10 Music Festivals You Must Attend Before You Die

Above: The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (Festival de la musique et des arts Osheaga) in Montreal, Quebec
Above: The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (Festival de la musique et des arts Osheaga) in Montreal, Quebec

If you are a music fan, then you know seeing your favourite bands live is sometimes a once in a lifetime experience. Bands often put together custom set lists for festivals they are headlining, and the potential for surprise collaborations taking the stage (Linkin Park and Steve Aoki for example), is huge. Or imagine being able to say you were at the Beastie Boys’ last live show at Bonnaroo in 2009? As summer approaches, so does music festival season, and although the 2014 dates for some of these festivals have passed, now is the perfect time to start planning for next year. So here are 10 of the biggest music festivals you should really experience before you kick the bucket.

Coachella (Indio, CA)

If you want to brush elbows with celebs like Joshua Jackson, Jared Leto, Solange, and many more, than Coachella is the music festival for you. The two weekend, three day festival has featured many of the biggest musical acts in the world. This year’s festival featured everyone from Beck, to Muse, to Pharrell Williams. The best thing about Coachella is you never know who might make a guest appearance (like Beyonce making a cameo at sister, Solange’s show).

Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN)

If rock ‘n roll is your thing, then Bonnaroo is your perfect match. Must-see-live acts like Radiohead, The Black Keys, and Bruce Springsteen have all graced the main stage and the festival was named one of the “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll” by Rolling Stone magazine. The festival also prides itself on being a sustainable event that is kind to the environment. Don’t forget to check out “the Graffiti Wall”, shopping, and various comedy shows while you are there either.

Lollapolooza (Chicago, IL)

Created in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction frontman, Perry Farrell, Lollapolooza is for the hardcore punk rock and heavy metal fans, but has been known to include artists from other genres, such as Lady Gaga and deadmau5. It started out as a touring festival, but now it stays put in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois for one weekend a year. There are also spin off versions of the festival in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, in case those locations appeal to you more.

Warped Tour (Across North America)

This touring festival is popular among groups of skateboard carrying, emo haircut-loving teenagers who listen to some punk, but mostly pop-punk. Although the average age of the Warped Tour attendee has steadily gotten younger, there is still something for the older generation, with classic bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, and Pennywise still making appearances at some shows. The tour makes stops across the US and Canada, making it one of the easier festivals to get tickets for. There must be at least a couple acts out of the close to 100 that perform daily that you wouldn’t mind catching.

TomorrowWorld (Chattahoochee Hills, GA)

The American little brother of the famous TomorrowLand in Belgium, TomorrowWorld is only in its second year. These ones are for the EDM lovers, attracting the biggest names in the genre, including, Tiesto, Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, and Swedish House Mafia. TomorrowLand is the biggest EDM festival in the world, and has already sold 400,000 tickets for the 2014 event, despite the fact that the lineup has yet to be released. The American incarnation is sure to be just as popular, so get tickets while you can.

The Governor’s Ball (New York, NY)

A relatively newcomer to the festival circuit, The Governor’s Ball incorporates the vibrant New York City culinary scene into their event, by inviting popular restaurants and food truck to set up shop. Kanye West was a headliner in 2013, and this year Outkast, The Strokes, and Skrillex are set to perform. The festival has gotten good reviews, and continues to attract top acts. It also doesn’t hurt that it is held near a big city, instead of out in the middle of a corn field like some other festivals.

Summerfest (Milwaukee, WI)

Summerfest is one of the much more affordable festivals on this list. It takes places over 11 days in June and July, and admission tickets usually go for anywhere between $8 and $17 US. You might be thinking they must not have any overly famous bands, at that price, but you’d be wrong. Their stage has played host to Pearl Jam, Shania Twain, Sting, Metallica, Cher, and many more. The festival also offers other activities for the whole family, like fireworks shows, and comedy acts.

SXSW (Austin, TX)

South by Southwest combines music, film, and interactive exhibits to put on a one of a kind 11-day festival every year. Most of the over 2000 music acts are up-and-coming artists and bands that are hoping to get their name out there. John Mayer’s performance at SXSW 2000 led to a deal with his first record label. The film festival section is known for hosting the premiere of Academy Award winning film, The Hurt Locker, and mobile app Foursquare was launched at SXSW 2009. Who knows, maybe you could get to see “the next big thing” perform live.

Ultra Festival (Miami, FL)

Ultra is another addition to the electronic festival camp, and with incarnations held everywhere from Ibiza, Spain, Johannesburg, South Africa, Seoul, South Korea, and Santiago, Chile, you don’t have to limit yourself to just the Miami location. The festival is currently working on a one three-day weekend format, having tried the two weekend format in 2013. Expect to catch acts like MSTRKRFT, Calvin Harris, Moby, and Benny Benassi, among others, if you manage to snag tickets to a show.

Osheaga (Montreal, QC)

This one is for the indie music lover that loves to see emerging bands, live. Some big acts have played shows there as well, including Coldplay, Weezer, and Eminem. There is also a variety of visual arts exhibits, and a uniquely Canadian festival experience. Osheaga is Canada’s own version of a multi-day music festival, and if you are a Canadian music lover, it can’t be missed.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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