The Best Places for Music Lovers This Fall

Oct 31, 2019

We won’t deny summer music festivals their day in the sun. Or 92 days, if you want to get technical. But man, is this fall's set list upping its game. From Blues legends in the Alps to electronica in Rajasthan to (we’ve got you, traditionalists!) 20 straight days of opera in Donizetti’s birthplace, the world is spinning the hits every which way this season. To see—then hear—for yourself, check out our top fall hot spots for music lovers.   

Lucerne, Switzerland

We'll grant you: The storybook Swiss Alps may not be the bluesiest of backdrops. Still, one of the world's best blues festivals (pictured above) is celebrating its 25th anniversary in Lucerne Nov. 9-17, when everyone from the Rev. John Wilkins (son of the iconic Rev. Robert Wilkins) to The Fabulous Thunderbirds will rock the town. Changing its tune toward the end of the blues-fest, Lucerne will host the equally legendary Piano Festival Nov. 16-24. Among the superstars gracing the stage is Dame Mitsuko Uchida, whose all-Schubert evening will be a highlight of any piano lover's life. No exaggeration. The festival also includes an open-to-the-public Master Class with the award-winning pianist Peter Hill. But lest you think Lucerne is a one-note (okay, two-note) town, head to barn-turned-bar Schüür, where you'll find Cuban Night (Nov. 21), an avant-garde brass band (Nov. 23) and everything in between.

Texas Hill Country

The Alps aren't the only hills alive with the sound of music. From Nov, 7-10, Austin will strike a chord with experimental music lovers thanks to Angel Olsen, The Flaming Lips, Kurt Vile and the Violators and the other acts at Levitation. The following weekend brings a more family-friendly vibe to Burnet, TX, about an hour's drive north of Austin. Beyond the impressive lineup of soul, folk and funk (including a set by the award-winning Latin-funk band Brownout), Utopia Fest involves camping, hiking, yoga, crafts, disc golf and dedicated kids' programming (Nov. 14-16). At the end of the month, back in the self-styled live music capital of the world, the Austin Area Jazz Festival serves up every act from Walter Beasley (one of the top-selling sax men on earth) to Sheila E.—yes, that Sheila E. (Nov. 29-30). And for good music anytime you show up in Austin, head to the iconic Continental Club. Or make that the White Horse if you're craving a touch of the honky-tonk (and free dance lessons).

Reykjavik, Iceland

An epic festival in Iceland’s always-happening capital? Music to our ears. Originally intended as a one-off, Iceland Airwaves proved such a good time, it's now in its 21st year. The 2019 edition, Nov. 6-9, brings artists of more than 20 nationalities, from American singer-songwriter Cautious Clay to Ukranian rapper Alyona Alyona—and all manner of Icelandic artist in between. But it's the land of HBO that many festival-goers will recognize Alexandra Stréliski from: Her mood-setting piano work for Big Little Lies helped solidify her status as a neoclassical phenom (well, that and 15 million or so streams after an Academy Awards cameo). Rivaling the music for coolness are the venues themselves, not least, the Fríkirkjan church and Reykjavík Art Museum. While you're in town, take in a hip-hop spectacle over glacier water-based beers at Iceland’s first microbrewery (Nov. 8), check out the Icelandic Punk Museum and shop the Lucky Records collection of 50,000+ vinyl albums.

Vegas, baby

Though Intersect (Dec. 6-7) is meant to be "the place where music, technology, and art converge," the lineup reads like the place where kids' and parents' Spotify accounts converge. Everyone from Kacey Musgraves to Beck is on the docket, and the result is an all-ages crowd-pleaser that you won't want to procrastinate on. Especially because other highlights include a 500-drone light show (which, like most of what's best about Vegas, seems not especially legal), plus a post-apocalyptic dodgeball arena and crazy immersive art installations. If you can get to town a bit early, you could also catch Aerosmith (select dates from Nov. 14-Dec. 4), Mariah Carey (select dates from Nov. 22-30) and Slayer (Nov. 27). On the other hand, if you've got some time after the festival, stick around for The Temptations (Nov. 8 -9), Snoop Dogg (Dec. 10) and Ariana Grande (Dec. 15).

Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you've never experienced the meeting point of tango and jazz, the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival would like to remedy that (Nov. 14-18). You'll find fabulous bebop and swing—sure—but you'll also find the likes of Hernán Lugano and his Tango Jazz Trio. Also of note: the New Orleans-style jazz of the Ángel Sucheras Trío, the soul-stirring sounds of the Argentina Gospel Choir and the Big Band stylings of Artistry. Get to town a week early, and you can clean up at the Night of the Record Stores (Nov. 7), when participating shops offer discounts and in some cases, live music. One not to miss: Eureka, home to a legendary vintage rock and tango collection. Of course, whenever you roll into town, there's good, live tango: Catch shows daily at the historic Café Tortoni or Wednesdays at Maldita Milonga, where the night starts with a class for beginners and intermediates, and finishes (at some point that can hardly still be considered night) with live music and an open-to-all dance floor. And don't leave town without a twirl around the World Tango Museum.

Rabat, Morocco

Turning a spotlight on African and Middle Eastern sounds, Rabat’s Visa For Music (Nov. 20–23) features everyone from Nigerian soul singer Lindsey Abudei to the Zanzibari fusion group Siti & The Band to the nouveau-Amazigh band Araw N Fazaz. Other sweet sounds in Rabat this fall include the Nov. 8 and Dec. 8 joint performances of Moroccan oud master Nasser Houari and French pianist Jean-Philippe Collard. And whenever you turn up in the Moroccan capital, head to Le Bistrot du Pietri for tasty bites and live jazz (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays).

Rajasthan, India

Rock out in Rajasthan this fall at the one-of-a-kind Magnetic Fields Festival (Dec. 13–15). You'll be dancing in the desert sands to sets by Hunee, Nazira and 50 or so international artists in between. You'll also break for storytelling sessions (theme: the seven sins), traditional Rajasthani folk music and lavish local meals. But if we're being honest, we'd have to say that the lineup is rivaled by the venue: a middle-of-nowhere 17th-century palace hotel, where you can stay in onetime royal rooms (unless, of course, you prefer a festival tent). 

Lombardy, Italy

Dec. 7 isn't a public holiday in Milan just because opera season kicks off then: La Festa di Sant'Ambrogio (the feast of the city's patron saint) is celebrated at the same time. Still, opera's so important here, you'd be forgiven for thinking that La Scala's opening night is reason enough for every local to have the day off. Point is, Dec. 7 is a banner day for music lovers in Milan, who'll be treated to not only the season opener—Tosca—at one of the world's most venerable opera houses, but also the spiritual sounds of Saint Ambrose's celebration (a basilica bell concert, for starters).

You'll want to get to town before the big day, though: A late November arrival would also let you catch another couple of worthy music events: the nearby Donizetti Opera 2019 festival (Nov. 12-Dec. 1) and Milano Music Week (Nov. 18–24). The former is a Gaetano Donizetti celebration pegged to his birthday (Nov. 29, 1797) in his hometown of Bergamo. An hour's drive or train ride from Milan, this gorgeous city plays host to three weeks' worth of the composer's iconic operas (the festival was so popular, the third week was added this year). Of course, Donizetti isn't the only icon to have been born in Bergamo: Some foodies would say that stracciatella is the city's greatest gift to the world, and you'd better go dig into the matter yourself at La Marianna.

Meanwhile, back in Milan: The aforementioned Music Week is a culture- and genre-crossing event headlined by hometown boy made good Bugo, with appearances by everyone from Belgian DJ Lost Frequencies to Israeli singer-songwriter Dennis LLoyd. Between sets, head to Dischivolanti for rare vinyl—or taste local craft beer at restaurant-creative hub Santeria Toscana 31, where you'll also find live music during the festival dates. 

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