Because Pavement sold out at Central Park in minutes. Because Jay-Z tickets earlier this month were tough to come by. Because you love paying $4 for a bottle of water.

There are a lot of reasons that concert-goers head out to summer festivals, but the best might be this: There's no better way to find out the essence of an artist than to see him or her perform live, and at a festival that can be done with tens of artists all in one place. Here are some of the top festivals going on this year:

Sasquach! Music Festival
Where: The Gorge Amphitheater, George, Wash.
Distance from the Canal Room: 2,698 mi.
Nearest airport: Seattle Tacoma  International, 117 mi.
When: Saturday-Monday, May 29-31
Who: Ween, Pavement, My Morning Jacket, Massive Attack
It's worth the trip because: You loved the 90s, right? Close your eyes, and the top of the bill will remind you of Napster and Monica Lewinsky.
Non-music festival tourism: On the way back to the airport, stop at the Experience Music Project, a museum dedicated to “exploration of creativity and innovation in popular music,” according to its Web site.

Soundset Festival
Where: Shakopee, MN
Distance from Bowery Ballroom: 1,211 mi.
Nearest airport: Minneapolis-St. Paul International, 15 mi.
When: Sunday, May 30
Who: Atmosphere, Method Man and Redman, Brother Ali, P.O.S.
It's worth the trip because: You get to see Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S., Dessa and others in their hometown at this celebration of independent hip-hop.
Non-festival music tourism: First Avenue, the club that Prince made famous in Purple Rain, still hosts great shows and club nights today.

Bonnaroo
Where: Manchester, TN
Distance from Radio City Music Hall: 887 mi.
Nearest airport: Nashville International, 64 mi.
When: Thursday-Sunday, June 10-13
Who: Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Conan O'Brien
It's worth the trip because: Conan O'Brien performs his touring show at Bonnaroo one year after Triumph the Insult Comic Dog stopped by Manchester. Hope the Phish fans have forgiven him.
Non-festival music tourism: Before hopping a flight home, indulge your country side with a tour of the Grand Ole Opry House.

Glastonbury Festival
Where: Pilton, Somerset, England
Distance from Madison Square Garden: 3,365 mi.
Nearest airport: Bristol International, 22.1 mi.
When: Wednesday-Sunday, June 23-27
Who: U2, Muse, Stevie Wonder
It's worth the trip because: U2 playing Glastonbury? Muse in front of their crazed home country fans? Stevie Wonder? The organizers have gone all out for Glastonbury's 40th anniversary.
Non-music festival tourism: Bristol, along with being the hometown of trip-hop acts like Tricky and Portishead, is also the home of graffiti artist Banksy. His works still adorn many walls in the city.

Lollapalooza
Where: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Distance from NOKIA Theater Times Square: 783 mi.
Nearest airport: Chicago Midway International, 13 mi.
When: Friday-Sunday, August 6-8
Who: Soundgarden, Green Day, Lady GaGa, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Phoenix
It's worth the trip because: The granddaddy of the summer festival circuit will feature Arcade Fire's first non-Obama-related U.S. performance since 2007. (The band played at a few campaign events for the President.)
Non-festival music tourism: The Center for Black Music at Columbia College features a massive library of recorded music, scores and scholarly work related to music “throughout the African diaspora.”

All Tomorrow's Parties New York
Where: Monticello, NY
Distance from Town Hall: 74.9 mi.
Nearest bus station: Best bet is to take the festival-provided bus shuttle from either Manhattan or Brooklyn; information is available at ATP's Web site.
When: Friday-Sunday, Spetember 3-5
Who: Iggy and the Stooges, Sonic Youth, The Breeders, Sunn O))) and Boris
It's worth the trip because: Jim Jarmusch is programming Sunday's lineup, and it's predictably off-kilter (Raekwon followed by Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval?).
Non-festival music tourism: It's just ten miles from this festival to the site of another little shindig; Woodstock (the 1969 original, not the riot-marred nonsense of 1999) took place at what is now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.