wednesday, September 20. This year’s nominees include Tyler Childers, Charley Crockett, Sierra Ferrell, S.G. Goodman, and many more notables. But with Americanafest’s hundreds of live performances throughout the week, some of the most memorable moments each year are the ones you can’t predict.

Healing Appalachia

September 21–23 

Lewisburg, West Virginia

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This three-day event boasts a remarkable lineup, and it serves a greater purpose too: Proceeds benefit recovery programs around the South, with more than forty organizations at the event to spread awareness about the opioid epidemic and provide education to attendees. Drive in each day or choose from multiple campsites (RV areas, family camping, or a separate campground for those in recovery are all options) to enjoy sets from Marcus King, Amythyst Kiah, Umphrey’s McGee, Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, and whole host of other incredible talents. 

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

September 23–24

Franklin, Tennessee 

photo: Jason Kempin
The Black Keys at Pilgrimage.

Founded by three lifelong friends, Pilgrimage is a family-friendly festival complete with children’s programming, an art barn, a food truck village, and cultural conversations. And then there’s the music, which includes a mix of Americana, jazz, indie rock, and country. Previous years’ headliners have included Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Justin Timberlake (an early partner and producer of the festival), and Mavis Staples. This year brings sets from Zach Bryan, Yola, Hailey Whitters, Nathaniel Rateliff, Ashley McBryde, and many other favorites. Be sure to venture beyond the headliners too: Rising country stars like Madeline Edwards or songwriting heavyweights like Charlie Worsham just might wind up being the highlight of your trip.

Riverfront Revival

October 7–8

North Charleston, South Carolina

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If you missed Charleston’s High Water Festival in the spring, you can still enjoy a torrent of great music at North Charleston’s Riverfront Park come October. Now in its second year, the event is curated by hometown hero Darius Rucker and brings together a variety of country and “country-adjacent” bands for a weekend immersion along the banks of the Cooper River. Performers include Rucker himself along with Turnpike Troubadours, Lainey Wilson, Band of Horses, and many more top Southern acts. Attending this two-day shindig benefits a local cause too: Proceeds will go to the Shawn Jenkins Childrens Hospital at Medical University of South Carolina.

Austin City Limits

October 6–8 and 13–15

Austin, Texas

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Founded in 2002, this music fan rite of passage has officially been too big for one weekend since 2012, when the city unanimously voted to allow the beloved three-day gathering to expand into two separately ticketed events. That means you’ve got two chances to find time for a fall weekend in the Lone Star State with Shania Twain, Brittney Spencer, Maggie Rogers, Devon Gilfillian, and more. At a fest this big, it may even be worth shelling out for a premium or VIP ticket for perks including special viewing areas, air-conditioned lounge access, or a golf cart shuttle around the grounds.

Highlands Food & Wine

November 9–12

Highlands, North Carolina

Sure, Highlands Food & Wine doesn’t mention music in the title. And yes, it is best known as a culinary event. But don’t overlook the musical offerings, which have evolved and grown in recent years. This November, those who head to the North Carolina mountains for food and drink from top chefs in the Southeast and beyond will also enjoy sets from Katie Pruitt, Grace Potter, The War & Treaty, and more Southern talents.

photo: Maggie Braucher / Highlands Food & Wine