8 Music Festival Names That Rock

? ? ? ? ? ?

The summer music festival season, which kicks into gear in May and goes until September, brings an end to extended vacations (and usually nice weather). Like their spiritual forerunner Woodstock, these multi-day blowouts are known for three things: loud music, scant clothing, and names as catchy as a classic rock hook. Here are eight of the biggest festivals and a bit of history behind their lyrical appellations.


The 1980s were a quiet decade for music festivals in the US, with Live Aid taking the stage in 1985, the English import Monsters of Rock touring in 1988, and little else besides. Enter Perry Farrell and the 1991 Lollapalooza tour featuring his own Jane’s Addiction and other alternative bands. “Lollapalooza” is an American slang term meaning “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance.” Farrell reportedly got the term from The Three Stooges, though nobody’s been able to find the episode yet.


The official name is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but people refer to it as just “Coachella.” This has become one of the premier events during festival season, known for showcasing new artists as well as setting the stage for legendary reunions like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Bauhaus, and The Pixies. The namesake city’s website explains that “Coachella” is actually the result of a printer’s misreading of “Conchilla,” a Spanish word paying honor to the little shells found nearby.

Warped Tour

The first Vans Warped Tour was almost called “The Bomb” until the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 forced festival founder Kevin Lyman to find a new name. He turned to Transworld Publications for permission to borrow the title of their board-sports-centric Warp Magazine under the agreement that he wouldn’t start a magazine (and they wouldn’t start a music festival). Bonus name fact: Vans, the shoe company that has sponsored the tour since 1996, was originally called The Van Doren Rubber Company, after founding brothers Paul and James Van Doren.


Like the legendary ape-man whose name it bears, this festival is an institution in the Pacific Northwest. Sasquatch! debuted in 2002 and draws scores of music fans every May to one of the most stunning natural settings of any event of its kind, a hillside venue overlooking the Columbia River in George, Washington. The beast sasquatch takes his name from the word for “wild men” in Halkomelem (Salishan), a native language of the Pacific Northwest.


The fact that this Manchester, Tennessee event began the same year as Sasquatch! makes 2002 a watershed year in music festival history. The four-day fest takes place on open farmland, hearkening back to New York’s Woodstock, but “bonnaroo" is Cajun slang, bringing to mind New Orleans and zydeco music. Festival co-founder Jonathan Mayers came across the word on the Dr. John album Desitively Bonnaroo, liked the way it sounded, and liked it even more when he found out it means “good stuff” or “good times.”


Another Northwest staple, the Bumbershoot music and arts festival closes out our list just as it closes out the summer every Labor Day weekend at the Seattle Center. It dates all the way back to 1971 when it went by the rather dull name Festival ’71, before taking on its more colorful appellation in 1973. “Bumbershoot” is an early 20th century nickname for umbrellas, something that many people have no doubt had to use at the festival over the years.

Outside Lands

The name “Outside Lands” predates not only this San Francisco music festival but even Golden Gate Park, where the event has been held every August since 2008. Back in the 1800s, people called the area that’s now the Richmond and Sunset districts “Outside Lands” due to it being on the Pacific Ocean side of the city (remote from the bayside downtown) and because its sprawling sand dunes made it a less-than-ideal place to build. That’s all changed of course, and now area residents get to complain about the extra traffic caused by the couple hundred thousand people who attend the festival each year.

Governors Ball

Note the lack of an apostrophe: No governor is responsible for or associated with one of the newest annual festivals. The source of the name is actually older than the country itself. Governors Island, home to the Governors Ball Music Festival since it started in 2011, was named by British authorities who set aside the New York City island for the exclusive use of the local royal governors. The island is much more welcoming these days, with 67 artists playing for about 150,000 people in 2015.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.