15 Pop Music Festivals to Catch This Summer

15 Pop Music Festivals to Catch This Summer


From SZA in New York to Post Malone in Chicago, concerts across the country you don’t want to miss this season. We also picked our favorite festivals in theater, dance and classical music.

Governors Ball

RANDALLS ISLAND, JUNE 1-3 The people behind Governors Ball filled out this year’s lineup with cult favorites like the R&B singer Kelela and the indie-rock nostalgia-mongers Japandroids — both the kinds of artists who make it worth concertgoers’ while to arrive early. Those who stick around will catch headlining sets from Jack White, Travis Scott and Eminem, who lately has been indulging a nostalgic impulse of his own. “Can I take you back to a time when I was actually dope?” Eminem asked the crowd during his headlining set at Coachella. Expect him to travel back again at Governors. (Nick Murray) governorsballmusicfestival.com

Roots Picnic

PHILADELPHIA, JUNE 2 The last time Dave Chappelle and the Roots got together for an outdoor jam session, it produced “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” a documentary filled with good vibes and great musicians. Expect both again when the two acts reunite at the conclusion of this all-day event. Created in 2008, the Roots Picnic earns its name not just by providing good food, but also for hosting acts that appeal across generations. For the kids, there’s rising rapper Lil Uzi Vert; for older folks, there’s Bronx D.J. Kid Capri, who will likely spin classic funk and hip-hop. The Sun Ra Arkestra, meanwhile, will entertain anyone willing to take a trip. (N.M.) rootspicnic.com

CMA Fest

NASHVILLE, JUNE 7-10 This festival puts unrivaled emphasis on the interaction between artists and fans: Its layout includes the autograph table, a hallowed site in country music history, where Garth Brooks once signed for 23 hours straight. While daytime shows allow anyone in Nashville to hop among sets by little-known artists, evening concerts at the Ascend Amphitheater offer a free look at stars like Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae and Cole Swindell. Ticketed events includes both a “Forever Country” stage for ’90s throwbacks and stadium performances by Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan. (N.M.) cmaworld.com

Bonnaroo

MANCHESTER, TENN., JUNE 7-10 Bonnaroo’s four-day lineup includes so many artists that its flyer reads like an eye-doctor’s test, the names getting smaller past the point of recognition. Put on your glasses if you must, but don’t miss the bands near the bottom like Low Cut Connie, Midland and Amadou & Mariam. Their early sets — plus late-night activities like karaoke with T-Pain — justify camping overnight on festival grounds. This year’s headliners include the arena-rock favorites the Killers and Muse. The rap star Future and the rising R&B singer Khalid also have their names in big print. (N.M.) bonnaroo.com

Hot 97 Summer Jam

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., JUNE 10 Since 1994, Summer Jam has told the story of hip-hop in New York City, chronicling its fashion, its hits and its most bitter feuds. This year’s event should have everything but the hostility. For its 25th year, Summer Jam is bringing back two headliners from the recent past — Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne — plus giving the producer Swizz Beatz a set that is sure to feature appearances by some of the biggest rappers of the last two decades. Those looking for the stars of tomorrow should check out the Festival Stage, where artists like Childish Gambino and Iggy Azalea once made their first impressions. (N.M.) hot97.com/summerjam

Vans Warped Tour

MULTIPLE CITIES, JUNE 21-AUG. 5 If you’ve suddenly seen an influx of elaborate tattoos, brightly colored hair, ripped black jeans and electric guitars in your town at some point over the last 23 years, it’s probably been Warped Tour passing through. The traveling festival has drawn thousands of devoted fans to its frenzied punk and emo shows, and it will bid adieu with one final, sweaty run. Perennial favorites, including 3OH!3, Sum 41, All Time Low and Simple Plan, will be along for the tour’s ride, which makes 38 stops from coast to coast, including Las Vegas, Toronto, Atlanta, Scranton, Pa.; and Tampa, Fl. (Andrew R. Chow) vanswarpedtour.com

Essence Festival

NEW ORLEANS, JULY 5-8 Most summer festivals, even those on this list, seem to ignore annual protests concerning the small number of female artists who are booked to perform. They can learn a lot from Essence: This year’s headliners include Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, with SWV, Queen Latifah and Xscape all scheduled to open. Daytime events include business seminars, as well as three days of clinics in mental and physical health. Essence Eats, where Southern chefs will serve dishes like shrimp and grits and gumbo, will put those new healthy habits to an early test. (N.M.) essence.com/festival-2018

Pitchfork

CHICAGO, JULY 20-22 The online magazine Pitchfork was once considered indie rock’s prime tastemaker. It has long given up contending for that title, though, and its festival has become more diverse, and better, as a result. Friday will be headlined by the lite-psych crew Tame Impala, and Saturday by the shape-shifting folk group Fleet Foxes. Sunday night will climax with sets from Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill. And because Pitchfork’s editors are involved in creating the lineup, this festival is a genuinely great place to discover new rappers, singers and electronic auteurs who won’t be booked anywhere else. (N.M.) pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Newport Folk Festival

NEWPORT, R.I., JULY 27-29 Whether it’s is not quite country or too country for its own good, so-called Americana music has helped rejuvenate Newport, adding urgency to a festival that has sometimes struggled to escape its own long shadow. Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Valerie June will all draw large crowds at this year’s iteration, but don’t miss left-field newcomers like Fantastic Negrito, whose “In the Pines — Oakland” updates an old Lead Belly standard for present-day California. The guitarist Nels Cline’s “Resonator Excursion” even promises to offer something almost unheard-of at most of today’s prefab festivals: genuine experimentation. The festival is sold out, but it allows fans to exchange their passes on a platform called Lyte. (N.M.) newportfolk.org; lyte.com/newportfolk

Panorama

RANDALLS ISLAND, JULY 27-29 Randalls Island is often sweltering this time of year, and Panorama organizers have matched the rising temperatures with the hot and bothered music of the Weeknd, Janet Jackson, Dua Lipa and Daniel Caesar. Cooling stations will provide relief, as will breezy sets from Fleet Foxes and Father John Misty. The underbelly of the lineup is divided between rising acts in rock (Pvris, Japanese Breakfast, Jay Som) and dance (JLin, Yaeji, Helena Hauff). The most culturally resonant act, however, is SZA, who will hopefully treat fans to her two recent monster singles — “All the Stars,” with Kendrick Lamar, and “I Do,” with Cardi B. (A.R.C.) panorama.nyc

Lollapalooza

CHICAGO, AUG. 2-5 Lollapalooza remains the only festival to popularize its own suffix. This year’s version reminds us why. Depending on how you navigate the four-day lineup, you could see rap stars like Post Malone and Tyler the Creator; attend an EDM concert, where you dance to Zedd and Dillon Francis; or go to a pop festival, headlined by the Weeknd and Bruno Mars. Most attendees will mix and match, perhaps checking out some country (Luke Combs) and indie rock (Vampire Weekend) along the way. There’s even a kids’ stage, where bands like the Not Ready for Naptime Players entertain small children and whichever parent has been tasked with day-care duty. Though the festival has already sold out, verified passes are still available on the secondary market. (N.M.) lollapalooza.com

Newport Jazz Festival

NEWPORT, R.I., AUG. 3-5 Charles Lloyd, named a jazz master by the National Endowment for the Arts, will celebrate his 80th birthday with three sets that feature peers across the genre spectrum, including Jason Moran, Lucinda Williams and the tabla player Zakir Hussain. In another notably unorthodox collaboration, Laurie Anderson will team up with Christian McBride, the festival’s artistic director, for improvisations. And the expected roll call of jazz greats includes Pat Metheny, Robert Glasper, Joshua Redman, Gregory Porter and Mary Halvorson. But who’s creating all those squeals, barks and bass slaps on the other side of Aquidneck Island? Oh — it’s George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, romping their way through what Mr. Clinton says is his last tour with the group. (A.R.C.) newportjazz.org

Afropunk Fest

BROOKLYN, AUG. 25-26 Erykah Badu headlining Afropunk just feels right, given how she aligns with its subversive, empathetic and highly fashionable tendencies. She is the main representative of an older generation to perform here and will pass the torch to a collection of talented and idiosyncratic performers including Janelle Monáe, Tyler the Creator, Syd of the Internet and Zoe Kravitz of Lolawolf. Both Smith siblings, Jaden and Willow, will be on hand to perform and impart cosmic wisdom. And a rowdier section of the bill, with Trash Talk, Denzel Curry and Wicked Wisdom, furthers the festival’s tradition of hardcore. (A.R.C.) afropunkfest.com/brooklyn

Outside Lands

SAN FRANCISCO, AUG. 10-12 There aren’t many better ways to enjoy the San Francisco summer sunshine than in Golden Gate Park, with a Napa red in one hand and a Korean burrito in the other, daydreaming along to a hazy groove from Tycho. That Bay Area producer will be joined by Florence and the Machine, Janet Jackson, Future, Beck and Bon Iver. Rex Orange County may be from England, but he still conjures West Coast bliss with his stage name and pristine guitar textures. Jessie Ware, Chromeo, Carly Rae Jepsen and Margo Price all emit similar rays of euphoria. (A.R.C.) sfoutsidelands.com

Electric Zoo

RANDALLS ISLAND, AUG. 31-SEPT. 2 Electric Zoo had its debut in 2009 and nearly closed in 2013, after two people died over the course of the weekend. It’s now the last EDM festival standing in New York City, back for its 10th year with a lineup that combines mainstay D.J.s like Kaskade and new arrivals like Marshmello. Held on Randalls Island, Electric Zoo wraps up the summer festival season, so its look is determined by the tension between ravers’ desires to wear as few clothes as possible and the cool breezes blowing off the water to warn against the start of fall. (N.M.) electriczoo.com

Correction: 

An earlier version of an item about the Electric Zoo festival misstated ticket information. Presale registration is open now for single-day passes that will go on sale May 31; they have not been sold out.



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