From starry-eyed pioneering across new sonic frontiers by organizers of Boise’s Treefort Fest and the oft-anticipated Coachella reunion of Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan as “the most dangerous band in the world,” to Detroit’s Movement Fest heralding a 3D performance by Kraftwerk, North American festivals are breaking new ground in 2016. Whatever your taste, we’ve created this preview of music festivals most worth the airfare.
March 23-27 Treefort Fest
While Boise is a somewhat unlikely location for a spring music festival, the 2016 Treefort Music Fest is poised to put the small town on the musical map. The festival website describes Boise as a “big little state” that is “on the frontier of a young developing nation — and it’s exciting times on the frontier.” With a starry-eyed idealism reminiscent of pioneers in search of land in the wild West or (more likely) kids building a fort, the Treefort Fest explores territories new and familiar. The 2016 lineup includes Built to Spill, The Oh Sees, YACHT, Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic, Nosaj Thing, Thundercat and Porches.
April 15-17 and 22-24 Coachella
The desert oasis of the Coachella Festival alights Indio, California, with an assortment of breaking — and reconvening — artists. The reunion of James Murphy, co-founder of DFA Records, with LCD Soundsystem is eclipsed only by the Guns N’ Roses reunion, in which original members Axl Rose, Duff McKagan and Slash will reunite after decades of discord with a rotating cast of other members. Other performers include The Kills, Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, M83, Underworld, Mavis Staples, Ice Cube, Silversun Pickups, Sia, A$AP Rocky and Calvin Harris.
April 22-May 1 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Voodoo, blues, Cajun food and… Steely Dan? This year’s New Orleans Blues and Jazz Festival features a number of diverse performers, including Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, Van Morrison, My Morning Jacket, The Isley Brothers and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.
April 29-May 1 Stagecoach Festival
Presented by Goldenvoice, the powers behind Coachella, the Stagecoach Country Music Festival will take place in Indio, California, from April 29-May 1. The giddyap country and alt country lineup includes A Thousand Horses, Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Jamestown Revival, The Doobie Brothers and The Marshall Tucker Band.
April 29-May 1 Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis is home to a storied musical history, so what better place for a music festival with an emphasis on rock and guitar crooners reminiscent of Sun Records releases? The 2016 lineup includes The Struts, Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Violent Femmes, Modest Mouse, Weezer and Beck.
May 19-22 Moogfest
Moogfest honors Robert Arthur Moog, the German inventor of the Moog synthesizer and grandfather of electronic music and modular synthesizers. The 2016 Moogfest will be held in Durham, North Carolina. Performers span many genres, but are all unified in their use of Moog synthesizers or equipment to produce music. Gary Numan, ODESZA, Miike Snow, GZA, sunn O))), Oneohtrix Point Never, comedian-cum-musician Reggie Watts, DJ Harvey, Sun Ra, Devo’s singer Mark Mothersbaugh and The Black Madonna highlight the impressive roster of performing musicians.
May 27-29 Boston Calling Music Festival
The annual Boston Calling Music Festival is held each year on numerous stages within City Hall Plaza and features a lineup hand-picked by Aaron Dessner, guitarist of the band The National. Dessner will perform without The National this year and instead will play alongside Irish musician Lisa Hannigan. Other performers include Disclosure, Sia, Sufjan Stevens, Robyn, ODESZA, Haim, Janelle Monáe and Vince Staples.
May 27-30 Sasquatch! Music Festival
Sasquatch! Music Festival is held each year on Memorial Day weekend in the resplendent cliffs of Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington. On the bill are Major Lazer, Alabama Shakes, The Cure, Florence & The Machine, Grimes, Chet Faker, Jamie XX, Tycho, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Caribou, Four Tet, Digable Planets, Yo La Tengo, Yeasayer, Todd Terje and Tacocat.
May 28-30 Movement Music Festival
The annual Movement Festival has deep roots in electro and techno music in the gritty urban setting of Detroit. The 2016 iteration takes place at Hart Plaza and heralds a 3D performance by Kraftwerk as well as Green Velvet and Claude Vonstroke together as Get Real, John Digweed, Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald as Borderland, Magda, Maceo Plex, Nina Kraviz, Stacey Pullen, Scuba and Ellen Allien, head of Germany’s B-Pitch label, among others.
June 3-5 Governors Ball Music Festival
The Randall’s Island Park annual three-day Governors Ball Music Festival, now in its fifth year, features diverse programming. Genres span from rock and independent alt rock to electronic, pop and hip-hop. The 2016 lineup includes The Strokes, De La Soul, Thundercat, Bat for Lashes, Beck, Robyn, Kanye West, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie and Chvrches.Consequence of Sound reported The Strokes may unveil new music during their Governors Ball performance — their first musical offering since 2013’s Comedown Machine.
June 9-12 Bonnaroo Music Festival
The annual Bonnaroo Music Festival, conceived in 2002, takes place on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Originally imagined as festival paying tribute to folk rock and jam bands, the 2016 lineup has expanded to include electronica, jazz, bluegrass and a wide swath of diverse genres. Performers include Pearl Jam, Third Eye Blind, Cymande, Father John Misty, Big Boi and Phantogram as Big Grams.
June 24-August 13 Vans Warped Tour
The Vans Warped Tour kicks off in Dallas on June 24 and hits Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, New York, Indiana, California and Washington (among other states) before its final event in Portland on August 13. The full lineup was released March 22nd; past performers include Riff Raff, Blink 182, Rancid, Andrew W.K., Billy Idol, and (oddly) Katy Perry.
July 28-31 Lollapalooza
The Lollapalooza Music Festival was initially conceived in the grunge era of 1991 by Perry Farrell, the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction with an initial lineup of Siouxsie & The Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Fishbone, Ice-T & Body Count, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band and Violent Femmes. The diverse programming in ensuing years has included Ministry, The Weeknd, Florence & The Machine, Tame Impala, TV On The Radio, Björk, announced here; the event takes place at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois.
August 5-7 Outside Lands Festival
Each August, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park turns back the hands of time to the Summer of Love when it’s transformed into the Outside Lands Festival. Attendees clad in costumes and flower power prints converge to witness the cultural synthesis, with music performances, various food vendors and trucks, art installations and wine. Last year’s festival nearly topped theForbes list of American music festivals by ticket sales and attendance with over $24 million in gross sales, with performers D’Angelo & The Vanguard, Wilco and Elton John.
September 2-4 North Coast Music Festival
The North Coast Music Festival is Chicago’s answer to West Coast festivals such as Sasquatch! The Fest was conceived by a group of music promoters to celebrate diverse music genres — pop, rock, electronic, funk and even folk music. Performers meet in Union Park each year to play. Last year’s lineup included Widespread Panic, The Glitch Mob, Chromeo, The Roots, Booka Shade, The Chemical Brothers, DJ Lady D, DJ Heather, Karl and Mark Almaria, Green Velvet and Gold Panda.
September 2-4 Bumbershoot Festival
Bumbershoot Festival takes place each Labor Day weekend at the Seattle Center, home to the unwieldy Jetsons-esque Space Needle built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The initial Bumbershoot took place in 1971, making 2016 its 46th anniversary. A number of bands from the Pacific Northwest perform alongside international and national acts each year. Other eclectic events — a collectible contemporary art and culture poster show, theatre performances, The 1Reel Film Festival presented by Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), book signings and poetry slams round out the cultural smorgasbord that is Bumbershoot. Previous performers have included Ween, Taj Mahal, Jurassic 5, The Pixies, Wu-Tang Clan, Bootsy Collins, Cat Power, The Funky Meters, Elvis Costello and Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey).
September 30-October 2 and October 7-9 Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits is a relatively new festival emerging from the shadows of the better-known SXSW to gain notoriety on the Texan festival stage. The Festival is thoughtfully planned, with phone charging stations, a family-friendly festival geared toward children and partnerships benefiting the Austin Parks Foundation. The 2016 lineup hasn’t been released yet, but the 2015 roster included Foo Fighters, Drake, The Weeknd, The Strokes, Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, TV On The Radio and A$AP Rocky.