The 10 Best Music Festivals in Dallas-Fort Worth

It's festival season in Dallas, but which fests do you need to be sure you save your money to attend?
It's festival season in Dallas, but which fests do you need to be sure you save your money to attend?
Mike Brooks

Texas is in the thick of festival season, and that goes for much more than just the marquee events in Austin. Dallas plays host to some of the year's biggest North Texas music festivals, made possible thanks to the cooler weather of the fall. That means it's a perfect occasion to take a look at which festivals — from all the across the calendar year — stand out from the pack in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The Old 97's host the County Fair.
The Old 97's host the County Fair.
Mike Brooks

10. Old 97's County Fair

Rhett Miller and Company play so often in DFW that it's easy to take them for granted. Last April, though, they threw some excitement into the proceedings by introducing a daylong festival located in the heart of downtown Dallas' Main Street District. The Old 97's served as headliners and brought some of the heaviest hitters in the Americana genre along with them, like Drive-By Truckers, Nikki Lane and Justin Townes Earle. With the help of the Homegrown organizers, they also served up some of the area's finest food truck offerings, plus carnival games and a giant Ferris wheel — making it something of an off-season sampling of the Texas State Fair. Jeff Strowe

Rev. Horton Heat at Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest.
Rev. Horton Heat at Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest.
Mike Brooks

9. Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest

Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest, so named after tattoo artist and festival co-founder Oliver Peck's parlor, is as Deep Ellum as a music festival gets. Based at the bar that never sleeps, Three Links, and boasting Rev. Horton Heat as a co-founder and annual headliner, the Tattoo Fest has a long list of punk acts that have been on the bill, from Agnostic Front to Black Flag to Leftover Crack. It's the antithesis to the "uptownization" of the neighborhood. Still, having once rotated from year to year to land on Friday the 13th (anyone and everyone who attends has a No. 13 tattoo), even the Tattoo Fest has gone a little more straight laced, settling this year on a regular date in May. Jeff Gage

Denton Arts & Jazz Fest.
Denton Arts & Jazz Fest.
Ed Steele

8. Denton Arts & Jazz Fest

With The University of North Texas sporting a world-renowned jazz program, it's little wonder that this festival shines as one of DFW's brightest beacons of musical performance. Spread out across 20 acres of downtown Denton park space, the weekend-long event showcases both accomplished local performers like UNT's One O' Clock Lab Band and a bevy of regional and national acts that fill the festival's seven stages — though it's not exclusively jazz that gets booked there, either. The grounds are filled with countless arts and crafts stands, traditional Texas cuisine, and boatloads of beer and wine. And, oh yeah, admission is totally free of charge. Hard to argue with that. JS

Charles Bradley at 35 Denton.
Charles Bradley at 35 Denton.
Ed Steele

7. 35 Denton

35 Denton is the blueprint for the downtown Denton music festival. Combining smaller outdoor stages and indoor bar and restaurant spaces, each spring 35 Denton turns the town square area into a melting pot of musical acts, performance artists and curious onlookers. It's the same format used by Oaktopia, although its arguably lost a step to its younger counterpart since taking a hiatus in 2014. But the point is less about quantity and more about quality. Whether you're head banging into the night with White Lung, engaging with locals like Will Johnson and Jessie Frye, or sitting in on a cigar box guitar workshop, you'll find yourself joyfully entertained. JS

Lights All Night.EXPAND
Lights All Night.
Roderick Pullum

6. Lights All Night

The biggest annual music festival in Dallas is one that certain music fans aren't likely to take seriously. That's because it's an EDM festival, what with all those kids wearing neon and waving glow sticks while a DJ pushes buttons on the stage. Except Lights All Night is an event that should be taken very seriously, as they've consistently booked some of the biggest DJs in the world, like Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Kaskade. Now established as a New Year's tradition, LAN can fill up Dallas Market Hall two nights in a row — and this year, they've even expanded with a second installment in El Paso. LAN is big, and it's continuing to grow. JG



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