There is great music going on in Los Angeles all the time, so it's no surprise that Los Angeles and surrounding cities also host some great music festivals. Jazz dominates, but blues, folk, cajun, reggae, and experimental music all get their showcase. There are many other festivals and street fairs with music as a significant component, but here are the top Los Angeles festivals with music as their primary focus listed by month.
Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest
Over 100 instrumental and singing contestants compete on three stages at the annual Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest. The event takes place in May at the Paramount Ranch near Agoura Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. In addition to the music competitions, there are folk performances, jam sessions under the trees, a Dance Barn and a children's craft area.
Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival
The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival takes place annually on Memorial Day weekend in May. The 2-day event features Blues, Cajun and Creole stages as well as food and craft vendors and a Kids Zone.
UCLA JazzReggae Festival
The UCLA JazzReggae Festival takes place each year over Memorial Day Weekend in May. The two-day outdoor event on the UCLA campus includes a line-up of top reggae artists.
Dog Star Orchestra Festival of Experimental Music
The annual Dog Star Orchestra is a two-week celebration of current orchestral and experimental composers that takes place at locations in Los Angeles, Valencia, Lancaster and out at Vasquez Rocks in Santa Clarita. Dozens of new works and rarely performed pieces are performed each year in June. This event is organized rather casually by musicians for musicians, so it has a very organic feel. Don't expect a highly produced event. Think of it as watching an orchestral experimental jam session, and just hope they get the schedule online so you can see when the events are.
The Playboy Jazz Festival is an annual 2-day event that takes place in June at the Hollywood Bowl featuring a full day of music each day. Each day requires a separate ticket. You can often find early discount tickets at Goldstar.com.
The Long Beach Bayou Festival
The Long Beach Bayou Festival celebrates Cajun, Zydeco, New Orleans jazz and blues. The event takes place for two days at the end of June at the Rainbow Lagoon next to the Long Beach Convention Center.
Summerfest in Venice Beach
Central Avenue Jazz Festival
The Central Avenue Jazz Festival takes place annually in July in South Los Angeles. The free, family-friendly event features, jazz, blues and Latin jazz from high school bands to internationally renowned musicians.
iPalpiti Annual International Laureates Music Festival
The acclaimed iPalpiti Orchestral Ensemble of International Laureates from 20 countries is featured in solo, chamber, and orchestra concerts over a 10 day period at venues around Beverly hills and Los Angeles with a Grand Finale at the Disney Hall. The iPalpiti International Laureates Music Festival takes place during a two-week period in July or August.
Hard Summer and Day of the Dead
Hard Summer and Hard Day of the Dead are two 2-day EDM and alternative music festivals that happen around the last weekend in July or first weekend in August and the first weekend in November, respectively, at the Fairplex in Pomona (venue may change year to year).
FYF Fest is a 2-day music festival featuring a mix of punk, hardcore, indie and EDM artists every August. The venue has not been consistent, so click the link above to find out where it's happening this year.
Long Beach Jazz Festival
Shoreline Jam in Long Beach
Held back to back with the Long Beach Funkfest at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on Labor Day Weekend in September, the Shoreline Jam is a laid-back event that leans toward ska and white reggae bands.
Watts Towers Jazz Festival and Day of the Drum Festival
Watts Towers Day of the Drum and Watts Towers Jazz Festival take place back to back in September for one day each on a Saturday and Sunday respectively at Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in South Los Angeles.
Buskerfest is a street music festival in the East Village in Long Beach, where most of the bands perform with minimum amplification on the back of flatbed trucks, and attendees vote on their favorite street performers. It takes place each year in early September as part of Long Beach Summer and Music.
LA Skins Music and Film Festival
Angel City Jazz Festival
LA Bluegrass Situation
LA Bluegrass Situation is a one or two-night celebration of bluegrass music that takes place each October in LA. Venues vary.
Catalina Island JazzTrax
Mariachi Plaza Festival in Boyle Heights
The annual Mariachi Festival takes place in November in the bandstand at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. The daytime event features local and international mariachi bands performing one after the other and occasionally together. This event should not be confused with the nighttime Mariachi USA Festival in June at the Hollywood Bowl.