Music festivals have been around since our parents’ time – think Woodstock and Bob Dylan at the Isle of Wight, both in 1969, or U2 and Queen at Live Aid in 1985. As children, maybe we’d go to small fests with our parents to hear family-friendly music and eat some food. Now that we’re growing up, going to music festivals is becoming more of a reality and less of an, “Oh, I wish my parents would let me go to that.”
As college students, most of us use our three-month (or in Emerson’s case, four-month) break away from school to catch up on sleep, work a summer job, or maybe travel. We have dreams to dream, money to make, and places to go! However, when that boredom finally sets in and the days seem to drag by, it’s time to shake things up.
West Coast Festivals
Outside Lands: August 8-10, San Francisco, CA, est. 2008
This festival is what you’d expect from San Francisco; its website boasts the festival to include “music, food, wine, beer [and] art”. This year’s lineup includes the Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and California-native group, Haim. Tickets on the website are sold out, though Shuttle Passes are still available for a limited time.
Bumbershoot: August 30-September 1, Seattle, WA, est. 1971
The name of the festival is actually a combination of the words “umbrella” and “parachute” and is a colloquial term. Bumbershoot’s lineup doesn’t seem to have a specific genre of music in mind; artists include Panic! At The Disco, Wu-Tang Clan and international artists Yuna and Bomba Estero.
Blissfest: July 11-13, Cross Village, MI, est. 1981
According to their website, Blissfest’s mission is to “promote and preserve the diversity and heritage of all traditional and ethnic music, dance, and crafts”. The festival promotes folk and roots artists such as this year’s The Appleseed Collective and Moors and McCumber. Blissfest also hosts a songwriter retreat north of Harbor Springs, MI.
Pitchfork: July 18-20, Chicago, IL, est. 2006
Although often overshadowed by the reputation of August’s Lollapalooza, Pitchfork manages to hold its own in the city. The festival mainly showcases alternative rock, rap, hip-hop and electronica/dance music. Performers this year include Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, Grimes and DIIV.
Essence Music Festival: July 3-6, New Orleans, LA, est. 1995
This fest was originally a one-time event celebrating Essence’s 25th anniversary but has since returned every year as America’s biggest festival celebrating African-American culture and music. Musicians this year include Prince, Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott.
Merge 25: July 23-26, Carrboro & Durham, NC, est. 2014
Merge 25 is being held this year in celebration of Merge Record’s 25th anniversary. The independent record label is based in North Carolina and boasts musicians like She & Him and The Mountain Goats. This year’s lineup includes Wye Oak, Teenage Fan Club and Merge’s own founding members in their band Superchunk.
East Coast Festivals
Gathering of the Vibes: July 31-August 3, Bridgeport, CT, est. 1996
If you’re a Deadhead, this is the festival for you. The fest was originally founded as a celebration of the Grateful Dead’s guitarist Jerry Garcia, who passed away in 1995. Genres include jam band, bluegrass and reggae. Attendees will be able to listen to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Ziggy Marley and Strangefolk, among others.
Newport Jazz Fest: August 1-3, Newport, RI, est. 1954
Established by a socialite, this 60-year-old fest has somewhat of a rocky past, though it continues to be held every year. Both Miles Davis and Duke Ellington have performed at the festival; Langston Hughes even wrote an impromptu poem for Muddy Waters one year. This year’s lineup features Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gregory Porter and the Cookers.
Osheaga Music and Arts Festival: August 1-3, Montreal, Quebec, est. 2006
This festival often shares the same weekend and some of the same artists as Chicago’s Lollapalooza. It has been credited as one of the most important indie music festivals in Canada. Headliners at this year’s event include Outkast, Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys.
OVO Fest: August 4-5, Toronto, Ontario, est. 2010
Similar to Merge 25, OVO Fest is an event hosted by Drake and his record label OVO Sound, which produces hip-hop and R&B. The fest is held over the same weekend as a popular Caribbean festival held in Toronto. Outkast and Drake will co-headline this year, with other performers yet to be revealed.
Rockstar Mayhem Festival: July 5-August 10, North America, est. 2008
Sponsored by energy drink company Rockstar, this metal festival is perfect for anyone who needs a little head-banging this summer. Hard rock and thrash metal bands are the norm at this fest and this year’s mainstage will feature Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium and Asking Alexandria.
Mad Decent Block Party: July 26-September 21, North America/Canada, est. 2008
Mad Decent is a record label based in Los Angeles boasting dance and electropop artists with a few rappers thrown in. The MDBP festival started in a tent in Philadelphia but is now a traveling event hosting free “block parties” in various cities. The lineup includes more popular artists such as Matt & Kim, as well as Mad Decent’s own recording artists, Diplo and Djemba Djemba.
Bonnaroo: June 12-15, Manchester, TN, est. 2002
Warped Tour: June 13-August 3, North America (touring), est. 1995
Country Thunder: July 24-27, Twin Lakes, WI, est. 1990s
Lollapalooza: August 1-3, Chicago, IL, est. 1991
If you do end up going to a music festival this summer, remember to stay safe in the crowds, drink plenty of water and bring sunglasses. If you have the option to go with someone, do! Having a buddy at a festival is always handy. Enjoy yourself; you might just find your new favorite artist.