As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back at the wild ride that was 2018. For this series of Live For Live Music staff picks, we’ll be reliving many of the glorious musical moments from the past year. Today, we’re revisiting our staff’s favorite music festivals of 2018. Enjoy!

L4LM Staff Picks: Our Favorite Albums Of 2018

LOCKN’ Festival | Oak Ridge Farm | Arrington, Virginia | 8/23-26, 2018

Earning a spot on our list of favorite festivals for the second consecutive year, LOCKN‘ continues to provide fans along the eastern U.S. with one of the best collaborative weekends of music every summer, and 2018 was no exception. LOCKN’ returned to its home at Infinity Downs Farm in the green hills of central Virginia for three unforgettable days and late nights of surprise sit-ins and epic jams on the event’s trademark revolving stage. LOCKN’ founder Pete Shapiro could be seen enjoying some of the performances from the close views of the photo pit with a child-like grin covering his face as band after band appeared on stage throughout that late August weekend to help close summer with an almost nonstop marathon of music.

Some of the magical moments from LOCKN’ could easily have been the meme-worthy exchange between Pigeons Playing Ping Pong‘s Greg Ormont and John Mayer, as well as Tedeschi Trucks Band’s soulful tribute to Aretha Franklin, who had passed away just the week prior. In reality, the weekend could not be summed up from just those two. Some of the other exciting moments from this year’s festival included Taj Mahal sharing some of his secret BBQ strategies with the audience, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead filling their late-night Friday set with an abundance of teases, and Dead & Company welcoming Branford Marsalis to help close out what was another big year of stadium concerts for the Grateful Dead cover band. The festival was also with plenty of guest jams and surprise sit-ins, including members of Dead & Company, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Eric Krasno all joining Lettuce for their Jerry Garcia Band tribute setWidespread Panic welcoming Americana newcomer Margo Price to help sing a mix of classic rock covers, and Derek Trucks joining Umphrey’s McGee and Jason Bonham‘s Led Zeppelin-themed set. There was also the time when Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, and Billy Kreutzmann well all welcomed to the stage with to join Foundations of Funk in a celebratory set of The Meters‘ 50th Anniversary.

Fans were even treated to another surprise in the weeks following LOCKN’ when Relix shared a new podcast interview between Krasno and Mayer which was recorded backstage during the festival.

Suwannee Hulaween | Spirit of Suwannee Music Park | Live Oak, Florida | 10/25-28, 2018

The northern Florida music festival also earned a spot on our list of favorites for the second year in a row in 2018. The four-day event continues to be one of the premiere Halloween-themed festivals as it welcomed fans back to the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park for a thrilling mix of day, night and late night performances earlier this fall. The 2018 lineup poster showcased a widely diverse selection of artists ranging from the festival’s hosts, The String Cheese Incident, to fan favorites including Odesza, Janelle Monáe, The Revivalists, Vulfpeck, STS9, the return of Jamiroquai, Gramatik, Turkuaz, Yonder Mountain String Band, live band sets from both Break Science and Knower, and many more.

This year’s Hulaween began with an Official Pre-Party on Thursday, which featured two sets from both Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and STS9, in addition to performances from Lettuce, The Infamous Stringdusters, Ghost Light, Marco Benevento, Papadosio, and EOTO & Friends, just to name a few.

The String Cheese Incident kept their festival tradition of playing all three nights going strong this year with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday performances. Friday evening saw the popular jam band welcome Rayland Baxter to play with them on stage. STI typically puts together a special set full of classic covers on Saturday in accordance o the festival’s costume theme. This year’s theme was “Creatures Of The Galaxy,” which STI customized into “Intergalactic Ladies Night” with their own “Celebrating Women of the Galaxy” performance. The special female-focused set saw STI welcoming out artists including Ann Wilson, Lisa Fischer, Jennifer Hartswick, Rhonda Thomas, and more to help perform songs which were originally written, produced, and recorded by women. They topped that off with a Sunday morning set filled with roots rock and acoustic-based tunes to help ease attendees into the final day of the event.

Fans can also click here to read up on what some of the event’s high profile performers had to say about the wild end-of-summer blowout that is Suwanee Hulaween.

Sweetwater 420 Fest | Centennial Olympic Park | Atlanta, Georgia | 4/20-22, 2018

There may be more legally relaxed cities where fans and cannabis connoisseurs alike could spend the 4/20 weekend, but the Sweetwater 420 Fest has helped establish Atlanta, Georgia as one of the headier destinations for the hemp-friendly holiday every spring. It also helps when the festival boasts a lineup like they did in 2018 which featured The String Cheese IncidentUmphrey’s McGeeTedeschi Trucks BandSturgill SimpsonVulfpeckJoe Russo’s Almost DeadGreensky BluegrassThe MotetThe Record CompanyThe Infamous StringdustersBrandon “TAZ” NiederauerMarco BeneventoSouthern Avenue, and many more.

As the festival’s honorary Artist-At-Large, Brandon “TAZ” Niederauer was seen and heard throughout the entire weekend as he was welcomed out for not just one, but numerous sit-ins. The young guitarist was invited to play with both Tedeschi Trucks Band and String Cheese Incident on day one, giving the emerging virtuoso plenty of chances to show off those amazing abilities of his. Some of the other early weekend highlights also included Joe Russo’s Almost Dead providing attendees with two powerhouse afternoon sets of Grateful Dead covers on Saturday, while String Cheese Incident welcomed singer Rhonda Thomas to help them cover Jamiroquai‘s “Space Cowboy”. A box of rain emptied onto Atlanta during the event’s final day Sunday, but that didn’t stop audiences from moving and grooving to performances from Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Vulfpeck, Papadosio, Umphrey’s McGee, and Greensky Bluegrass, with the latter once again welcoming Niederauer to help them cover The Allman Brothers‘ “Midnight Rider”.

One of the other added bonuses from this year’s Sweetwater 420 Fest included a free webcast for many of the performances throughout the weekend for fans across the country to enjoy from their couch. Festival organizers also introduced their new “4:19 Auctions” this year, which would go to benefit an assortment of various charities chosen by the artists performing.

The Peach Festival | Montage Mountain Resort | Scranton, Pennsylvania | 7/19-22, 2018

The Peach Festival returned to Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Montage Mountain Resort for its seventh year this past summer since being co-founded by The Allman Brothers back in 2010. The mid-summer weekend event took place on July 19th-22nd, and welcomed jam fans into the northern Appalachian mountains for headlining performances from Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family BandJoe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Gov’t Mule, who performed one of their two sets as their Pink Floyd-inspired Dark Side of the Mule alter-ego during one of the many impressive “After Midnight” performances. The four-day jam festival also featured daily performances from moe., a morning set from Warren Haynes on Sunday, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Devon Allman Project featuring Duane BettsAqueous, Organ Freeman, and many more.

Some of the highlight moments at The Peach this past summer included an opening night performance from Pigeons Playing Ping Pong with some sit-in assistance courtesy of emerging southern rock guitarist Marcus King and The Royal Horns on Thursday. Aqueous also gave brass-loving attendees a nice surprise when they too invited out some the Turkuaz horn players to join them in covering the Huey Lewis and the News hit, “Power of Love”.

The weekend would go on to close as strongly as it began with Oteil Burbridge jamming away with a mix of friends with multiple sets throughout the day on Sunday, including JRAD guitarist Scott MetzgerFurther members John Kadlecik and Jay LaneAlfreda GeraldWeedie Braimah, and Melvin Seals, just to name a few. The final day of the festival also featured Allman Brothers Band co-founder Dickey Betts returning from retirement in 2018 to help close out the event with a mix of ABB covers and solo originals including “Whipping Post”, “Ramblin’ Man”, and “Jessica” over an impressive 70-minute set.

High Sierra Music Festival | Plumas County Fairgrounds | East Quincy, California | 7/5-8, 2018

The High Sierra Music Festival has taken place for 28 years and running with its return to California’s Plumas County Fairgrounds over four nights during the weekend following Independence Day in early July. Festival organizers began by announcing the first wave of artists in early February, which included The String Cheese Incident, Sturgill Simpson, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, TurkuazLotus, Hippo Campus, Twiddle, Lebo & Friends, and The Barr Brothers. They followed that up the next month with the addition of artists including Grace Potter, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Foundation of Funk, Billy Strings, The Nth Power performing a tribute set to Bob Marley, Ghost Light, emerging psych-electro outfit Russ Liquid Test, and New Orleans Suspects.

Some of the non-musical elements including campsite parades, yoga sessions, acoustic songwriter sessions, beer and wine tastings, and sunrise kickball also helped to make High Sierra one of our favorite destination events of the summer.

The festival continued its tradition of scheduling late night sets held in the High Sierra Music Hall, Vaudeville Tent, and Funk’n Jamhouse, which all gave attendees more performances continuing well into the early morning hours on Friday and throughout the weekend. Sturgill Simpson was one of the weekend’s top non-jam highlights, in addition to the numerous sit-ins from saxophonist Skerik during performances from Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, and George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste‘s Foundation of Funk tribute to The Meters. Needless to say, fans were treated to a long weekend’s worth of musical highlights that continued to place High Sierra among the top music festivals in the western U.S.

Honorable mentions, based off the results from our recent reader poll, include Domefest (way to show up, Flock), Summer Camp Music Festival, Jam CruiseNew Orleans Jazz & Heritage FestivalHolidazeBrooklyn Comes Alive, and Levitate Music Festival.