8 Music Festival Names That Rock

The summer music festival season, which usually kicks into gear in May and goes until September, brings an end to extended vacations (and usually nice weather).

Like their spiritual forerunner Woodstock in summer 1969, these multi-day blowouts have a reputation 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 in 1985 and the English import, Monsters of Rock, in 1988 as two highlights.

Enter Perry Farrell and the 1991 Lollapalooza tour featuring his own Jane’s Addiction and other alt-rock 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.


Its official name is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but people refer to it as just Coachella. Starting in 1999, this has become one of the premier, fashion-forward events during festival season, known for showcasing new artists as well staging historic, groundbreaking performances like Beyoncé’s in 2018, dubbed Beychella.

The website for the namesake city, in southern California, explains that Coachella is actually the result of a printer’s misreading of Conchilla (“little shell”), a Spanish word paying honor to the little shells found nearby.

Warped Tour

The first Vans Warped Tour, which headlines a lot of punk and alt rock, was called “The Bomb” until the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 compelled festival founder Kevin Lyman to find a new name.

Lyman 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).

Fun fact: Vans, the shoe company that has sponsored the tour since 1996, was originally called The Van Doren Rubber Company, after founding brothers James and Paul 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 a wild, hairy, mountain man in Halkomelem, a native language of the Pacific Northwest in the Salishan family.


The fact that this Manchester, Tennessee event began the same year as Sasquatch! makes 2002 a watershed year in music festival history.

This four-day jam sesh takes place on open farmland, hearkening back to New York’s Woodstock, but bonnaroo is Creole slang, bringing to mind New Orleans and zydeco music. Bonnaroo means “good times,” popularized by the 1974 Dr. John album Desitively Bonnaroo. It is said to come form the French bon à rue, literally “good on the street.”

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 tens of thousands of 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 in 2011 before it moved to Randall’s Island, was named by British authorities who set aside the New York City island for the exclusive use of the local royal governors.


Another Pacific 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 in rainy Seattle over the years.

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