Music festivals are popping up all around us like heads on a hydra. From massive events like Coachella and Vive Latino, to smaller more focused enterprises like NRMAL and Viva!, the proliferation of these artistic gatherings is allowing bookers to zero in on emerging scenes around the globe.
Music festivals are helping develop and expand underground movements into major cultural forces while also giving young talent the means to perform in cities that might otherwise be financially unfeasible for them to reach. Latin America has fully embraced this booming new industry, and though music festivals aren’t new to the region, the rapidly diversifying musical calendar is motivating an increasing number of fans to travel for these unique experiences.
We’ve put together a list of festivals worth packing your bags and blasting off to enjoy. Whether it’s a matter of seeing artists that haven’t come to your neck of the woods or simply scratching the itch for a getaway adventure, these excellent Latin American festivals represent the curatorial prowess of local tastemakers across the continent. Our selections range from blockbusters to the fresh-faced, yet they all exist within unique local contexts. Questions of sustainability, financial drain, and headliner fatigue are coming up frequently enough that they should not be ignored, but as long as organizers continue to offer exciting events that engage and benefit the communities that host them, the industry will continue to thrill and thrive.
Estéreo Picnic (Colombia)
Estéreo Picnic may be the largest music festival in Colombia, but that hasn’t stopped organizers from crafting brilliant, dizzying lineups year after year. From booking massive global headliners including The Killers, Gorillaz, and Lana del Rey, to anticipated performances by national heroes like Bomba Estéreo and Ondatrópica, the festival is covering every possible musical base with their eclectic mélange of mainstream and emerging talent. If you’re looking for the turn up, make sure to check out local dance savants Dany F, Ácido Pantera and killer MC Cynthia Montaño. And if you need to satiate your indie hunger, sets by La Vida Boheme, Buscabulla, Telebit, and Centavrvs should be at the top of your list.
Estéreo Picnic goes down March 23 – 25 in Bogotá, Colombia and you can purchase tickets here.
Ruidosa Fest (Chile)
As most music festivals continue to ignore the jarring lack of women in their lineups, Chile’s Ruidosa Fest was born from the urgent need for platforms that highlight and amplify women’s voices in the entertainment industry. Started in 2016 by Chilean pop singer-songwriter Francisca Valenzuela, Ruidosa is entering its third year with a comprehensive program of concerts, standup comedy, thought-provoking talks and an artist’s market. The lineup includes Valenzuela herself, as well as iconic Chilean rockstar Javiera Parra, emerging avant-garde producer Lia Nadja, comedian Jani Dueñas, a choir performance directed by shimmering indie pop starlet Natisú and many more badass mujeres.
Ruidosa Fest will take place around Santiago, Chile April 4–7. For more information on the different events click here and to purchase tickets for Saturday, April 7’s full-scale festival day click here.
Isle of Light (Dominican Republic)
Dominicans can light up any dance floor with their legendary bachata and merengue skills, but Isle of Light is making sure the island of Quisqueya is not confined to any specific musical box. Entering its fifth edition, organizers have put together their most ambitious lineup to date with headliners Bomba Estéreo and Washed Out leading the way while local underground electronic forces like Estación Sub_Trópico and Laura Pilarte represent for the home team. Colombian dancehall darlings Salt Cathedral and Dominican hip-hop masterminds Whitest Taino Alive have added to the hype surrounding the festival, leading to the last-minute addition of a second date headlined by Boricua trap king Bad Bunny.
Isle of Light goes down on April 14 and 15 at Santo Domingo’s Punta Torrecilla lighthouse. You can purchase tickets here.
Capital cities and corporate interests dominate cultural landscapes all too often, and that is exactly what Selvámonos is aiming to decentralize over in Peru. Making their home in the interior town of Oxopampa, in the region of Selva Alta, Sélvamonos is entering its 10th year offering an eco-friendly alternative to big urban fests. This year’s edition promises an eclectic lineup of electronic dance music, from the organic sounds of Colombia’s Cero39 and Argentina’s Chancha via Circuito, to the urgent experimentation of Peru’s own Orieta Chrem and the stadium-sized beats of French producer Phil Weeks.
Selvámonos will be taking over Oxopampa on April 14. Purchase your tickets here.
Epicentro (Costa Rica)
At this point in the game, everyone should be paying attention to Costa Rica’s wildly prolific and diverse indie scene, and this year the exquisitely curated Epicentro festival has once again caught our eye. Shrouded in heavy secrecy, festival organizers have finally begun unveiling a brilliant lineup that includes local stars Las Robertas and Javier Arce, Mexican indie rock gods Little Jesus, Chilean pop prince Alex Anwandter and bad boys Jesse Baez and Álvaro Díaz. Though only about a third of the bill has been revealed, our imagination is running wild with dreams of euphoric singalongs in the hot Costa Rican sun.
Epicentro will take place on April 22 at San José, Costa Rica’s Parque Viva. For tickets and more information click here.
Saca el Diablo (Ecuador)
The fourth edition of Quito-based festival Saca el Diablo is reaching for new musical heights with an extraordinary lineup bringing together some of South America’s brightest musical minds. Beyond headliners Bomba Estéreo, who seem to be everywhere this festival season, the bill includes spellbinding Argentine high-priestess Juana Molina and Ecuadorian production powerhouses Nicola Cruz and EVHA. Swing Original Monks will showcase their essential mix of electronic beats and traditional rhythms while acts like La Madre Tirana and Quixosis highlight the boundary pushing sounds of the Ecuadorian underground.
Saca el Diablo goes down April 28 in Quito, Ecuador at Plaza Deportiva Cumbayá. Purchase tickets here.
Empire Music Festival (Guatemala)
Guatemala’s Empire Music Festival is a high-end concert-going experience complete with camping, food trucks, and shuttle buses from Guatemala City to the nearby town of El Jocotillo, where festivities are being held. Now in its fifth year, the festival attracts locals and visitors from across Central America, with a massive lineup catering to rock, hip-hop, reggae and EDM fans. If you’re attracted to international hype, Steve Aoki, Matisyahu, Maldita Vecindad, Farruko and La Mala Rodriguez should have you well covered. For a more local taste, check out Guatemalan DJs Francis Dávila and Roberto Ruano and Costa Rica’s Melissa O.
Empire Music Festival will take place May 4–6 in El Jocotillo, Guatemala. Purchase tickets here.
Festival Bananada (Brazil)
Brazil’s most visionary festival is turning 20 years old in 2018, and Bananada organizers have decided everyone is invited to the party. Located in the central city of Goiânia, Festival Bananada has developed a fiercely loyal following for their meticulous balance of local and international talent at emerging and mainstream levels. This year, tropicalia icon Gilberto Gil tops the bill in a line-up teaming with powerful Brazilian talent, including Pabllo Vittar, Boogarins, Rimas e Melodias, Francisco El Hombre, and Ava Rocha. Organizers have also invited several international artists, like Colombian psych lunatics Meridian Brothers and Chilean pop princess Javiera Mena, while also curating a small discovery stage for showcasing local garage bands.
Festival Bananda will take place May 7–13 in Goiânia, Brazil. Purchase tickets here.
LTDO MX (Mexico)
Pronounced Latido, LTDO MX is one of the most promising new festivals in the Mexican music landscape. Entering its second year as a major attraction in Guanajuato, about two hours outside Mexico City, organizers are doubling down on their commitment to the national indie scene with a stellar sophomore lineup. Influential indie rock acts Porter and Hello Seahorse! will be accompanied by buzzy names in the fields of folk, pop and hip-hop, including LNG/SHT, Girl Ultra, The Plastics Revolution, Dromedarios Mágicos, and Los Blenders. Look for glittery sets by international acts Elsa y Elmar and Jessy Lanza, while NAAFI keeps the party going late into the night.
LTDO MX takes place May 19 in Guanajuato, Mexico’s Parque Bicentenario. Purchase tickets here.
Festival Marvin (Mexico)
Despite Mexico’s crowded music calendar, Festival Marvin consistently shines as one of the most fascinating events of the year. The festival plays out as a series of intimate but packed concerts, workshops, and comedy shows across Mexico City, with talent ranging from buzzy to legendary. This year, international bill toppers include Buzzcocks, The Drums and indie names like Planeta No, The Marías and Tall Juan, all ready to delight Mexican audiences. But don’t sleep on the excellent local artists slated to appear, with acts like Hadrian, Marcela Viejo and Simpson Ahuevo representing a scene at the top of its game and showing no signs of slowing down.
Festival Marvin takes place May 17–19 in Mexico City. Find tickets and more information here.
Nuestro Verano Fest (El Salvador)
There is a collective effort happening in El Salvador where artists and community organizers are working to dispel looming perceptions of violence and instability by stimulating cultural initiatives. Nuestro Verano Fest, the latest in a series of shows held at influential community center La Casa Tomada, will put a focus on Salvadoran DIY in hopes of promoting and strengthening the local music scene. With a headlining slot by Argentina’s El Mató Un Policía Motorizado, the rest of the lineup is comprised of Salvadoran acts like surfy punks The Vibes, synthpop outfit Manyula Dance Club and activist MC Snif, all coming together for a day of earthshaking music.
Nuestro Verano Fest takes place on March 25 in San Salvador, El Salvador. Purchase tickets here.