From folk-rock music on California’s Northern coast to hip-hop in a Croatian castle, Jess Blumensheid and Charlotte Steinway list off this year’s must-see outdoor music festivals
Ultra Music Festival
March 15-17 and 22-24 | Miami
Ultra Music Festival kicks off the outdoor music season (Austin’s SXSW is the same weekend), and this year it’s following in Coachella’s footsteps by expanding to two three-day weekends, but with a distinct lineup for each. Expect hoards of neon-clad ravers in search of beats from Electronic Dance Music royalty Swedish House Mafia, Avicii and David Guetta, as well as niche electro acts like John Digweed, Nicholas Jaar and Clockwork. Lose the crowds at the concurrent Winter Music Conference (WMC), which hosts DJ pool parties at Collins hotspots like the Surfcomber Hotel. Weekend from $300; WMC tickets can be purchased for an additional fee; follow @UltraMusic on Twitter for updates.
April 5-7 | Chile
Launched by Perry Farrell in 1991 as a final hurrah for his band Jane’s Addiction, Lollapalooza festival is making several domestic and international stops this year and hits Parque O’Higgins in Santiago, Chile, in April. Bands include Brits Hot Chip, America's venerable stoner-rock band Queens of the Stone Age, Ohio blues-rock duo The Black Keys and Toronto electro-house DJ Deadmau5. And there's just as much action happening offstage — BMX bikers do tricks on half-pipes, foodies can feast on gourmet Chilean cuisine in the tented Food Zone and farm-fresh goodies in the festival's designated green Art Market. One-day passes from $116 and two-day passes from $159; follow @LollapaloozaCL on Twitter for updates.
May 22-26 | Spain
Traditionally a happy mix of experimental, electronic and hip-hop, this knees-up in the Catalonian capital's waterfront Parc del Fórum promises to be a '90s dream come true this year. Primavera Sound headliners include low-fi London rockers Blur, goth-rock heartthrob Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds, early 4AD darlings The Breeders (who will play their revered Last Splash album in its entirety) and shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine, fresh from the release of an eponymous record that’s been in the works for 21 years. Weekend passes from $229; follow @Primavera_Sound on Twitter for updates.
June 7-9 | New York City
This eclectic music fest, now in its third year, has an impressive line up this summer, including rock royalty Kings of Leon, hip-hop buzz boy Kendrick Lamar and 21-time Grammy winner Kanye West — and it’s graduated from a one-dayer on Governors Island to a three-day bonanza on the more spacious Randall’s Island (also home to Labor Day Weekend’s Electric Zoo). Harlem is just a footbridge away, but Governors Ball's on-site amenities like lawn games, photo booths and stands from foodie faves Luke’s Lobster, Mexicue, and Cool Haus, remind you you’re still very much in the Big Apple. Weekend passes from $220; follow @GovBallNYC on Twitter for updates.
June 27-30 | Michigan
Electric Forest’s idyllic, leafy setting sets it apart it from other electronic music festivals. As well as stages and obscure performance venues, there are hammocks, art installations and light shows. Co-produced by event and management powerhouses Insomniac and Madison House, the four-day event brings together some of the biggest names in EDM. Expect sets from big-name electro vets Benny Benassi and A-Trak, in-the-know producers RL Grime and Ryan Hemsworth, and indie faves Passion Pit and Grimes. Camping not your steez? Splurge on “the Good Life” VIP package for upgraded living quarters (think brick and mortar suites) and amenities like private check in, daily brunch and on-site happy hours. Weekend passes from $259; follow @Electric_Forest on Twitter for updates.
June 29-July 7 | Denmark
Scandinavia’s answer to Woodstock takes place at a quaint harbor town in north Denmark, complete with Viking Ship Museum and one of the world’s first Gothic brick cathedrals. This year’s Roskilde Festival lineup includes R&B princess Rihanna, Maryland psych-rock sweethearts Animal Collective, Iceland ethereal soundscape artists Sigur Ros and LA ambient techno dynamo Vatican Shadow. Expect live installations by cutting-edge artists (Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd exhibited last year) and a bustling community of tents, RVs and buses. Full-fest passes from $315 and one-day passes from $118; follow @orangefeeling on Twitter for updates.
July 19-21 | Chicago
Chicago's biggest independent festival features musicians whose albums earn solid ratings on prestigious site Pitchfork, and takes place at Union Park, west of the museum-filled Loop and high-end shopping along the Michigan Mile. Pitchfork headliners this year include Glasgow's dream poppers Belle & Sebastian, experimental Icelandic icon Bjork, and the R&B King, R. Kelly. It’s both a musical carnival and an indie runway, so primp up with those printed high-tops and denim shorts. One-day passes from $50 and three-day passes from $120; follow @pitchforkfest on Twitter for updates.
Fuji Rock Festival
July 26 – 28 | Japan
The fun doesn’t end when the snow melts at Naeba Ski Resort, one of Japan’s top schlussing spots. The three-day Fuji Rock Festival brings over 200 musicians to the base of Mount Takenoko in central Japan; this year’s lineup includes the reincarnated Nine Inch Nails, plus rock mainstays Coheed and Cambria and electronic-influenced acts like dubstep maven Feed Me and deep house queen Maya Jane Coles. Get your mountain high from the Dragondola — reputedly the longest ski lift in the world, it offers eye-popping views of the festival grounds. Weekend passes from $432; follow @Smash_London on Twitter for updates.
Aug. 9-11 | San Francisco
Glorious Golden Gate Park is the location for this eclectic shindig, which features performances by folk, rock and electronic dance artists — last year the 72 acts included Neil Young, Metallica and Stevie Wonder. Taste of the Bay provide gourmet grub, including pork belly burgers and award-winning alfajores, and there’s an impressive selection of Cali wine on tap. Outside Lands also has art: last year Guy Overfelt hid his geometrical plexiglass mirror sculptures among Monterey cypress trees. Tickets are not yet available; follow @sfoutsidelands on Twitter for updates.
Aug. 29 – Sep. 2 | Croatia
Our pick of Europe’s festivals takes place in a fortress just outside Pula, on Croatia’s Istria Peninsula. Sound systems are hidden in unlikely locales, including natural tunnels and abandoned ruins, shows take place nightly in the fort’s moat, and the party continues on boats out to sea. Now in its sixth year, Outlook Festival’s rising popularity—especially among UK-concertgoers—has helped seduce a solid mix of buzzworthy hip-hop and electronic acts, like Brooklyn natives Talib Kweli and Joey Bada$$, 17-year-old experimental prodigy XXYYXX, as well as classic deep house acts like Eliphino. Weekend passes from $216; boat party tickets can be purchased for an additional fee; follow @OutlookFestival on Twitter for updates.