When you head to a music festival—be it Coachella, Bonnaroo, South By Southwest, Lollapalooza or any other major music gathering—you're catching your favorite acts at their most turned-up. The crowds are bigger, the stages are grander and you could light up a whole city skyline with the energy collected from both the performer and the dancing fans before them in any given situation.
2014's festival season has given us plenty of gems already, and it's not even done yet! Here's a look at the artists who are working music festivals for all their worth and totally dominating the festival circuit in 2014, from hip hop greats to indie goddesses to rock icons in the making. Who's having the best festival season ever? Check out our nominations, then cast your vote at the end!
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Bonnaroo, Wireless, Outside Lands, Made In America (LA)
Why We Loved His Set: Kanye gave the Yeezus tour a festival-ready makeover, taking the seriously intense stage show out of the arena and re-working it for performing outdoors. Everything about the Yeezus tour that was great remained: the intensity, the caliber of the performance, the ranting and raving, etc. To see a hugely successful stage production that redefined expectations for the super concert expertly change things up for the festival set was impressive. Plus it gave us the opportunity to legitimately lose our minds in a crowd of thousands during "Blood On The Leaves," "Through The Wire" and every other Kanye hit.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: ALL OF THEM. Coachella, Voodoo, Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Counterpoint ... the list goes on.
Why We Loved Their Set: Though OutKast started their reunion/anniversary tour slowly with their first set at Coachella, the ATLiens quickly rose to the challenge of headlining a whopping 40 festivals across the world. Few things are better than shaking it like a Polaroid picture with 40,000 of your best friends, and OutKast are able to whip fields full of people into a frenzy with "Rosa Parks" unlike anyone else.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Governors Ball, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits Fest
Why We Loved Her Set: Between Jenny Lewis' soaring solo career, Rilo Kiley and her contributions to the Postal Service, it's easy to be completely enamored by Lewis's cheerful, engaging stage banter and stellar performances as she continues to tour behind her latest, The Voyager. She works on every lineup from the twang-heavy Newport Folk to the pop-centric Governors Ball, and she's converting new fans one festival blitz at a time.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk, Austin City Limits Fest
Why We Loved His Set: You won't find Jack White recycling a set list. Every single performance he's brought to a major festival this season has received a shake-up thanks to Top 40 covers of Lorde and Jay-Z plus throwbacks to his Raconteurs and White Stripes days. The show remains Lazaretto-heavy as he's still working out the resounding riffs on the record, but every song White's lent his hand to pops in a major fest format.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Coachella, ACL Fest, Boston Calling
Why We Loved Her Set: Inside, outside, big stage, small stage, doesn't matter: Lorde can tap into a festival crowd like none other, and "Royals" always raises up some of the loudest screams at these bigger outdoor productions. We have yet to see Lorde and Diplo get onstage together this summer, but we're hoping that ACL Fest in October will bring about a live cut of his remix of her "Tennis Court" as we currently can't get enough of it.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Coachella, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza
Why We Loved His Set: Skrillex's Bonnaroo superjam was one of the best live music moments of the summer, mostly because it totally took any expectations a listener could throw the DJ/producer's way and turned them on their heads. He's one of the most exuberant, engaging talents out there, and yeah, he may be spinning from a space ship most of the time, but he wants his crowds to have the absolute best time of their lives during the 60-90 minutes they spend dancing to his set. If that doesn't scream "Festival Season MVP," we're not sure what does.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Coachella, Sasquatch!, Outside Lands, Osheaga, FYF Festival
Why We Loved Their Set: At major music festivals, it's normal to see people carting around various totems to hoist up in the crowds so that their friends can find them in the middle of a mass of people. When photos started circulating of a giant paper cutout of Este Haim's bass face, it was clear that one group of rocking women was on the collective crowd's mind from Coachella forward. Haim is still touring behind their explosive debut, Days Are Gone, and "The Wire" continues to be one of those tracks that incites waves of crowdsurfers and good vibes aplenty.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Bonnaroo, Firefly, Outside Lands
Why We Loved Their Set: "Do I Wanna Know?" was easily the most covered track at Bonnaroo 2014, with Sam Smith, MS MR and Chvrches all offering up their renditions of Arctic Monkeys' hit off their most recent record, AM. The stars on the rise of these festival lineups can't get the Sheffield rock quartet out of their heads, and neither can we!
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: SXSW, Coachella, Counterpoint, Governors Ball, Essence Festival
We We Loved Her Set: The dramatic, straitjacket-bound entrance, the endless supply of energy, the exceptional performance each and every single time—Janelle Monae may be the Queen of Festival Season 2014 in that her set was dependably perfect and thoroughly enjoyable from Coachella to Governors Ball. Our only wish is that Miguel joins her at some point for "PrimeTime" before we're too deep into autumn, because that duet is still too good to be true.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Made in America (LA)
Why We Loved His Set: Festival season started out slow for Chance, who had to cancel sets at Coachella and Hangout Fest due to illness. He eventually shook the sickness and reigned triumphant at Sasquatch!, upping the ante with every passing show and delivering an especially powerful performance to close out Lollapalooza in his native Chicago. Basically, dude can do no wrong, and he spent nearly as much time onstage at festivals this season as OutKast did.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: SXSW, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo
Why We Loved His Set: Not only did Albarn use a festival (SXSW) to debut his first-ever solo record Everyday Robots in a live setting, he plowed through a bunch of Blur's greatest hits and Gorillaz's most riotous, dance party-inducing numbers as well and brought out special guests like De La Soul for "Feel Good Inc." and Del the Funky Homosapien for "Clint Eastwood." That's how you make a comeback.
Notable 2014 Festival Appearances: Warped Tour
Why We Love Their Set: Of the 2014 Warped Tour bands, the goofballs of Less Than Jake have been a part of its traveling punk circus the longest and a lineup regular since 1997. They played their 365th Warped show this July, which means they've literally spent a year of their lives on Warped stages. It's great to see a band build such a fantastic relationship with a festival, and it's even better that their shows still rock. (HELLO ROCKVIEW FOREVER.)