The Key’s ultimate guide to 2015 North American summer music festivals – Part One!
In the past several years, destination festivals have changed the live music landscape in the U.S. and Canada. The core summer music festivals always used to be ones with the seemingly made-up words – Lollapalooza, Bonaroo and Coachella – but in the past five years alone, great new gatherings like Firefly, Hangout Fest, Made in America, Governor’s Ball, and Shaky Knees have sprung up. As a result, the festival scene is getting harder to keep track of, which if you think about it, is a pretty great problem to have.
To help you keep tabs on all the major music festivals going on this summer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest ones, which Philly bands are playing which, other notable bands, and any other additional festival facts you might want to know. Stay tuned for a second list to be released during the second half of summer, which will include late summer festivals like Made in America, Osheaga, and Bumbershoot. On to the list!
Dates: April 10-12, 17-19
Coachella is probably the most well-known American music festival from around the world. It’s history dates back to 1999, when headliners included Beck, Rage Against the Machine, and Tool. Unfortunately, the only notable Philly band playing this year’s Coachella is the War on Drugs, but it’s still a pretty great lineup otherwise; you can’t go wrong with Alt-J, Jack White, or Alabama Shakes.
Notable Philly bands: The War on Drugs
Notable other bands: AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, Alabama Shakes, Alt-J, Bad Religion, Belle & Sebastian, Benjamin Booker, Cloud Nothings, Father John Misty, Fitz & the Tantrums, Florence + the Machine, George Ezra, Hozier, Jenny Lewis, Jungle, Parquet Courts, St. Vincent, Steely Dan, Tame Impala, The Cribs, The Orwells,
Beale Street Music Festival
Dates: May 1-3
The Beale Street Music Festival is a relative unknown to many of the other festivals in this list, but it’s one of the oldest ones. The inaugural Beale Street Music Festival took place in 1977, taking place on Beale Street, one of Memphis’s most happening streets, filled with bars pubs and places to watch live music. This year’s festival has a pretty great lineup within the realms of rock and pop. You can rock out to Lenny Kravitz, Cage the Elephant and John Fogerty, but at the same time dance along to Ed Sheeran, Paramore and G-Eazy.
Notable Philly bands: None 🙁
Notable other bands: Lenny Kravitz, Ed Sheeran, John Fogerty, The Avett Brothers, Hozier, Wilco, Pixies, The Flaming Lips, Cage the Elephant, Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis, Of Monsters and Men, Spin Doctors
Shaky Knees Festival
Dates: May 8-10
You can make a strong argument for Shaky Knees having the best lineup of any festival released so far. It’s easily one of the most — if not the most — underrated festival in the country, especially for fans of indie rock. Last year’s fest had a killer lineup, which featured The Replacements, Modest Mouse, Spoon, The National, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alabama Shakes, the Violent Femmes, and, like, a billion other great bands. Somehow this year they managed to top it, with a set of headliners that features the mighty Wilco, the trippy Tame Impala, and The Strokes, a band who basically seems to play shows whenever they feel like it anymore. But if The Strokes pick Shaky Knees as their one main American festival play, I think you should too.
Notable Philly bands: The Dead Milkmen, Dr. Dog
Notable other bands: The Strokes, The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Pixies, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Tame Impala, Ryan Adams, Social Distortion, Old Crow Medicine Show, Interpol, TV on the Radio, ZZ Ward, The Black Lips, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, The Kooks, Best Coast
Hangout Music Festival
Hangout’s Fifth annual festival is happening in May of this year, and, like a lot of other great festivals on this list, it’s come a long way since it’s inaugural festival in 2010, which featured the Trey Anastasio Band, John Legend and the Zac Brown Band as headliners. It takes place in the Gulf Shores of Alabama, right where that little sliver of Alabama touches the Gulf of Mexico, between Florida and Mississippi. This year’s festival has three rather notable Philly bands in Strand of Oaks, The Districts and CRUISR, in addition to an already pretty stacked lineup, which consists of lots of XPN-type bands, including Spoon, Jenny Lewis, My Morning jacket, Houndmouth, Beck, Lake Street Dive and Father John Misty.
Dates: May 15-17
Notable Philly bands: Strand of Oaks, The Districts, CRUISR
Notable other bands: Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band, Sam Smith, Beck, My Morning Jacket, Foster the People, Spoon, TV on the Radio, Phantogram, Jenny Lewis, Cold War Kids, Father John Misty, Lake Street Dive, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Houndmouth, J Roddy Walston and the Business, San Fermin
Sasquatch! was the brainchild of a dude named Adam Zacks, a concert promoter currently employed by Live Nation who almost fought the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls, and is the best-known music festival out of the cleverly named town of George, Washington. Dating back to 2002, Sasquatch! has somewhat quietly maintained a reputation as one of the country’s best music festivals, sharing a state with Seattle’s Bumbershoot. This year’s festival has a plethora of great artists in attendence including Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala and Ryan Adams, in addition to Philly bands such as The War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks and The Districts.
Dates: May 22-25
Notable Philly bands: The War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks, The Districts
Notable other bands: Kendrick Lamar, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Modest Mouse, Sleater-Kinney, Ryan Adams, Of Monsters and Men, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, Spoon, Jenny Lewis, Father John Misty, Jungle, Courtney Barnett, Benjamin Booker, Phox, San Fermin, Mother Mother, Sleater-Kinney
This year’s CounterPoint Festival, held just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, features a wide array of bands from a wide array of different countries, including the Canadian Zed’s Dead, Norwegian DJ Kygo, Russian/German DJ Zedd, and the local act, Widespread Panic, from nearby Athens. This year’s list of CounterPoint headliners features Philly’s The Roots, solidifying the lineup for CounterPoint’s fourth annual get-together.
Dates: May 22-24
Notable Philly bands: The Roots
Notable other bands: Widespread Panic, Kygo, Umphrey’s Magee, Dillon Francis, Rebelution, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Cherub
Governor’s Ball is another newbie festival, originating in 2011. Over the course of its existence, it’s had a few pretty big name headliners, including The Strokes, Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon, Kanye West and Guns N’ Roses. Slowly but surely, it’s been quietly gaining steam, especially last year when The Strokes announced they’d be playing their first show in the United States since 2011, giving the festival a huge boost in notoriety. This year’s lineup, which features The Black Keys, Drake and Deadmau5, is fantastic as well.
Dates: June 5-7
Notable Philly bands: The War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks, The Districts,
Notable other bands: Drake, The Black Keys, Deadmau5, Lana Del Ray, Florence + the Machine, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, J Roddy Walston and the Business, Benjamin Booker, “Weird Al” Yankovic
Dates: June 11-14
Bonaroo used to be the premiere music festival in the Eastern side of the United States, until a few years ago when it became forced to share some of the glory with Firefly and Governor’s Ball, who have both gained steam in recent summers. But ‘Roo hasn’t lost a step, and maintains a cult-like core fan group of annual attendees. In fact, this year’s festival has an especially great selection of non-headliner bands including Against Me!, Courtney Barnett, Houndmouth, AWOLNATION and Jungle.
Notable Philly bands: The War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks, The Districts,
Notable other bands: Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, Deadmau5, Florence + the Machine, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes, Hozier, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Belle & Sebastian, Spoon, Gary Clarke Jr, Trampled by Turtles, Against Me!, Bleachers, Jungle, Houndmouth, Benjamin Booker, Courtney Barnett, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Phox
Firefly Music Festival
Firefly is the summer’s nearest major music festival on this list, in Dover, Delaware, an area many Philadelphians consider home turf as far as music festivals are concerned. Located next door to Dover International Speedway, Firefly very quickly made its way up to ‘elite music festival status’ in only its fourth year, when it was announced that Paul McCartney would be headlining the East Coast’s largest festival — a huge get for festival. But this year’s festival is more than just Macca; also be sure to check out Modest Mouse, Spoon, and Gary Calrke, Jr if you’re headed down!
Dates: June 16-21
Notable Philly bands: Chiddy Bang, Cheerleader
Notable other bands: Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Morrissey, Spoon, Snoop Dogg, Foster the People, Modest Mouse, Bastille, Hozier, Cage the Elephant, The Kooks, Benjamin Booker, Manchester Orchestra, Phox, Mother Mother
Kurt Vile is the only Philly act playing this year’s Pitchfork, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering Pitchfork as one of the top festivals in North America, despite its reputation for being the other music festival in Chicago. Taking place in Union Park, the original Pitchfork (then called Intonation Music Festival) took place in 2005, with Death From Above 1979, Broken Social Scene, and The Hold Steady on the bill. This year’s Pitchfork takes place in the same park, and features Chicago natives Wilco, Philly’s Kurt Vile, and the newly reunited Sleater-Kinney.
Dates: July 17-19
Notable Philly bands: Kurt Vile & the Violators
Notable other bands: Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Chvrches, The New Pornographers, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, Natalie Prass
Stick around for The Key’s Guide to Music Festivals Part Two, featuring Lollapalooza, Made in America, and other big name festivals from around the continent.