The Best Musical Festivals to Travel to This Summer
Back in the day of paper tickets and—gasp!—cash-only concessions, I attended my first summer music festival: Livestock ’94, which brought a motley crew (though not the Mötley Crüe) to Salt Lake City, where everyone from Blue Oyster Cult to the Doobie Brothers was, well, takin’ it to the streets. Or at least the Utah State Fairpark.
Rocking out with an air guitar and my friend Liza—a year older and infinitely hipper in her nine-eyelet Doc Martens and extra-short bob—I was hooked, and ready to hit the road for more. (Little wonder I've become one of Travelzoo's resident music geeks.) And while I’m sad to report that the venerable Livestock is no longer, the worldwide summer music festival circuit rocks on. Here are seven worth travelling for.
Fuji Rock Festival, Yuzawa-cho, Japan
Naeba Ski Resort may be a snow-bunny’s winter paradise, but it’s also home to the Fuji Rock Festival this summer (July 26-28), where you’ll hear the likes of the Chemical Brothers and The Cure—plus plenty of acts that don’t start with the C (see: Janelle Monae, James Blake and Sia, for starters). Be sure to: Take the Dragondola, reportedly the longest gondola ride (25 minutes!) in Japan.
Heavy Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Think Canada’s totally mellow, eh? Allow Heavy Montreal to bust that myth, when everyone from Anthrax to Godsmack comes to town (July 26-28). Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash will pay homage to the heaviest of heavy when he plays with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. And Slayer has indicated this will be its last performance in Quebec, so expect the group to go out with a bang. Be sure to: Ditch the mosh pit in favour of the on-site food kiosks every so often. Because yes—this being Montreal—there's poutine to be had.
Second only to Woodstock in icon status, Lollapollooza was the brainchild of Jane’s Addiction singer, Perry Farrell. Since the festival’s 1991 inception, Farrell’s been offered plenty for the rights, but has never sold them. And that’s a good thing, because Lolla (as it’s known to loyalists) still cranks out some of the best live music in existence. This summer, the acts hitting the stages in Chicago’s Grant Park (Aug. 1-4) run the gamut from Ariana Grande, to The Strokes to Childish Gambino. Note: Lolla used to be a touring festival, but now there are Lollapolloozas in multiple countries, so if you’d rather take in the mix abroad, you can do so in Paris, Stockholm, Berlin or any number of South American countries. Headliners vary, but awesomeness is a constant. Be sure to: Check out Lolla’s sustainability efforts (getting muddy and green feels good).
Woodstock 50 in Watkins Glen, NY
The scene was Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York. The year was 1969. Peace and love felt extra imperative against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. So 400,000 people descended on those 600 acres—and the original Woodstock Music & Arts Fair became the symbol of a generation. To celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary this summer, a co-creator of the original Woodstock, Michael Lang, is putting together a celebration of “Peace, love & music…for the people, for the planet” (Aug. 16-18). Though most of the headlining names have changed, they’re no less iconic. We’re talking Jay-Z, the Killers and Pussy Riot, to name a few. But you’ll also find the odd OG act (“David Crosby and friends” are scheduled to make an appearance). Though plagued by rumours that it wasn’t going to happen, the festival seems very much on, countdown clock and all. Be sure to: Sign up to receive the latest alerts—you know, just in case.
Rock in Rio, Brazil
Why would you accept that summer ends September 23 when a festival this hot starts a mere four days later (September 27–October 6)? The A-List smorgasbord descending on Rio’s Barra Olympic Park (as the name implies, the scene of the 2016 Summer Olympics) includes Drake, Foo Fighters, P!nk, metal legends galore and a slew of additional acts and special guests. Since the festival’s inception in 1985 (Queen was one of the first acts to perform), Rock in Rio has donated 73 million trees to the Amazon. And if that doesn’t make you want to do a happy dance, we don’t know what will. Be sure to: Stay at an official festival hotel for shuttle service to and from the park, among other perks.
Plus: A few to look forward to next year!
Isle of Wight Festival, UK
Woodstock gets all the festival-origin glory, but a year before Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner was even a glimmer in any promoter’s eye, England’s Isle of Wight was holding a proto-peace and love-fest with some of the same artists (aptly, Jefferson Airplane really got around). The following year, the Beatles turned up at the Isle of Wight Festival—not as performers—but as fans of someone else who’d be performing that year: Bob Dylan. This year’s festival (June 13-16) celebrates the 50th anniversary of that weekend, and the organizers would love for you to turn up in your peace and love finest. But whether or not you rock tie-dye and crochet, the line-up is worth travelling for. The shortlist includes Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Garbage, Keane, George Ezra and Lily Allen. Be sure to: Book a “bathing under the sky” experience (think wood-fired hot tubs and a cool pool).
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
Did you miss Coachella in April? Hit the next-best thing. Bonnaroo has been bringing music lovers together since 2002 and consistently delivers a stellar line-up of blues, rap, country, pop and other flavours. This year (June 13-16), think Phish’s psychedelic-harmonious vibe meets Cardi B’s Snap-worthiness. Indie sounds will be plentiful, too, with The Lumineers (did somebody say “Ho Hey”?), Hozier and The Avett Brothers all scheduled to perform. And unlike some festivals, Bonnaroo encourages you to stay on-site for the duration—there’s even space for RVs and a packing list (but—per instructions—leave those slacklines and drones at home). Be sure to: Buy a car camping pass so you can set up a tent right next to your car.