What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals


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Photo by Anthony Delanoix

It's starting to feel as though the only “summer” attire you can purchase are oversized circular sunglasses and knit halter tops. Its festival season, which means literally every store has some sort of Coachella-inspired, boho-chic clothing collection that either screams “Yay!” or “Nay.” With countless hippie-looking items lining every shelf, it can be tough to distinguish what’s in for this year’s festival season. Below are the eight things you need in your closet to amp up your wardrobe for a spring you can afford.

Then, below, check out some of the most exciting festivals this year—with a quick guide on what to wear to each.

1. Open Knit Fringe Crop Tops

They’re cute but comfortable, which is essential when living the festival life for a week straight. Knit tops are soft and typically in nude colors or basic patterns that go with anything. It’s very versatile. Examples: Charlotte Russe ($6.99), Forever 21 ($28.00)

2. Metallic Temporary Tattoos

Metallic tattoos can really make a festival outfit pop. The tattoos resemble fake jewelry, such as bracelets, arm cuffs, and rings. Examples: Amazon ($7.99), Walmart ($5.99)

3. Round Tinted Sunglasses

It’s not a music festival without some sort of circular eyewear. Plus, sunglasses are a must! Standing out in the hot sun all day long without UV protectant puts a real damper on the party, and the artist you were waiting all year to see will suddenly morph into a black shadow spitting out lyrics. Make chic shades a priority. Examples: Forever 21 ($7.90), Free People ($20.00)

4. Head Jewelry

Flower crowns are a thing of the past. Coachella even passed them up this year. Head jewelry is the next best thing. The dangling strands lying across your flowing locks give any festival outfit that extra boho touch. Claire’s ($12.99), Icing ($12.99)

5. High-Waisted Shorts

White, flowy boho skirts are an adorable addition to any festival outfit, but they aren’t exactly practical. As any seasoned festival goer knows, the party grounds are a muddy mess and usually result in your boots and bottoms getting absolutely destroyed. So swap out your hippie skirt for a sleek pair of high-waisted shorts that will not only complete your look but adhere to festival conditions. Examples: American Eagle ($29.97), Forever 21 ($28.00)

6. Face Jewels

Now, makeup at a music festival isn’t going to cut it. Crossing that line is what separates the festival newbies from the veterans. While the goal of festivals is to look presentable and "pretty," festival wear is considered to be a little bit "out there." People are striving to look unique and otherworldly. That’s the fun of the music-festival environment. Face jewels help accomplish this. They are pretty to look at and give any outfit the boost it needs to make it past festival-fashion police. Ulta Beauty ($12.00), Sephora ($12.00)

7. Tiny Backpacks

At music festivals, people need something small, convenient, and easy to carry to harbor their basic essentials: money, a charger, and a phone. Tiny backpacks are the perfect solution. Miniature backpacks are fashionable and easily wearable with festival attire. It’s an easy way to look cute and make sure you don’t lose your valuables. Rue 21 ($19.99), Forever 21 ($24.90)

8. Combat Boots

As mentioned, music festivals tend to get extremely muddy throughout the day. Investing your cold hard cash in a fancy pair of cool-looking festival shoes isn’t going to cut it. You will be wasting your money on a pair of new kicks that will come out looking like you ran them over with a truck multiple times. You can still look fashionable while wearing practical shoes. Combat boots are your best bet. This type of shoe is boot-like in nature but is sold in all sorts of styles, patterns, and colors to match with any outfit. The key is that this shoe is a type of fashion boot; therefore, it’ll protect your feet from mud pits while keeping your festival outfit in tact. Examples: Hot Topic ($49.90), Hot Topic ($44.90)


All gussied up? Here are a few large-scale festivals that music enthusiasts should plan to attend, whether you’re already here or soon to arrive in the Land of 10,000 Lakes:

1. Chmielewski Polkafest

When: May 18-20
Where: Grand Casino Mille Lacs Hinckley, 777 Grand Ave., Onamia
Tickets: grandcasinomn.com
With 10 bands and more than 30 hours of dancing, it’s no wonder Polkafest has been around for 40 years. The polka kicks off at noon on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, musicians playing for an hour at a time and including Alaska Polka Chips, Rod Cerar Orchestra, and Singing Slovenes.

Three things to wear: patterned 1920s-style modern dress, vintage Mary Janes, matching lipstick

2. Soundset

When: May 27, 11 a.m.
Where: Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Tickets: soundsetfestival.com
Soundset has launched underground hip-hop careers for more than 10 years. The annual festival, held over Memorial Day weekend, will draw thousands to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul—last year breaking records with about 35,000. This year’s lineup includes such headliners as Migos, Logic, Atmosphere, Erykah Badu, Russ, and Tyler, the Creator.

Three things to wear: halter crop top, high-rise stressed shorts, colored Converse sneakers 

3. Rock the Garden

When: June 16
Where: Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Pl., Minneapolis
Tickets: rockthegardenfestival.com
Hosted by the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current, Rock the Garden is all about getting "viby." The annual indie-rock music festival this year features Father John Misty, Feist, Nikki Lane, Low Cut Connie, Shame, along with local favorites hip-hop artist P.O.S and singer-songwriter Chastity Brown.

Three things to wear: clustered bangles, dream-catcher earrings, white sundress

4. Twin Cities Hot Summer Jazz Festival

When: June 21-23
Where: Mears Park, 221 E Fifth St., St. Paul
Tickets: twincitiesjazzfestival.com
This three-day fest attracts more than 30,000 jazz lovers every year, and this year marks the jazz festival’s 20th anniversary. Covering most of the Lowertown neighborhood, the fest’s main hub is Mears Park. This year’s acts include Tia Fuller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Houston Person, and Nayo Jones. Grab your lawn chair, pop a squat, and keep an eye out for the more-than-100 youth acts showcased, too.

Three things to wear: pinstripe vest, classy black shorts, simple multilayer dangle necklace

5. Northern Lights Music Festival

When: July 1-21
Where: Various locations
Tickets: northernlightsmusic.org
For music lovers who enjoy more traditional tunes, the Northern Lights Music Festival showcases the classical talents of international and local musicians, from orchestral to operatic. One of Minnesota’s largest music festivals, Northern Lights hosts three weeks of performances, bringing classical music and Twin Cities residents to the Iron Range for a world-class show in gorgeous historic venues.

Three things to wear: white T-shirt, high-waisted medium wash shorts, white Converse sneakers

6. Basilica Block Party Music Festival

When: July 6-7
Where: Basilica of Saint Mary, Minneapolis
Tickets: basilicablockparty.org
The Basilica Block Party Music Festival celebrates Minneapolis with the city skyline as the backdrop, so no surprise that it’s one of the most-attended alt-rock music festivals in Minnesota, attracting more than 25,000 attendees every year. This year's lineup includes Fitz and the Tantrums, Lady Lark, CAKE, and Andy Grammer. The block party’s proceeds go to the Basilica Landmark restoration fund to structurally upkeep the historic building (the first basilica in the U.S.), as well as to aid the St. Vincent de Paul outreach program, providing services for people in need.

Three things to wear: artsy band T-shirt, thick black choker, free-flowing black skirt

7. Moondance Jam

When: July 18-21
Where: Moondance Events, 7050 Turtle Lake Twsh 46, Walker
Tickets: moondancejam.com
Minnesota’s largest rock ’n’ roll festival of the year features regional and big-name bands, including this year’s iconic classic-rock headliners Kid Rock, Brett Michaels, Tesla, Kansas, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Located in Walker, Minnesota, the festivities temporarily take over the Chippewa National Forest for three days. It’s been acclaimed as “the best classic rock festival in the nation” since 2004.

Three things to wear: ripped cut-off tank top, ripped jeans, studded belt

8. Bayfront Reggae and World Music Festival

When: July 21, 11 a.m.
Where: Bayfront Festival Park, Fifth Ave. W. and Railroad St., Duluth
Tickets: bayfrontworldmusic.com  
The Bayfront Reggae and World Music Fest is all about diversity and equality. Artists strive to incorporate impactful issues into their performances. Past artists include Cham, Wayne Wonder, and Capleton. The 2018 lineup has not been released yet, but reggae and world music lovers should keep an eye out—and remember the world cuisine is worth sticking around for.

Three things to wear: thrifted high-waisted striped pants, vintage top, modern wide-brim hat

9. Vans Warped Tour

When: July 22, 11 a.m.
Where: Canterbury Park, 1100 Canterbury Rd., Shakopee
Tickets: vanswarpedtour.com
The largest traveling rock festival in the country comes to Shakopee this summer. The eclectic alt-rock and punk festival has showcased hundreds of big names and budding bands nationwide. The six large-scale stages host about 12 groups per venue, with performers including Mayday Parade, 30H!3, and Asking Alexandria. Check out Down in the Valley record stores for tickets.

Three things to wear: neon cut-off crop top, black stressed shorts, clunky black punk boots 

10. WE Fest

When: August 2-4
Where: Soo Pass Dude Ranch, 25526 Co. Hwy. 22, Detroit Lakes
Tickets: wefest.com
Country-music festival WE Fest, at the Soo Pass Dude Ranch in Detroit Lakes, is the best time for Minnesotans to grab their cowboy hats and tie up their flannel shirts. It’s one of the country’s biggest: a full weekend of strumming guitars and Southern twang. This year’s lineup includes the pop talents of Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line, along with Jason Aldean and Chris Young. The air will be filled with the scent of beer; don’t miss the huge outdoor bar.

Three things to wear: ranch boots, Western hat, flannel tie-up crop top

11. Boundary Waters Blues Festival

When: August 31-September 1
Where: Boundary Waters Blues Festival, 127 East Sheridan, Ely
Tickets: elyblues.com  
Top blues artists have traveled to Ely over the past 16 years to perform at the Boundary Waters Blues Festival. It prides itself on family friendliness, since many music festivals skew young-adult. Headliners haven’t been released yet, but the festival staff informs blues enthusiasts to keep an eye out for details on more than 30 blues artists and groups.

Three things to wear: dark-wash jeans, vibrant wedges, fedora

12. Sonshine

When: Date TBA
Where: Somerset Amphitheater, 495 Main St., Somerset
More information: creationfest.com
The Christian music festival had to cancel last year’s concert due to lack of financial backings, but it’s trying to come back for 2018. Although it moved across the border to Wisconsin, it’s just 42 minutes from the Twin Cities.

Three things to wear: rainbow Kandi kit bracelets, fun colored sunglasses, nude lacy shirt

13. Midwest Music Fest

When: April 27-28
Where: Various locations throughout Winona
Tickets: midwestmusicfest.org
More than 120 bands perform in LaCrosse and Winona in locations scattered throughout the river towns. The volunteer-driven festival is an all-genre fest that prides itself on its nonprofit program Sounds like School, an organization that strives to grow students’ appreciation for music. The fests’ mission is to support budding artists while enhancing both river towns’ downtown life. In its ninth year, the Midwest Music Fest presents fresh-off-the-press performers.

Three things to wear: ripped jeans, tucked-in patterned top, strappy sandals

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