The best part of every summer? Easy: The music festivals, duh! Bookmarked by Austin's South By Southwest in March and New Orleans' Voodoo Music Experience in November, the annual festival season includes hundreds of multiple-day music adventures all over the country.
Big acts command the spotlight at marquee events, like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza and others. But festivals also offer breaking bands a stage to prove themselves and win new fans. And in 2013, artists of all shapes, sizes and pay scale wowed Fuse. It was a festival season for the memory books, for sure, featuring memorable performances from Kendrick Lamar to Tame Impala, Nine Inch Nails to Fall Out Boy and beyond.
Check out the 10 most unforgettable festival moments of 2013, and check back soon for Fuse's guide to the must-see festivals of 2014.
Before HAIM's debut album Days Are Gone found its way onto everyone's best-of and year-end lists, the three sisters were hitting up the festival scene this summer supporting their fan favorite four-song EP, Forever. Bassist Este Haim told the crowd, "[Lead singer] Danielle and I came to Lolla in 2007, and we were at this stage [we're playing on] watching the Cold War Kids. And I remember looking over at her—I'm sorry, I'm getting really emotional—and saying, 'Wouldn't it be crazy if we did this one day?'"
Follow your dreams, kids!
Bonnaroo's 2013 Superjam—held down by Jim James, John Oates and members of the Meters & Sly & the Family Stone—was a jaw-dropper. After playing a full Bonnaroo set of his own, R. Kelly swung through for a divine cover Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and Billy Idol also popped in to tear through T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)." This year also saw the debut of Bonnaroo's first-ever Hip Hop Superjam, a gloriously sloppy affair featuring RZA and Ghostface Killah spitting, plus Solange crooning the Fugees' version of "Killing Me Softly."
Question surrounded Paramore more than any other band in 2013, as the Franklin, TN-based trio recovered from the departure of two founding members, Josh and Zac Farro. As core songwriters, the brothers' exit seemed to loom ominously as Paramore hit the studio and soon announced the release of a self-titled new album.
But the group had arguably their biggest year yet in 2013, and it all started in March at Austin, TX's SXSW. The band performed shortly after releasing first single "Now" and introduced a brand-new song, "Still Into You," during their intimate set. "Still Into You" became a massive hit as Paramore played arenas all over the globe in support of their new LP all year. Frontwoman Hayley Williams and Co. played many major festivals this year, but SXSW was a symbolic rebirth and proof that nothing can hold 'em back.
It was a big year for Nine Inch Nails fans: After a four-year hiatus, Trent Reznor returned with a revamped band, new look, new label (Columbia) and, most importantly, a new album, Hesitation Marks. The band launched a nationwide tour and played many festivals, including a co-headlining spot with Beyonce at Jay Z's Made in America Fest in Philly. But it hit fever pitch at Lollapalooza, where the band got their start back in the early-'90s. Onstage, Reznor and co. played the classics and new tracks from Hesitation Marks, flaunting the nuance and depth from his Oscar-winning soundtrack work (The Social Network) to his new NIN music. There, NIN proved that while their history is rich, their future is richer.
The much-buzzed about Chance the Rapper made his hometown festival debut at Lollapalooza 2013, and the new kid on the block did his hometown proud. Chance doesn’t even have an album out, but he’s already gained quite the following based on his two mixtapes, 10 Day and Acid Rap, alone. His stage was so packed and the crowd was so amped that one fan even climbed a light post during his set. Do you know how high those things are?
Chance wasn't the only act to play a triumphant festival set in Chicago this year. Pop-punk quartet Fall Out Boy played a glorious career-spanning set closing the first night of Riot Fest to a never-ending sea of human beings. The anticipation was obvious in the crowd – day one of the punk festival didn't have nearly as stacked of a lineup as the next two did – as tracks from all eras of the group's discography were celebrated. They even had a special guest appearance from the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup trophy.
In 1991, The Replacements walked off a Chicago stage and right into a 22-year hiatus. This summer, the band returned to the Windy City during Riot Fest to play its first U.S. show since breaking up. Their festival-closing set in Humboldt Park featured tracks from across their 12-year, seven-album career, delivering a bolt of musical magic to the rain-drenched 35,000 fans (many hardcore cult followers).
It's a special, must-see reunion: Sure, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Co. also played the Denver and Toronto incarnations of Riot Fest, but they didn't partake in the entirety of the summer-long festival circuit. They kept it small, special and punk as all hell by reuniting at Riot instead of cashing in at one of the big-name festivals. The Replacements! Fuse salutes you.
"They called our people and said they wanted some funk in Austin," Prince exclaimed midway through his instant-classic, three-hour set at South by Southwest. The Purple One never picked up a guitar, but blended extended, ten-minute-plus funk jams, deep cuts and covers of Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha Franklin for an intimate audience of 400. "You've heard of five-hour energy,” Prince told the crowd towards the end of the set. “My middle name is 11-hour energy."
He is Prince. And he is awesome.
The Vans Warped Tour is a launching pad for many bands, and this year letlive. took full advantage of playing on the summer-long punk-rock carnival. With so many stages and bands playing, it can be hard to stick out. But with a frontman as insane as Jason Butler, well, the performance is simply arresting.
The Los Angeles act became one of the most talked-about bands on the tour due to Butler's wild daily antics. He would destroy equipment and fling himself around onstage. And as he told us exclusively, there's a reason behind why letlive. is so unapologetic.
Standing in stark contrast to the typical pop-punk or metalcore Warped act, the best thing about letlive.'s unique style was that they exposed young music listeners, the type of listeners in a critical state of development, to something new every day.
Headlining the final day of Coachella 2013 was, unfortunately, a violent sandstorm that engulfed the Polo Grounds like an apocalyptic red wave, stinging the faces of festivalgoers and leaving palm trees folded over in the howling wind. Incredibly, a helicopter perilously hovered over the festival tilted and struggling in the gusts. "Fans retreated to layer on more clothes, or even seek out face masks or ski goggles," wrote Fuse. It was incredibly unnerving.
Enter Australian psych-rock wizards Tame Impala, whose LSD-drenched music, combined with the harsh, alarming conditions, made for a scene straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Their chugging Lonerism track "Elephant" delivered the the fever moment. "If you're on psychedelics, smart money says you're f-cked," wrote Fuse. They followed with a soothing, spacey new track, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," and the skies slowly cleared to a brilliant deep-atmosphere blue. "Strange times in paradise."
In their first major show since Billie Joe Armstrong's rehab stint, Green Day proved they were back and stronger than ever at an incendiary SXSW show. They brought two flabbergast fans onstage to sing guest vocals on a couple '90s classics and even joked about their 2012 meltdown. After missing one line, Armstrong quipped, "I wasn't even on drugs this time."