Summer’s 35 Best Music Festivals, Decoded

From castle raves to glacier gigs to “immersive pain”

April 26, 2017 9:00 am

Chances are your social media was recently dominated by smug selfies taken at a little shindig in California by the name of Coachella.

If you missed it, fear not: the best music fests are yet to come.

Well, not just music. We’re talking fests with floating stages, million-dollar treasure hunts, mid-concert spa treatments, bourbon workshops, DJ sets inside glaciers and Bill Murray cameos. Hell, we even have a get-together that promises “immersive pain.”

(Oh, and Lorde, Chance the Rapper and Arcade Fire, who are playing all the festivals. ALL of them.)

Without further ado: our 35 picks for your summer-festival perusal.

I want more than music….
There’s no music at New York Magazine’s Vulture Festival (May 20-21, New York), but plenty of talks with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Tim Ferriss, Aziz Ansari and Michael Shannon. The Comedy Central Presents Colossal Clusterfest (June 2-4, San Francisco) offers up yuks (Jerry Seinfeld, Hannibal Buress and Kevin Hart) with an interesting soundtrack (Chromeo, Ice Cube, Tegan & Sara). For much cosplay, Weezer, carnival rides and a lot of Chris Hardwick (who created and hosts the event), try ID10T Music Festival + Comic Conival (June 24-25, Mountain View, CA). Finally, music by Stevie Nicks and Eddie Vedder, small dinners by Tom Colicchio and assorted bourbon workshops? Count us in for Bourbon and Beyond (Sept 23-24, Louisville).

I require a cool backdrop….
Eclipse (Aug. 17-23, Oregon) is a jammy, Burning Man-esque get-together that takes place across 50,000 acres of beautiful, secluded forest (zero phone service!) during a solar eclipse … Wet Electric (Apr. 29, Phoenix) is the “country’s largest water park music festival,” wherein artists like Diplo perform on a floating stage in the midst of a 2.5-million-gallon wave pool … Your dance floor is a castle (with moats!) for the DJ-led Paradise City Festival (June 23-25, Belgium) … Enjoy the likes of Weezer, Zedd, MGMT and Passion Pit while tubing the San Marcos River during Float Fest (July 22-23, San Marcos, TX) … Ministry of Sound hosts a show inside a glacier and subterranean lava tunnels during Iceland’s eclectic Secret Solstice (Jun. 15-18, Reykjavik)

Um, surprise me.
“Immersive pain.” And the chance to get hung up, voluntarily, on hooks 20 feet in the air. Those are selling points for Danzig’s metal-fueled Blackest of the Black fest (May 26-27, Oak Canyon Park) Bestival (Sept. 7-10, Dorset, UK) is an anything-goes (from glitter raves to Bollywood tents to folk rock) fest set on castle grounds, which also features the world’s biggest bouncy castle … Part Renaissance fair, part glamping, part EDM fest, all featuring an actual cast of “cyber-wenches and barbarian beauties [and] neon knights” floating around Middlelands (May 5-7, Mission, TX) … The surprisingly popular J-pop/metal group Babymetal has very specific requirements for their nine-date Five Fox Festival, from an elementary kids and age 60-and-up night to a mandatory corpse paint dress code on another.

I’m not hanging in some muddy field like some peasant
Father John Misty, Future Islands, glamping and expert-level stargazing sounds mellow cool. FORM (May 12-14, Phoenix) is a new desert music festival that not only caters to a smaller group of people — it also requires an application process … Between comedy sets and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kaaboo (Sept. 15-17, San Diego) offers full spa treatments and some crazy VIP perks, like exclusive viewing areas, private chefs, personal concierges and golf carts to motor you around … Champagne toasts, cave diving, barbeques, private plane tours, swimming with wild pigs, jet-ski rentals and a $1 million buried-treasure hunt highlight the Fyre Festival (Apr. 28-30, May 5-7, Bahamas), featuring music by Migos and Blink-182.[ Edit 5/1: Fyre Festival was canceled this weekend due to, well, gross incompetence. To our great dismay, we were among the duped. We advise steering clear of future projects from Billy McFarland, co-founder and organizer of the event. Information about refunds can be found here.]… Exclusive access to James Beard honorees and Master Sommeliers, along with on-stage seating, are some of your platinum options on the wine- and alt-rock centered BottleRock (May 26-28, Napa Valley) … You and 13 of your friends can pay to have your own private disco on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the artsy Vivid Sydney (May 26 – June 17, Sydney)

I’m getting a little old for this sh*t
The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and Journey will rock your achin’ bones during the Classic East & West Festivals (July 15-16 in Los Angeles, July 29-30 in New York) … Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Steve Miller Band, The String Cheese Incident and Peter Frampton headline the Catskills-based Mountain Jam (June 16-18, Hunter Mountain, NY) … Classic yet still hip, it’s Run-DMC, Arcade Fire and Rod Stewart headlining the iconic Isle of Wight (June 8-11, England), a fest celebrating its 50th (!) anniversary … Also celebrating 50 is Monterey (June 16-18, Monterey, CA), headlined by the adult contemporary goodness of Norah Jones, Jack Jackson and Leon Bridges … Bill Murray will read excerpts from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the 10-day music/dance/theater/vino extravaganza Festival Napa Valley (July 14-23, Napa Valley).

I prefer the artists themselves curate the musical line-up
Brooklyn’s expansive Afropunk festival (Aug. 26-27, New York) features Solange curating a stage and producer Kaytranada overseeing another … MIA curates and headlines the Meltdown Festival (June 9-18, London) … It’s nearly winter in Australia, but The Avalanches are throwing a two-day Since I Left You Block Party (May 27-28, Sydney) … Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner (The National) oversee Eaux Claires, an outdoor fest along the banks of the Chippewa River (June 16-17, Eau Claire, WI) … The Decemberists give you a reason to take a Traveler’s Rest in Montana (Aug. 12-13, Missoula) … It’s three days of camping with Wilco and their friends during Solid Sound (June 23-25, North Adams, MA) … They’re tentatively hosting one in Chicago, but cartoon hipsters Gorillaz have already confirmed their own England-based fest Demon Dayz (June 10, Margate, UK)

I just want an interesting line-up
Primavera (May 31-June 4, Barcelona) offers an odd/cool mix of Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Death Grips, Frank Ocean and Slayer (!), as well as Aphex Twin and Van Morrison, neither of which are doing U.S. shows this summer … Toby Keith and Big Sean? If you’re in Michigan, that’s what you get at the aptly-titled Common Ground Music Festival (July 6-9, Lansing, MI), along with the country’s tallest and longest zipline … The punky Riot Fest (Sept. 15-17, Chicago) branches out a bit this year (Nine Inch Nails, MIA, Action Bronson) but also lands the surprise Jawbreaker reunion … He did Coachella, but DAMN, Kendrick Lamar is skipping the festival scene for his own headlining tour with Travis Scott and D.R.A.M. (July 12-Aug. 6) … According to an exhaustive Pitchfork study, your best bet for interesting artists you won’t see anywhere else include Firefly (June 15-18, Dover, DE) and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest (April 28-May 7, New Orleans). The study also suggests that you’ll have no problem seeing The Killers, Lorde, Arcade Fire and Car Seat Headrest this summer, no matter where you are.

And (some) of the rest:

Boston Calling
May 26-28
Allston, MA

Governors Ball Music Festival
June 2-4
New York, NY

MORE Festival
June 8-11

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
June 8-11
Manchester, TN

Electric Daisy Carnival
June 16-18
Las Vegas, NV

Warped Tour
June 16-Aug. 6

What the Festival
June 16-19
Wolf Run Ranch, Oregon

June 21-25
Worthy Farm, UK

June 24-July 1
Roskilde, Denmark

June 28-July 2, July 4-9

Montreux Jazz Festival
June 30-July 15

July 14-16
Louisville, KY

Pitchfork Music Festival
July 14-16
Chicago, IL

Capitol Hill Block Party
July 21-23
Seattle, WA

FYF Fest
July 21-23
Los Angeles, CA

Newport Folk Festival
July 28-30

Aug. 3-6
Chicago, IL

Outside Lands
Aug. 11-13
San Francisco, CA

Shambhala Music Festival
Aug. 11-14
Salmo River Ranch, Canada

Main image: Anton Corbijn

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