The 19 Best Summer Music Festivals of 2018

10 minute read

If Beyoncé’s memorable Coachella appearance has sparked your interest in attending a music festival as soon as possible, fear not: the summer festival season is finally near.

Over the past decade, music festivals have reached a global fever pitch of popularity and importance for artists and attendees alike: they’re a cash machine for the industry, a social media feeding frenzy and an important zone for artist discovery. Everyone from The Weeknd to your local neighborhood garage band is lining up to get onstage, while millions of fans worldwide buy tickets to see collections of artists play at events like Panorama, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. Coachella, the pop culture darling of them all, kicked things off with Beyoncé in the spring. But there’s plenty more on the calendar for summer, even if Queen Bey herself won’t be making a repeat appearance.

Here’s our roundup of 2018’s best music festival options, from outdoorsy favorite Sasquatch to Barcelona’s extensive, weeklong Primavera Sound extravaganza to local traditions like the Newport Folk Festival — and many more.

Sasquatch, May 25-27 (George, WA)

Only at camping-friendly Sasquatch will you find the sweet strains of Bon Iver nudging up against the fun-loving rap of Lizzo. The festival’s lineup for 2018 is about as representative as you can get, encompassing everything from the bluesy electronica of Jacob Banks to the alt-pop of Perfume Genius and new wave of David Byrne, but it’s best known for its indie acts. And, of course, the camping thing: with no nearby urban centers, Sasquatch-goers must come prepared to enjoy the great outdoors along with their music.

Boston Calling, May 25-27 (Boston, MA)

Eminem is front and center for Boston’s big summer festival earlier on in the season at Harvard’s athletic complex in Cambridge. It’s a rock-heavy roster this time around, with The Killers, Jack White, The National and Paramore all slated to lead things off. They’ll be balanced out by the smooth sounds of groups like Fleet Foxes and the rap of Bryson Tiller and Tyler, the Creator.

BottleRock Napa Valley, May 25-27 (Napa Valley, CA)

Bruno Mars. The Killers. The Chainsmokers. Muse. Halsey. The list is long for Napa Valley’s big summer festival blowout, which covers all genre bases and guarantees a beautiful setting in the rolling vineyard expanses of northern California. Besides the big names, seek out acts like soulful crooner Billy Raffoul and groovy rocker NoMBe to complete the experience.

Primavera Sound, May 30 – June 3 (Barcelona, Spain)

If an early summer European vacation is in your cards, you might also want to consider a pitstop in Barcelona for the extensive festival that is Primavera Sound. Located off of the Spanish beach, the weeklong Primavera Sound lineup is one of the most well-rounded in the world: where else can you find Björk and the Migos on the same billing? And if you’re looking to relive last year’s Coachella, it’s here in Barcelona that you’ll find Lorde.

Governors Ball, June 1-3 (New York, NY)

Eminem will also headline New York’s annual Governor’s Ball at Randall’s Island Park, a regularly celebrity-packed event in the thick of East Coast summer. Jack White, Travis Scott, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs complete the top billing, but the rest of the lineup is equally stacked with artists outside of rock and rap: electronic acts like Diplo, Galantis and Sylvan Esso should set a groovy mood, while singers Tash Sultana, Maggie Rogers and “Stay” writer Mikky Ekko will balance out the sounds.

Bonnaroo, June 7-10 (Manchester, TN)

People love Bonnaroo for the vibe: it’s a Southern-style adventure of camping in the sticky early summer and discovering music of all kinds in a laid-back environment. Eminem, The Killers, and Muse are the biggest names on the 2018 roster, but fans will also be hungry for the likes of Dua Lipa and Khalid. At Bonnaroo, you can also rediscover some classic favorites, like the legendary Mavis Staples or Old Crow Medicine Show (of “Wagon Wheel” fame), or find a new folk group to love, like Sweden’s First Aid Kit sister act.

Firefly, June 14-17 (Dover, DE)

Delaware’s Firefly is another of the camping festivals, featuring everything from luxury “glamping” to regular old bring-your-own tent options in the woods outside of the town of Dover. The musical options, meanwhile, swing from the likes of Kendrick Lamar to Foster the People, with a healthy dose of electronic acts (Big Gigantic, Chromeo) involved as well. (Once again, Eminem and The Killers will be popping up, too.)

Summerfest, June 27 – July 8 (Milwaukee, WI)

Summerfest’s 11 days make it one of the most expansive of your summer festival options. And it’s got a little something from everyone, from classic rock to cutting-edge pop: Imagine Dragons, Shawn Mendes, and Halsey all come together in the mix with James Taylor, Florida Georgia Line and the Flaming Lips along with hundreds of other artists for the Midwest event.

ESSENCE Festival, July 5-8 (New Orleans, LA)

ESSENCE Festival may take place in the thick of summer and in the heat of Louisiana, but it’s regularly one of the coolest festivals in the summer calendar. Consider: Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson are all slated as headliners for the event’s three days, backed up by Snoop Dogg, the smooth-singing Miguel and even actor Idris Elba (he’s got a side job as a DJ, in case you didn’t know yet).

Wireless Festival, July 6-8 (London, U.K.)

When it comes to hip-hop, there are a few festivals as stacked as London’s Wireless Festival. Over three days, the party is bringing everyone from grime superstar Stormzy to hitmaking producer DJ Khaled to the stage, along with every bold-faced name in rap: French Montana, the Migos, J.Cole, Lil Uzi Vert… the list goes on. From emo rap to Atlanta trap, Wireless looks to have the best roundup of the genre.

Pitchfork, July 20-22 (Chicago, IL)

Pitchfork, the music site, first established their reputation in the late 90s with their ear for emerging artists. So it’s no surprise that the associated festival in Chicago, now going on 12 years, steers clear of mainstream pop stars in favor of cult favorites and unimpeachably experimental artists, especially focused on local acts. Their lineup this year leans toward inventive R&B and indie rock; go for Ms. Lauryn Hill, Tame Impala and Chaka Khan, and stick around for the haunting futuristic R&B of Kelela or the rich, melodic rap of Noname.

FYF Fest, July 21-22 (Los Angeles, CA)

Festival-goers will have a chance to catch the doubly powerful headline duo of Florence and the Machine and Janet Jackson at this southern California weekend, which augments their star power with appearances from indie favorites like The xx, rap stars like Future and British grime artist Skepta, plus plenty of smaller acts just waiting to be discovered by a new legion of fans.

Panorama, July 27-29 (New York, NY)

Panorama, now in its third year, is the New York City answer to Coachella, bringing in a stacked set of artists to perform at the city’s nearby Randall’s Island Park. (It’s a busy summer at Randall’s Island.) The island is just far enough away to make the venture a journey — but close enough that no one is going to need to worry about camping or accommodations outside of their own bed. The Weeknd, Janet Jackson and the Killers are this year’s headliners, and you can bet that Jackson’s Saturday set will be enviable fodder for many, many Instagram feeds. (And with SZA, Dua Lipa and St. Vincent also in the mix, it’s a great spot to see all of the women at the top of the R&B and pop charts lately.)

Newport Folk Festival, July 27-29 (Newport, RI)

When it comes to folk — both traditional and its newer iterations — no one brings artists together better than the Newport Folk Festival, a traditional festival that goes all the way back to 1959 and has been a staple of the music community for decades. This year, renegade country acts like Sturgill Simpson will share the stage with artists like Jon Batiste, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, and Phoebe Bridgers and Courtney Barnett.

Mo Pop, July 28-29 (Detroit, MI)

If rock is more your vibe, Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival has the lineup for you. Breakout acts like Portugal. the Man and indie darling Bon Iver are taking top billing with The National and St. Vincent, but they’re backed up by a diverse set of rap, pop and genre-agnostic rising stars, including soulful Irishman Dermot Kennedy, energetic boy band Brockhampton and pop prodigy Billie Eilish.

Lollapalooza, Aug. 2-5 (Chicago, IL)

One of the biggest summer music festivals in the U.S., Chicago’s Lollapalooza attracts upwards of 150,000 music lovers over its four days. This year, headliners include the Arctic Monkeys, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and Jack White, plus a varied list of popular performers across genres, from party DJ Dillon Francis to rising pop star Madison Beer to the delightfully energetic rock of Rainbow Kitten Surprise. It’s the kind of festival where everyone will be able to find something to like, no matter what your music taste is going in.

Outside Lands, Aug. 10-12 (San Francisco, CA)

Janet Jackson, The Weeknd and Florence and the Machine will be front and center at the Bay Area’s biggest music festival in Golden Gate Park in August. Now in its tenth year running, Outside Lands continues its run with a diverse lineup in a convenient location, spread over three days. Consider spending some time with hipster favorite Father John Misty, pop princess Carly Rae Jepsen or moody crooner Lauv while you’re at it. Outside Lands, which champions an environmentally-friendly approach to mass congregation, is also home to a comedy tent for a break from all the music.

Hot 100 Fest, Aug. 18-19 (Long Island, NY)

With a dance-heavy lineup and plenty of EDM to spare, the Hot 100 Fest — hosted by Billboard — should turn the outdoor Jones Beach Theater on the Long Island waterfront into quite a party. Rappers Future and Rae Sremmurd have top billing, but fellow headliner DJ Snake, R&B singer Kehlani and pop star Kim Petras are acts to watch for with just as much hype behind them.

Afropunk Fest, Aug. 25-26 (Brooklyn, NY)

Few festivals mix music and fashion with quite the cultural power of Afropunk. The Brooklyn stop will close out the summer strong, featuring everyone from Janelle Monáe to in-demand R&B star Daniel Caesar, rapper Jaden Smith and his sister Willow and the haunting work of sisters Ibeyi.

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