September Festival Guide
by Stephen Slaybaugh

With what most people consider the end of the summer marked by this coming Labor Day weekend, one tends to also think of the music festival season coming to an end. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. September has a plethora of big events and one doesn’t have to worry about baking in sweltering, 90-degree heat. In fact, some of our favorite festivals (Pop Montreal, Goner) are this month, so it’s a good time as any for a roadtrip.

MusicfestNW, Portland, September 7–11
After the demise of the South By Southwest–associated North By Northwest festival, which the Portland alt-weekly sponsored, the Willamette Week organized MusicfestNW in 2000. Since then, it has rapidly grown to a healthy size, hosting more than 170 artists in 2010. This year’s line-up includes Iron & Wine, Archers of Loaf, the Kills, the Horrors, Sebadoh, and many, many more. There’s several different ticketing and wristband options, with the all-show wristband going for $115.

Hopscotch, Raleigh, September 8–10
Only in its second year, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Hopscotch festival is well on its way to becoming an anticipated annual event. Spread out over 13 venues in the city’s downtown, the event will feature more than 150 acts. Though all-show wristbands are soldout, individual tickets are still available for shows featuring bands like Guided By Voices, Flaming Lips, Times New Viking, and Superchunk.

Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, September 16–18
What we said before about the lack of high temperatures doesn’t apply to the notoriously hot Austin City Limits Festival in Austin. But if you can stand the heat, the outdoor event offers a wide breadth of music. This year’s schedule runs the gamut from Stevie Wonder to Arcarde Fire and from Randy Newman to Santigold. Three-day passes are soldout, but single day tickets are still available.

Pop Montreal, Montreal, September 21–25
We headed up to the Great White North for Pop Montreal for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. While the festival usually doesn’t attract all that many “big” names, The event always presents a diverse selection of artists, plus its Quebecois flavor lends a distinctly international vibe. Moreover, Montreal’s manageable size makes the fest easy to navigate. While the fest usually doesn’t include that many big names, this year hometown heroes Arcade Fire will be playing a free show. Other acts in the line-up include tUnE-yArDs, Cheveu, The Raincoats, and Girls.

Pygmalion Music Festival, Champaign-Urbana, September 21–25
Set in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the Pygmalion Music Festival seems small in scope, but one glance at this year’s line-up reveals that it is big on music. For its sixth year, the event will feature many Agit favorites, including Cut Copy, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Washed Out, Gang Gang Dance, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, amongst others. All-show passes are soldout, but tickets are still available a la carte.

Midpoint Music Festival, Cincinnati, September 22–24
It used to be that this festival mainly featured bands from Ohio and perhaps a few others from surrounding states. But in the last few years, Midpoint has stepped up its game to attract bands from around the country and with name-recognition. This year is no different, with artists like Booker T. Jones, Bachelorette, Okkervil River and Deerhoof scheduled to perform. With three-day passes for only $49, Midpoint gives you real bang for your buck too.

GonerFest, Memphis, September 22–25
An outgrowth of the Goner label and website, GonerFest was started eight years ago and has been growing ever since. While there are plenty of bands who’ve recorded for the label, the line-up has never been limited to Goner bands, though the bulk of the performers share a similar aesthetic. This year’s line-up is highlighted by the Gories, Ty Segall, and Human Eye. While tickets are available individually to each of the fest’s seven shows, a “golden pass” can be had for $60.

Rifflandia Festival, Victoria, September 22–25
Set in Victoria, British Columbia (that’s in Canada, btw), the Rifflandia Festival is now in its fourth year. The event seems comprised of equal amounts hip-hop and rock, with acts like De La Soul, Blackalicious and Lyrics Born representing the former, and J. Mascis, Broken Social Scene and Giant Sand typifying the latter. All manner of tickets are available, with the four-day “super” pass being $165 (Canadian, I assume).

Popped!, Philadelphia, September 23–24
Popped is a two-day festival that will take over Philadelphia’s FDR Park. While music is the main attraction (acts include The Shins, Panda Bear, and Girl Talk), there will also be comedy and a local food bazaar, which will include a new culinary venture, ?uest Loves Food, from The Roots’ drummer. Single and two-day tickets (including a VIP option) are available, with a regular two-day pass running $110.

I’ll Be Your Mirror, Asbury Park, September 30–October 2
Last but not least is this year’s American offering from British “boutique” festival promoters All Tomorrow’s Parties. Of course, the big news this year is that reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum has come out of hiding to perform at the event. In order to see Mangum perform, though, one must buy a three-day pass for $249. However, if you buy a three-day pass you must choose between Mangum and curators Portishead. I think those who choose the former will probably feel let down, though there’s plenty of other music to catch too: Ultramagnetic MCs (the seminal hip-hop group in which Kool Keith got his start), The Pop Group, Public Enemy (performing Fear of a Black Planet in its entirety) and Agit Rated Rookie Anika.
Stephen Slaybaugh