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Attend the U.S.’s Largest Free-Admission Music Festival — It’s Not Too Late

by Kelly Magyarics

Aug 8, 2019

Jesse Faatz Photography

Destinations / North America

Need to infuse your end-of-summer plans with some tunes? If you live within driving distance of eastern Pennsylvania, you still have time to catch lots of bands and performers at Musikfest.

Not familiar with this event? And wondering why it’s spelled with a “k”? Read on. Musikfest was founded in 1984 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, by the community-based non-profit organization ArtsQuest. It’s held over 10 days every August — this year through Aug. 11, 2019 — during which time it attracts more than 1 million visitors there to see more than 500 performances on 18 stages around the Christmas City. The spelling is an homage to the area’s German roots, as are the names of the venues: Liederplatz, the site of lots of folk and acoustic sets, means “song place,” while Volksplatz, where you’ll find world music acts, translates to “people’s place.”

SteelStacks, Craig Roberts South.

SteelStacks, Craig Roberts South, Musikfest. Photo: Jesse Faatz Photography

The most amazing part of attending Musikfest is that while you are walking around the 57 acres sampling food and getting your official mug filled at the beer tents, you can enjoy free music from mid-morning until late night. That’s right, the vast majority of acts do not have an admission fee.

It’s only the concerts at SteelStacks, the venue on the event’s South Side that sits in the shadow of the remnants of the towering Bethlehem Steel plant and blast furnaces, that require paid ticket for the nightly shows. Still to perform before the festival is over are The Revivalists (Aug. 8), Godsmack (Aug. 9), Phillip Phillips (Aug. 10) and Brad Paisley (Aug. 11). Though you’ll find food trucks, drink options and free music outside Steel Stacks, it’s even more of a party atmosphere once you go through the gates.

MusikFest, Chainsmokers. Photo: Jesse Faatz Photography

Musikfest, Chainsmokers. Photo: Jesse Faatz Photography

This past Friday, The Chainsmokers put on what might have been the most high-energy show in the history of Musikfest. Anyone familiar with the group through its massive collaborations with Halsey, Coldplay and 5 Seconds of Summer would have been unexpectedly surprised by the EDM dance party vibe the show took on. The duo of Alexander “Alex” Pall and Andrew “Drew” Taggart were backed by a drummer who provided the driving beat (and at one point played with flaming drumsticks) to accompany the unconventional EDM grooves set to pyrotechnics. The group peppered songs with iconic samples that ranged from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” to White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” to Kernkraft 400’s techno anthem “Zombie Nation.” Judging by the volume of the crowd singing along, the irresistible “Closer” was indeed the crowd favorite, though “Something Just Like This” and “Don’t Let Me Down” really took the large cell phone wielding-audience to synth pop heaven.

Tickets are still available for the remaining shows on the website. And here are some tips for getting the most out of Musikfest:

  • Download the Musikfest app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, which gives you the daily schedule, performer bios and food, drink and other options at each venue and lets you create a personalized schedule with reminders when shows are about to start.
  • Know that except for Main Street and the South Side, vendors at the rest of the venues only accept tickets. You can purchase tickets from designated stands using cash or a credit card; each ticket is worth a dollar.
MusikFest. Photo: Jesse Faatz Photography

Craig Roberts, North, Musikfest. Photo: Jesse Faatz Photography

  • One of the cult activities for die-hard fans is to bring an official mug from one of the ‘fests over the years, which can be filled with beer (or your preferred beverage.) This year’s mug is on sale inside beer tents and official merchandise tents scattered throughout the festival. You’ll also come across other bars and restaurants that will fill your mug with cash or a credit card, including the Hotel Bethlehem, Bethlehem Brew Works and The Wooden Match. It’s really a trip to walk around and see people toting all the different logoed mugs from years past.
  • Parking can be tricky at Musikfest. You can look for street parking, but a better option is to park at one of the satellite lots and take the paid shuttle to and from the event. A shuttle pass from the parking lot also gives you free access to the shuttle that takes you back and forth from the North Side to the South Side.

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