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Best Music Fests of Summer 2014

Nothing announces summer’s arrival quite like an outdoor music festival. Here, Charlotte Steinway rounds up 10 of the world’s best, from seasoned stalwarts to the new and noteworthy

See recent posts by Charlotte Steinway

The holy grail of American music festivals, Coachella, kicks off on Friday, April 11th and officially sets “festival season” in full swing. This year, expect an epic dining roster (with participation from LA faves Sugarfish and Night + Market, plus a seated dinner by Outstanding in the Field, known for their alfresco pop ups) and an even more expertly curated lineup of musical acts. From lyrical wunderkind Chance the Rapper and indie trifecta Haim to Grammy-award winner Lorde and trap mastermind RL Grime, the Indio-based event is also the first festival to showcase the recently reunited duo Outkast, cult favorites headlining just about every major music event this summer.

Here, we’re counting down the season’s 10 best — from bluegrass set against Colorado’s San Juan mountains to a heavy-hitting alt roster on an idyllic Canadian island, there’s plenty worth tuning into this summer. Better yet, all tickets are still on sale, so get ‘em while they’re hot:

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**Jazz Fest** April 25-27; May 1-4 | New Orleans

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of the most well-rounded of the list. Held over two weekends, it features the standard NOLA-rooted jazz, bluegrass and zydeco music plus a handful of big-name headliners — this year’s line up include Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Christina Aguilera and Trey Songz — plus food options of epic proportions (read: local vendors only, with a marked absence of “carnival food.”) Single day passes go for $55 online, $70 at the gate; follow @jazzfest on Twitter for updates.

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**Electric Daisy Carnival NYC** May 24-25 | New York

With the fate of rival fest Electric Zoo up in the air this year, the New York iteration of Electric Daisy Carnival — which technically takes place in New Jersey, just across the Hudson at MetLife Stadium — is the summer’s number one electronic music festival on the Eastern seaboard. And while past years’ lineups have skewed heavily toward club-heavy EDM acts, this year’s is more inventive, offering sets from deep house duo Dusky, R&B-infused dub master Kastle, and up-and-coming Amsterdam trap trio Yellow Claw. Weekend passes go for $225; follow @InsomniacEvents on Twitter for updates.

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**Movement** May 24-26 | Detroit

To truly celebrate techno music, you have to go to the source: Detroit. This three-day riverfront event is one of the more affordable large-scale music festivals, bringing together some of the biggest names in techno, garage and house music. Movement notoriously pays homage to hometown heroes — Carl Craig and Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale are on the bill this year — while also bringing out industry favorites like Jamie Jones, Pete Tong and Julio Bashmore. Last year’s attendance surpassed 100,000, but the five-stage setup (plus coveted free fairground WiFi) keeps festival-goers in check. Three-day tickets go for $130 (Single-day passes are $55); follow @MovementDetroit on Twitter for updates.

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**Low End Theory Festival** June 14-15 | Los Angeles

The only newbie on the list, Low End Theory Festival is having its two-day inaugural event at one of L.A.’s most influential music venues, the Echoplex on Sunset Blvd. Born from the city's renowned weekly hip hop and electronic music party of the same name, the festival includes performances from OFWGKTA alum The Internet, electronic mavens Nosaj Thing and Baths plus Low End Theory regular Jonwayne. Select tickets will be available day of show at the door for $70; follow @LOWENDTHEORY on Twitter for updates.

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**Telluride Bluegrass Festival** June 19-22 | Telluride, CO

The 41st annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival is the storied stalwart of our list: Since 1973, the festival has brought American bluegrass bands and local Telluride acts together for four days of music set against a stunning San Juan mountain range backdrop. This year’s event also coincides with the summer solstice, making it the perfect excuse for a summer camping trip, or to simply check out Telluride’s sweet digs during the ski town’s offseason. Direct tickets are sold out but plenty of single day tickets are available for about $100 each on stubhub; follow @PlanetBluegrass on Twitter for updates.

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**Optimus Alive** July 10-12 | Lisbon, Portugal

Alt rockers of the world unite: Lisbon’s Optimus Alive is likened to the UK’s famed Glastonbury Festival but with “guaranteed sun.” This year’s lineup includes big names like the Artic Monkeys, the Black Keys and MGMT, plus well-selected electronic favorites SBTRKT, Nicolas Jaar and Buraka Som Sistema. Many attendees stay in town, but camping options are more plush than other festivals, with cabins, en-suite bathrooms and shuttle service running to and from the fairgrounds. Three-day tickets go for $164 (Single-day passes are $83); follow @OptimusAlive on Twitter for updates.

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**Osheaga Festival** Aug. 1-3 | Montreal

Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts may just be tied with Coachella for the season’s most solid lineup. Both have Outkast and Lorde as anchoring headliners, but the Montreal festival outshines Coachella with appearances from Swedish sensation Lykke Li (who’s has a much-anticipated album in the works), Fools Gold rapper Danny Brown, and colorful Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth. The Virgin Mobile—sponsored festival is set in the idyllic Parc-Jean Drapeau on the Ile Ste-Hélène, surrounded by bucolic gardens and local art installations. Three-day tickets go for $250; follow @Osheaga on Twitter for updates.

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**Burning Man** Aug. 25 – Sep. 1 | Nevada

Burning Man, more a self-sustaining city than a festival, is a weeklong event that bills itself as an experiment “dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance.” Named for the immense wooden effigy that’s set on fire at the week’s end, Burning Man is somewhat of an anti-festival: monetary transactions are prohibited, there are no sponsors, and the attendees themselves (rather than famous bands) are the draw. However, as anyone who’s been can tell you, no explanations will do it justice — you have to experience it to understand what it’s all about. Week-long tickets go for $650; follow @burningman on Twitter for updates.

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**Bestival** Sep. 4 – 7 | Isle of Wight, UK

When a festival is curated by BBC Radio 1 royalty Rob da Bank, you know the music is going to be top-notch. Critically-acclaimed Bestival is held on the Isle of Wight, just off England’s south coast. Offering a mix of live music (Disclosure, Beck and Chvrches) and DJs (Annie Mac, Skream and James Blake’s 1-800-Dinosaur), the festival sets itself apart for also having a comedy tent and “fancy dress competition” (which for non-Brits, means Halloween-esque costumes, not ballgowns). Four-day tickets go for $323; follow @Bestival on Twitter for updates.

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**Iceland Airwaves** Nov. 5 – 9 | Reykjavik

What began as a festival held in a vacant airport hangar has become Iceland’s premiere music event. With a local-heavy lineup (Highlands, Berndsen) dotted with perfectly-curated international acts (Tomas Barfod, the Flaming Lips) and venues spread across the city’s urban and natural landscape (including a cornerstone set at the Blue Lagoon, the country’s most famous geothermal spa), the five-day Iceland Airwaves festival caters to an in-the-know set of music’s elite — and is the perfect excuse to extend festival season well past its summer limits.Five-day tickets go for $163; follow @icelandairwaves on Twitter for updates.

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