By Jeff Wade | Graphic by Sam McDonald
Why put up with the long lines, $4 water bottles and possible heat stroke? Because love it or hate it, the modern music festival offers a chance to see some of the biggest bands of the planet and some of the year’s biggest reunions at a relatively sane price. With so many to choose from, this guide should help fans decide which music Meccas they should plan pilgrimages to.
Coachella (April 13-15, 20-22)
The Black Keys, Radiohead, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre
The official kick-off of the festival season might be the only festival you need. Three days packed with music make the festival as expansive as the desert it takes place in. So expansive in fact that this year’s festival will be staged twice, with each act booked to play two weekends in a row. It also has some of the biggest gets of the year, with the newly reunited At The Drive-In and British titans Pulp performing rare shows. If you have any chance at all, drop this magazine and get to Indio.
Sasquatch Festival (May 25-28)
Jack White, Beck, Bon Iver
What makes Sasquatch worth the cross-country trek? Location, location, location. The sloping outdoor amphitheater overlooks a stunning gorge, a testament to Washington’s natural beauty. There isn’t a bad view in the house. It helps that the line-up is just as gorgeous, striking the perfect balance between up-and-coming buzz bands and veteran performers while never succumbing to trends. And it’s one of the few that have cultivated a proper comedy tent, with top talent like Nick Kroll and Todd Barry offering a break from tunes.
Bonnaroo (June 7-10)
Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Phish
The East Coast’s biggest music festival is always something of a contradiction. The festival’s eclectic mix between its modern festival status and its jam-band roots always makes for odd bedfellows in both the line-up and audience. Its rural location prompts mile-long stretches of cars to get into campsites. But its sprawling line-up means there’s something for everyone over the four-day event.
Governor’s Ball (June 23-24)
Modest Mouse, Passion Pit, Fiona Apple
Newly expanded to a two-day festival, New York’s Governor’s Ball is bringing some big shake-ups to the festival scene. In addition to filling a hole by giving the Northeast a festival to call its own, organizers promise no overlapping sets. Though it has a more condensed line-up as a result, it kills the quintessential festival dilemma of having to ever leave early. So while it might not have the sprawling excess of other options, the small-scale approach is a welcome relief from overwhelming mega-festivals.
Pitchfork Festival (July 13-15)
Fiest, Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells
Carefully curated and smaller-sized Pitchfork Festival in Chicago is the pick for the value-minded or the forward-thinking. The current crop of announcements show festival’s commitment to diversity, with upcoming rappers like A$AP Rocky sharing billing with ambient electronic piano attacker Tim Hecker. But acts like Vampire Weekend and Fiest mean that the entire thing isn’t quite as avant-garde.