It’s festival season! Ok, no, it’s not even close to festival season, and depending on where you are right now you may be staring out the window at an icicle the size of a power forward. But that just means you have plenty of time to daydream about what you’ll do once the snowbound apocalypse is over. Some of the big festival organizers know this and have done us the favor of releasing their lineups, so we can start planning our warm weather vacations now.
To assist you in your journey, we’ve compiled all the big summer music festivals that’ve released their lineups, with some tips on acts to catch beyond the big name headliners.
Coachella — Indio, California
April 12-14, April 19-21
Though it’s not quite the desert debauchery of Burning Man, this much-more-mainstream festival in the California desert often draws the biggest names of the season over two weekends. Its proximity to Los Angeles has also made it a spot for monumental musical moments, like the famous Tupac hologram and the long-awaited Guns N’ Roses reunion.
Headliners: Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, Ariana Grande
Who to look out for: Bob Moses is actually two people, and it’ll be interesting to see if these Canadians who scored big hits last year with “Back Down” and “Heaven Only Knows” can handle the desert heat. Another 2018 chart topper — Camelphat — hits the stage on Friday as part of the EDM lineup.
New Orleans Jazz Festival — New Orleans, Louisiana
April 25-May 5
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the largest jazz festival in America, which has grown far beyond jazz and now encompasses pretty much every genre of music. The festival runs over two weekends, bringing over 200 acts from bonafide hall-of-famers to high-energy local brass bands. It’s the kind of festival where you may have more fun skipping the big names and checking out the smaller venues, and much like the food, it’s hard to find bad music in New Orleans.
Headliners: The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Katy Perry, Jimmy Buffett, Chris Stapleton, Bob Seger
Who to look out for: This lineup is more stacked than the Lakers after they pilfer Anthony Davis away from NOLA, but some of the more intriguing names here are the trap-rapping drag queen Big Freedia, Jerry Lee Lewis (yep, still alive), and the Marsalis family tribute where Wynton, Branford, and the rest of Jazz’s first family will perform together.
Stagecoach — Indio, California
Stagecoach is kind of country music’s answer to Coachella in that it’s held at the same Empire Polo Grounds in Indio the weekend after all those Rock/Pop/EDM heathens clear outta town. It’s steadily gained in popularity since its start in 2007, drawing a record 75,000 people last year. The festival used to include a full-on barbecue competition but now has a lone BBQ joint run by Guy Fieri. And in case you feel like dancing, Stagecoach also has an old-school dancehall, complete with air conditioning.
Headliners: Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean
Who to look out for: Lynyrd Skynyrd — the band from Florida that wrote a famous song about Alabama — plays Saturday before headliner Hunt. Poison’s Bret Michaels has a Friday set, which will be entertaining for the possibility of a Rock of Love “surprise guest.” If you’re looking for a country performer you might not have heard of, check out Tyler Rich on Friday.
Shaky Knees — Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta’s entrant into the summer indie music fest lineup takes place in its oft-overlooked Central Park, when the late-spring Georgia weather is just about perfect. The seventh-annual edition will feature over 60 bands the first weekend of May, plus southern food like corn dogs and plenty of barbecue.
Headliners: Beck, Tame Impala, Cage the Elephant, Incubus
Who to look out for: The band that sang “Drop the Guillotine,” Peach Pit, is a relaxing throwback to the angsty alt-rock bands of the 1990s, not surprising since they hail from just up the road from Seattle in Vancouver, BC. Tears for Fears (they sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” if you were born after 1990) will play Friday, hopefully early so their fans won’t fall asleep before the set starts.
Rolling Loud — Miami, Florida
The East Coast’s biggest hip-hop festival descends on South Florida during the last days the weather there might be tolerable for a while. The festival itself features an all-star lineup of talent, but you can also catch many of the artists performing — or just hanging out in the VIP — at clubs around Miami all weekend.
Headliners: Migos, Kid Kudi, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert
Who to look out for: Rick Ross will take a brief respite from his daily routine of hustlin’ and perform. Rumors of recently-released-from-prison DMX making an appearance are swirling around the festival as well. 21 Savage, who was detained by ICE earlier this year, is also set to appear.
Hangout — Gulf Shores, Alabama
This festival on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico is about as close to spring break as you can acceptably attend past the age of 22. Hangout is as much about the parties on the beach as the shows within the gates and has grown to draw nearly 40,000 people, some of whom watch the acts from inside the Gulf.
Headliners: Travis Scott, The Lumineers, Khalid, Vampire Weekend, Cardi B, Kygo
Who to look out for: Hippie Sabotage does some of the best pop remixes in the industry (Tove Lo’s “Stay High” is a Spotify favorite) and if you can catch them at a late-night set, it’s a perfect way to cap off the night. If you’re in the mood to dance, check out Loud Luxury whose hit “Body” makes it hard not to move.
Bottlerock — Napa, California
It might be the closest thing to an unrefined weekend you’ll find in swanky Napa Valley, when kids from all over NorCal descend on wine country for a rock and indie music festival over Memorial Day Weekend. The vibe here is considerably laid back, but the festival is fully aware of the typical Napa clientele and balances “classic” acts with new ones to keep everyone happy.
Headliners: Imagine Dragons, Neil Young, Mumford and Sons, Santana, Pharrell Williams, Logic
Who to look out for: We can’t be the only ones who wish we could be backstage when Santana runs into Imagine Dragons and is like “The f**k you guys doing?” Assuming you miss that sideshow, Too $hort is on the Sunday bill along with Jeff “The Fly” Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Even if you speak zero Spanish, check out Juanes for a little bit of culture.
Boston Calling — Boston, Massachusetts
Once upon a time this festival ran twice a year — in May and September — until we can only assume organizers realized it conflicted with Red Sox playoff baseball and moved it to an annual event over Memorial Day weekend. The festival is held at the Harvard Sports Complex, which isn’t technically on the Harvard campus but still feels smart. In addition to music, this popular festival also includes performances from several stand-up comedians.
Headliners: Twenty One Pilots, Travis Scott, Tame Impala
Who to look out for: Though it sounds a little more like music you’d hear sipping a Corona on the beach/at Hollister, Guster has a great, relaxing summer sound that’s worth checking out. Janelle Monae isn’t exactly under-the-radar but might be biggest all-around female musical talent alive. Imogen Heap is always a little weird but never not entertaining.
Governors Ball — New York, New York
May 31-June 2
Governors Ball, currently held at Randall’s Island Park, draws its name from its origins at Governor’s Island where it set a single-day attendance record when it debuted in 2011. The festival has grown into a three-day extravaganza that’s the largest music event of the year in NYC. Last year it drew 150,000 people to see Eminem and Jack White, among others.
Headliners: Lil Wayne; Tyler, the Creator; Florence and the Machine; Major Lazer; The Strokes; Nas
Who to look out for: Ladies will love Charli XCX, who’s put out a string of “girl power” pop hits perfect for in-car sing-alongs. Ty Dolla $ign, who you may not know by name, is a voice you know from tracks like Fifth Harmony’s “Work from Home” and Pitbull’s “Better on Me.”
Bonnaroo — Manchester, Tennessee
This annual camping festival is held on a 650-acre farm at Great Stage Park between Chattanooga and Nashville. It’s been around since 2002 and draws around 80,000 fans annually for what’s morphed from a folk/hippie rock festival into a festival headlined by Post Malone.
Headliners: Post Malone, Phish, Childish Gambino, Cardi B, The Lumineers, Odesza
Who to look out for: The Wood Brothers, who toured with Zac Brown for a hot minute, are immensely talented guitar players and one of the best modern folk bands around. The Record Company is also solid, a band that is so entertaining to watch you don’t need to know any of their songs to enjoy a set.
Firefly — Dover, Delaware
Not to be confused with the we’ll-do-anything-for-water Fyre Festival, this actually happening Delaware music fest is the state’s biggest event of the year, drawing 90,000 people to the Dover International Speedway. It’s returning to its original three-day format this year after expanding to include Thursday shows from 2013 to 2018.
Headliners: Panic! at the Disco; Travis Scott; Post Malone; Tyler, the Creator; Kygo; Vampire Weekend
Who to look out for: In case you were wondering what Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was up to after burning Andre Rison’s house down, her and the rest of TLC will be completely scrub-free on Friday. 3Lau is always a good show if your neck is up for some extreme head-banging. Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and Bishop Briggs play Saturday, hopefully not at the same time.
Lollapalooza — Chicago, Illinois
What began as a Jane’s Addiction farewell tour in 1991 was re-hatched in the early 2000s as a full-fledged festival and now takes over Chicago’s Grant Park for the first weekend in August, drawing over 150,000 fans. The festival has also grown to include iterations in six other countries.
Headliners: Foo Fighters, Travis Scott, Lana Del Rey, Laleh
Who to look out for: Greta Van Fleet may be barely more than a Led Zeppelin cover band, but they’re certainly picking up steam with a recent SNL performance and Grammy nomination. The 1975 is also a crowd favorite that usually pulls headliner status at smaller festivals.
Outside Lands — San Francisco, California
The Bay Area’s annual mega-festival in Golden Gate Park might seem like a dream to those who’ve never experienced San Fran in August. All we’ll say is bring a jacket, as even with the big crowds it can get mighty chilly. Otherwise, it’s the perfect event to base a weekend trip to San Francisco around — just beware traffic can be nasty.
Headliners: Paul Simon, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, Kygo, The Lumineers, Lil Wayne, blink-182, Flume, Leon Bridges, Kasey Musgraves, Anderson .Paak
Who to look out for: Alex Lahey is a Dave Grohl favorite and had a monster hit a couple of years ago with “Every Day’s the Weekend.” Her hard-driving style translates well to live shows. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians are still what they are — and resurfacing at Outside Lands. Canadian alt-rockers The Neighbourhood are also worth a look, as they’ve definitely sung songs you know but couldn’t place the artist.
Woodstock 50 — Watkins Glen, New York
August 16 -18
You ever wonder what all those mud-soaked hippies from the original Woodstock are doing right now? Feeling old AF every time they see an ad for Woodstock 50, a monster field festival in upstate New York celebrating the 50th anniversary of its famous predecessor. Sadly, Jimi Hendrix will not be there to play The Star Spangled Banner, but a few original acts are set to make a return, including Santana and Dead & Company (the modern iteration of the Grateful Dead, featuring John Mayer).
Headliners: The Killers, Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z, Santana, Chance the Rapper, Dead & Company, Halsey, The Black Keys
Who to look out for: Tempting as it might be to check out this cool indie band called Imagine Dragons, you’re probably getting more out of Judah and the Lion’s set on Sunday. Also see the previously incarcerated Pussy Riot on Sunday and The Marcus King Band, probably the best new southern rock outfit this decade.
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