Music: Corporate vs. homegrown festivals

Last year, thousands of music lovers gathered at the Gorge Amphitheater Memorial Day weekend for Sasquatch! 2012. (Mason Trinca/Freelance Photographer)

Last year, thousands of music lovers gathered at the Gorge Amphitheater Memorial Day weekend for Sasquatch! 2012. (Mason Trinca/Freelance Photographer)

Posted by Kevin Piaskowski on Tuesday, Mar. 5 at 10:43 am.

With the consistent popularization of summer music festivals, the entire culture is splintering among different styles of events. The most prominent divide is between the advent of big money festivals with corporate investors versus the more homegrown, small-scale festivals that have cropped up around the country in recent years. Neither one is necessarily better than the other — however the experience varies drastically.

Take Sasquatch! for example. Each year the 4-day event sells out and thousands of festival-goers converge on The Gorge. And the line-up is always solid, year after year. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But the advertising is blatant. When you walk through the gates, you’re greeted with a massive Honda exhibit complete with corporate representatives. Moreover, the festival is owned and managed by Live Nation, America’s largest event production company.

But Sasquatch! isn’t the only event like this. Coachella, Electric Forest, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Ultra and Electric Zoo are all prime examples of big-money festivals.

The big-money festivals, however, bring in the biggest names in the music world, and that’s the most important aspect to these festivals. Plus, who doesn’t want to see world class acts in equally world class venues? But the sheer amount of people in attendance at the festivals can get pretty overwhelming, especially on a year to year basis when attitudes and vibes change, as they naturally do.

That’s the void that more homegrown, grassroots festivals fill. Summer Meltdown in Northern Washington, What The Festival in Eastern Oregon, Lightning In A Bottle in Temecula,  Calif., and others across the country strive to provide both exceptional music and a transformative, experience-oriented aesthetic that is unmatched by the big-money festivals.

Both versions of the festival experience are great and serve different purposes, but it’s important to understand the difference and know that options exist outside of the giant festivals listed above. Going to a festival with an attendance limit of under 5,000 is an experience, and you have more of an opportunity to connect and network with others in attendance.

Now, with festival season fast approaching, be careful to choose your festivals with care and try out a festival that you wouldn’t normally consider. Go to the homegrown festival, see what it’s all about and experience the difference.