List

20 Best Music Festivals of 2013

Coachella or Bonnaroo? Ultra or EDC? Flip through our must-see list for all the details you need to take the festival adventure that's right for you
 /  / January 11, 2013

Jemal Countess/WireImage

» 2013 festivals are so....last year. Check out our shiny new 2014 festival guide, featuring the biggest festivals of the year and everything you need to know about them!

The Digital Age. Surely, more than a few record execs have wept mulling over that phrase. Streaming services and YouTube are taking over. One-hit wonders of past generations have sold more albums than some of today's biggest artists. Yup, the times are a-changing. But you know what's standing firm in the midst of all this piracy bullsh-t? Live music. 

It's irreplaceable in our opinion. Even with your fancy 3D, HD TVs and your thundering surround sound, it doesn't matter. Seeing music live is THE epitome of the music experience. 

And thanks to our culture's evolving tastes, you can go to a festival and experience your favorite playlist in person over the course of a couple days. It's pretty incredible.

But there are hundreds of festivals in the U.S. every year -- how does one possibly choose?! Guys, calm down. We go to festivals all the time, so we've learned a thing or two about their pros and cons and assembled this must-see list (laid out in chronological order). 

They're all known for booking stellar lineups, so we've pulled out some telling details about each festival's atmosphere and vibe. Whether you wanna shake your ass in furry boots, mosh away your high school drams or just chill out with 80,000 new friends on a beautiful summer night, your dream festival awaits you.

South by Southwest

Dustin Finkelstein

When: March 12 - 17
Where: Austin, TX

2012 Lineup Highlights: Best Coast, Sleigh Bells, Wavves, Skrillex, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Grimes, Chairlift, Zola Jesus, T.I., Lil Wayne, Bruce Springsteen, Gossip, Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes

2013 Lineup Highlights (so far): Alex Clare, Alien Ant Farm, Angel Haze, Chance the Rapper, Dead Prez, Dirty Nasty, Sky Ferriera, Skylar Grey, Kid Koala, Third Eye Blind, Butch Walker, The Whigs, ZZ Ward

Why It's Awesome

  • So many on-the-verge artists to discover
  • Small clubs (and cheap/free booze) means it's easy to make friends and network (yeah, we hate that word too, but seriously there are a lot of music industry folks there)
  • Cool venue history (Austin's the "Live Music Capital of the World")
  • You won't be sweating your ass off in a muddy field all day
  • PARTIES

Downside: 

  • Some of the cooler shows can be really hard to get into
  • Since there's not one central stage, you really have to plan your day out

Ultra Music Festival

David Rojas

When: Mar. 15 – 17 and Mar. 22 – 24
Where: Miami, FL

2012 Lineup Highlights: Tiesto, Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Kraftwerk, Justice, David Guetta, Kaskade, Basnectar, Skrillex, Afrojack, Miike Snow, Duck Sauce, M83, Bloody Beetroots, Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Chase and Statur, Madeon and Porter Robinson

2013 Lineup Highlights (so far): Above & Beyond, Afrojack, Armin Van Buuren, Avicii, Bassnectar, Calvin Harris, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Kaskade, Richie Hawtin, Swedih House Mafia, Tiesto, Crystal castles, deadmau5, Major Lazer and Hot Chip

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Now two weekends, but with different lineups. Take that, Coachella.
  • 15th anniversary means surprises!
  • Tons of really exciting parties surrounding the festival
  • Huge international crowd, so  Anglophiles, Hibernophiles, and all the other philes will be pleased
  • It's won the International Dance Music Award for "Best Music Event" for six years. Awards mean something, right?

Downsides:

  • Music ends at midnight, so make sure you find the after parties
  • It's TOO popular, so it's sometimes crammed and difficult to get from stage to stage

Coachella

Frazer Harrison

When: Apr. 12 - 14 and Apr. 19 - 21
Where: Indio, CA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Swedish House Mafia, The Black Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Bon Iver, A$AP Rocky, Azealia Banks, Florence + the Machine, At The Drive-In, AVICII and Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg (with the Tupac hologram)

Why It’s Awesome:

  • The best grass (and yes, we actually mean the lawn) of any festival
  • Palm trees and desert mountains make a gorgeous backdrop
  • Tons of surprise appearances by artists and other celebs hanging out
  • Despite the masses of people, it's not too hard to get from stage to stage
  • Beautiful people, so many beautiful people (what do you expect from California?)
  • Great people watching

Downsides:

  • It's not the easiest place to walk in and out of. After pacing around the entire shuttle bus paddock for what felt like an hour, we got hollered at by a security guard just for trying to LEAVE the grounds
  • Temps reach over 100 degrees. Ugh.
  • Even though it's two weekends, those with sloppy seconds might feel a little disappointed with less parties surrounding the festival and less surprises.

Sasquatch!

Tim Mosenfelder

When: May 24 – 27
Where: Quincy, WA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Jack White, Beck, Bon Iver, Pretty Lights, The Shins, Beirut, Tenacious D, The Shins, Girl Talk, The Head and the Heart, Feist, Silversun Pickups, Metric, Explosions in the Sky, James Murphy

Why It’s Awesome:

  • THE VIEW. Have you seen this place? Tweeting a shot of the gorge per day is an unspoken requirement.
  • People at Sasquatch are extremely nice. And extremely good looking. 
  • Being in the middle of a nowhere is good for your mental health (2.5 hours away from Seattle)
  • Great camping community since you're so far from civilization
  • Unlike most festivals, the porta-potties get cleaned and restocked frequently
  • You can make friends with Canadians

Downsides:

  • Especially during headliners, the grounds can be REALLY crowded
  • Your place of residence will most likely pale in comparison upon returning home
  • Canadians might try to make friends with you

Bonnaroo

C. Taylor Crothers

When: Jun. 13-16
Where: Manchester, TN

2012 Lineup Highlights: The Avett Brothers, Radiohead, Feist, Foster the People, Big Freedia, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Roots, Skrillex, Dispatch, Alice Cooper, The Beach Boys, Bon Iver, Phish, The Shins, Ben Folds Five, Fun.

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Bonnaroo has a special feeling of camaraderie. Sure it's huge, but everyone loves the music just as much as you do.
  • Free water
  • Comedy, movies, Guitar Hero, water slides, shopping -- there's plenty to keep you entertained in between sets
  • 4 days of music instead of just 2 or 3
  • Lots of unexpected chance encounters
  • It's pretty easy to get to the front of any crowd if you time it right (aka get there a little bit before the previous act ends).

Downsides:

  • We hope you like hiking. If you're unlucky, your campsite could literally be miles from Centeroo.
  • We once waited in line for 8 hours to get through the front gate on day 1. Pretty sure this was not an isolated incident.
  • At night, especially it can be really difficult to move from stage to stage.

Warped Tour

Theo Wargo

When: Jun. 15 – Aug. 4
Where: National Tour

2012 Lineup Highlights: All Time Low, Anti-Flag, Breathe Carolina, New Found Glory, The Used, Rise Against, Taking Back Sunday, We Are the In Crowd, Of Mice & Men, Memphis May Fire, Man Overboard, Blood on the Dance Floor

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Everyone's accepted. Everyone matters.
  • You'll forget your teenage angst for a day (even if you're not a teen)
  • Tickets won't destroy your entire summer fund
  • Meet & greets with tons of bands
  • The two main stages barely overlap sets, so you can see most of the big names
  • It's an outlet for genres that most major festivals ignore.
  • Young love abounds

Downsides:

  • If you thought a festival in a field was hot, just wait until you experience black top.
  • You'll leave with an inexplicable need for tattoos and piercings. This will follow you for the rest of your life.
  • Kids, you really gotta learn to put a cap on that PDA

Electric Daisy Carnival

Michael Tullberg

When: Jun, 21 - 23
Where: Las Vegas, NV
2012 Lineup: Alesso, Kaskade, Afrojack, Steve Angello, Erick Morillo, Steve Aoki, Tiesto, Acicii, Calvin Harris, Bassnectar, Paco Osuna, Porter Robinson, Armin van Buuren, Dada Life, Funkagenda

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Is there really a better place to party than Las Vegas?
  • The music goes from sun down to sun up, the way a party should be
  • There's plenty of room, so you won't feel claustrophobic
  • Free carnival rides. (Watching the sun rise on a ferris wheel, eh eh?)
  • EDC is all about stimulation: art, lights, stage setup, fireworks. You'll be enthralled by more than just music
  • PLUR. PLUR everywhere.

Downsides:

  • Some of last year's sets were cancelled because of high winds. It's been moved to later in June to try to prevent this from happening again, but mother nature does what she wants.
  • Later in June means higher temperatures, so hydrate like crazy
  • Traffic coming in and out has been a huge headache in the past

Summerfest

Photo Credit: Official Summerfest/Flickr

When: Jun. 26 – 30
Where: Milwaukee, WI

2013 Lineup Highlights: Aerosmith, The Avett Brothers, Cody Simpson, Common, Death Cab For Cutie, Gavin DeGraw, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum, Lupe Fiasco, Rascal Flatts, Robyn, The Roots, Train, Young the Giant, Zac Brown Band, Ziggy Marley

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Pretty views of Lake Michigan!
  • You can make an epic (and more convenient) entrance into the Pavilion via Sky Glider.
  • Check out the sights of downtown Milwaukee
  • There's a designated Children's Area to dump your kids at.
  • Fun fact: in past years, you could exchange two jars of Milwaukee's Pickles for a free ticket!

Downsides:

  • Even if you claim the "blue circle" seats early, the section's new "special pass needed after 7:30PM" policy will force you to find other seats at night.
  • Weird music might bleed in from nearby JoJo's Martini Lounge.
  • Not ideal for folks seeking a true "festival vibe" since this is more like five days of separate concerts.

Mayhem Festival

Chelsea Lauren

When: Jun. 29 - Aug. 4 (Projected)
Where: National Tour

2012 Lineup Highlights: Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead, The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, Asking Alexandria, Anthraz, Whitechapel, Upon A Burning Body, Betraying the Martyrs, I the Breather

Why It’s Awesome:

  • It's an outlet for genres that most major festivals ignore.
  • Did you see the shot above? A guy in a wheelchair crowd surfed! (This list could really just stop here)
  • All that moshing is seriously cathartic
  • Genre founders, up and comers and everything in between on one bill
  • If you're a metal girl, the odds are in your favor that you'll find someone you like

Downsides: 

  • One misplaced limb and you could end up in the hospital
  • All that testosterone is bound to get out of hand at times

Newport Folk Festival

Jeffrey Ufberg

When: Jul. 27 – 28
Where: Newport, RI

2012 Lineup Highlights: My Morning Jacket, Jackson Browne, Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin, The head & the Heart, Punch Brothers, Dawes, Deer Tick, Tallest Man on Earth, City and Coulr, Of Monsters and Men, Blind Pilot

Why It’s Awesome:

  • The fest has been around since 1959 and some of the acts to play then are still doing sets today
  • With attendance capped at 10,000 it's a nice break from the mega fest
  • The festival got re-energized last year with a younger lineup and younger crowd
  • Beautiful aquatic surroundings
  • You can take a water taxi! 

Downsides:

  • No disrespect to Rhode Island, but it's not exactly a top travel destination
  • Leaving at the end of the night can be a bitch

Lollapalooza

Gary Miller

When: Aug. 2 – 4
Where: Chicago, IL

2012 Lineup Highlights: Red Hot Chili Pepper, The Black Keys, Black Sabbath, Jack White, Florence + the Machine, At the Drive-In, Bassnectar, Avicii, The Shins, Justice, Passion Pit, Kaskade, The Weeknd, Sigur Ros, Calvin Harris

Why It’s Awesome:

  • It's basically two vacations in one: explore Chicago by day, Lolla by night.
  • And then hit up one of the many after parties later
  • You know they have their sh-t together. In 2012, a massive storm came through, shutting Lolla down, but once it passed they rescheduled acts and got everything going again immediately. 
  • Miraculously, drink and food costs are kept pretty low
  • Many hotels are in walking distance, so you don't have to worry about transportation.

Downsides:

  • Security seems really lax at times. Good if you only care about sneaking in booze, but bad for safety.
  • The music ends at 10pm. Boo.
  • This is really a pro in disguise, but with so many good bands, serious scheduling conflicts are inevitable.
  • No camping, if that's your scene.

Electric Zoo

Wendell Teodoro

When: Aug. 3 – Sept. 1
Where: Randalls Island Park, NYC

2012 Lineup Highlights: David Guetta, Axwell, Tiesto, Pretty Lights, Brodinski, A-Trak, Group Therapy, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, Claude VonStroke, Benny Benassi, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Diplo, Knife Party, Datsik and Boys Noize

Why It’s Awesome:

  • You get to ride a ferry to the island. Yes, an awesome ferry.
  • Free refills with a $3 water bottle purchase!!!
  • The festival's iPhone app, which includes live schedules, maps and food options, makes life much easier.
  • Well-controlled and organized event (i.e. wristband scanners, organized buses, lots of security)

Downsides:

  • It's an island, so NYC subways won't get you there.
  • Labor Day Weekend
  • It's an all-ages festival, so you could bump into (literally) an 8-year-old or 80-year-old.

Outside Lands

Jeff Kravitz

When: Aug. 9 – 11
Where: San Francisco, CA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Foo Fighters, Sigur Ros, Jack White, Skrillex, Beck, Norah Jones, Justice, Passion Pit, Die Antwoord, Tame Impala, Fun., The Kills, Father John Misty

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Free Ben & Jerry's!
  • For folks who don't feel like bloating up on beer for three days, they offer a classy wine tent.
  • No camping allowed, so the high maintenance ones can sleep in actual beds without looking totally lame.
  • Diverse food. Farmers Market stand? You got it!
  • It's San Francisco, America's best city!

Downsides:

  • No camping allowed, so that might mean forking up dough for lodging or awkward couch-surfing.
  • Temperatures may fluctuate between super hot and super freezing.

Rock the Bells

Tim Mosenfelder

When: Aug. 17 – 18, Aug. 24 – 25 and Aug. 31 – Sept. 1(Projected)
Where: San Bernadino, CA, Mountain View, CA and Holmdel, NJ, 

2012 Lineup Highlights: Nas, Ice Cube, Xzibit, Kid Cudi, J Cole, DMX + Eve, Wu Block, Wiz Khalifa, Common, 2 Chainz, Yelawolf, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Pusha T, Curren$y, Casey Veggies, Dom Kennedy

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Brings together hip hop fans of all ages to appreciate the genre's rich history
  • It's now a two-day event, which means better schedules and double the hip hop craze.
  • Free parking at the Mountain View and Holmdel venues (boo, San Bernadino!)

Downsides:

  • Two-day passes only, so single-day passes are NOT available.

Burning Man

Victor Grigas

When: Aug. 26 – Sept. 2
Where: Black Rock Desert, NV

2012 Lineup Highlights: It doesn't work like that!

Why It’s Awesome:

  • No other festival like it in the country
  • You are in a gorgeous, sprawling desert.
  • This is an immersive experience: time for soul searching, self-reflection and appreciation of art, others, the world, etc.
  • You are the music, so make sure you get some practice in
  • Once you're there you don't need money. A gift-giving economy is encouraged.
  • Hands down, the most non-corporate festival out there. No sponsored tents. You can't even get a camera in there for press. (Trust us, we tried).
  • Art, mutant vehicles and lots of bikes

Downsides:

  • You really have to plan for self-reliance. There's no Wal-Mart around the block.
  • You are in a hot desert without much shade. 
  • Lots of nudity, so this is not for the conservative

Bumbershoot

Timothy Hiatt

When: Aug. 31 – Sept. 2
Where: Seattle, WA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Jane’s Addiction, Tony Bennett, Skrillex, Gotye, Mac Miller, Big Sean, M83, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, AWOLNATION, Passion Pit, Keane, Best Coast, Yelawolf, Ty Segall, The Promise Ring, Missy Higgins

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Some sun in Seattle!
  • Music, art displays AND stand-up comedy.
  • No wristbands or separate tickets needed to see big-name acts performing in KeyArena.
  • Plenty of room to mingle around and enjoy the artsy surroundings!

Downsides:

  • Rising ticket prices generally lead to fewer attendees (but hey, more lawn space for you!)
  • It's Seattle, so good weather is never a guarantee.

Made In America

Kevin Mazur

When: Aug. 31 - Sept. 1 (Projected)
Where: Philadelphia, PA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Jay Z, Pearl Jam, Skrillex, Miike Snow, Calvin Harris, Drake, Jill Scott, Run DMC, Odd Future, Passion Pit, Gary Clark Jr., D’Angelo, Afrojack, Alesso, The Hives and Rita Ora

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Lineup is curated by Jay-Z. He got Run-DMC to reunite in 2012, so there's no telling what other unique acts he'll bring to the table.
  • It's September in the Philly, so you won't be roasting.
  • This will be the festival's second year, so presumably there will be a lot of improvement
  • Very easy to walk to and from. Even leaving with the crowd, we didn't feel like cattle

Downsides:

  • OMG, we've never waited in line so long for a porta-pottie. Plan your schedule around it.
  • The food was pretty "meh" for its cost
  • Nothing really visually stimulating other than the Museum of Art and adjacent 'Rocky' stairs visible behind main stage

Austin City Limits

Rick Kern

When: Oct. 4 – 6 and Oct. 11 - 13
Where: Austin, TX

2012 Lineup Highlights: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Black Keys, Jack White, Florence + the Machine, The Avett Brothers, Iggy & The Stooges, Avicii, Bassnectar, the Roots, Gotye, The Civil Wars, Tegan and Sarah

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Austin is friendly, young, not super expensive and the effing "Live Music Capital of the World"
  • They expanded to two weekends this year! Great news considering the festival has sold out for 9 years in a row.
  • Two weekends means the potential for secret shows and unexpected collaborations during the weekdays in between.
  • The Europeans have rubbed off on ACL. These people really know how to do flags.
  • With its Austin Kiddie Limits area for the babes, ACL is really family friendly.
  • Well organized with plenty of water-filling stations and even a bag check

Downsides:

  • The crowd seemed pretty subdued last year compared to many other festivals.
  • Like Coachella, the music will be nearly identical both weekends (they're produced by the same company, so no surprise).
  • Good luck getting a hotel if this is your first year, they book up a year in advance!

CMJ Marathon

Roger Kisby

When: Early October (TBA)

Where: New York, NY

2012 Lineup Highlights: Angel Haze, Anjulie, Asher Roth, Chip Tha Ripper, Cities Aviv, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Killer Mike, Nina Sky, OFF!, Q-Tip, Sky Ferriera, Teddy Geiger, Wild Nothing

Why It’s Awesome:

  • Autumn in New York is really pretty.
  • Experience the city through the event's diverse nightclub venues. Parties, showcases, open bars, and free tattoos galore!
  • Explore both Manhattan and Brooklyn
  • Your favorite artist just might stop by the bar you're chillin' at (i.e. Kanye at Brooklyn Bowl)
  • Enjoy panels with music execs, media specialists, artists and industry insiders.

Downsides:

  • NYC (and its transportation system) can be intimidating.
  • Tons of venues. Lots of running around.

Voodoo Music Experience

Tim Mosenfelder

When: Nov. 1 – 3
Where: New Orleans, LA

2012 Lineup Highlights: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Metallica, Jack White, Skrillex, The Avett Brothers, Kaskade, Justice, Silversun Pickups, AWOLNATION, Gary Clark Jr., Bootsy Collins, Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Why It’s Awesome:

  • This is a serious late night city, so prepare for a marathon
  • The local culture will suck you in: French quarter, Preservation Jazz Hall and so much more
  • New Orleans cuisine! Gator on a stick, anyone?
  • It's Halloween! Dress up and take in the costumed crowd
  • Carnival rides
  • Cool weather
  • Lots of art installations around the grounds

Downsides:

  • A lot of regional bands fill the bill (which could be a plus if you're into Nola music) 
  • Camping isn't free and doesn't sound very convenient (e.g. you can't camp next to your car)
  • Not many hotels in walking distance and the public transportation shuts down by 11pm

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