Home Culture Culture Lists

Summer 2016’s 30 Must-See Music Festivals

From Newport Jazz Festival to Electric Daisy Carnival and beyond

30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone; Hangout; Essence Festival; Pitchfork Music Festival; The Governors Ball

Music festivals will rock all corners of the continental United States this summer.

Illustration by Ryan Casey

No matter what you like or where you live, this summer almost certainly has a festival for you. Below are the 30 American summer festivals we're most excited about.

Essence Festival; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Josh Brasted/FilmMagic/Getty

Essence Festival

When: June 30th-July 3rd

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Why Go: This annual celebration of black culture in America features a stacked lineup – blistering MC Kendrick Lamar, super-diva Mariah Carey, storied songwriter-producer Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and a reunion of Puff Daddy and the Family are just the tip of the iceberg. Maxwell will likely showcase music from his long-awaited BlackSUMMERS'night, which comes out on July 1st, the day he headlines the main stage. Speakers like supermodel-turned-entrepreneur Tyra Banks, life coach Iyanla Vanzant and the Reverend Al Sharpton will offer commentary, while seminars on starting a business and a bookstore spotlighting independent authors round out some of the non-musical attractions.

Must-See Acts: Kendrick Lamar, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, Puff Daddy and the Family, Charlie Wilson, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Robert Glasper Experiment, the Internet, Estelle, Jeremih, Tink, Tweet, Andra Day

Official Site: essence.com/festival

Forecastle; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Willie MacLean


When: July 15th-17th

Where: Louisville, Kentucky

Why Go: With the Ohio River as its backdrop, this 14-year-old gathering in Louisville, Kentucky has become one of the more formidable fests in the Midwest. This year's lineup is stacked with festival stalwarts like the spellbinding Alabama Shakes and axe-slinger Gary Clark Jr. Forecastle also serves as a way for music fans to learn more about Kentucky's many offerings: The Bourbon Lodge showcases one of the Bluegrass State's most storied exports, with offerings from large and small distilleries, while Kentucky Landing will give space to home-grown vendors of clothing, jewelry, art and food.

Must-See Acts: Alabama Shakes, Ryan Adams, Gary Clark Jr., the Avett Brothers, Sylvan Esso, Danny Brown, Blackberry Smoke

Official Site: forecastlefest.com

Pitchfork Music Festival; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 19: Lee Spielman of Trash Talk performs on stage on Day 1 of Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 at Union Park on July 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns/Getty

Pitchfork Music Festival

When: July 15th-17th

Where: Chicago, Illinois

Why Go: Expertly curated and extremely well run – not surprising, given that it comes from people who critique live shows for a living – this three-day festival at Chicago's bucolic Union Park will include Carly Rae Jepsen's acclaimed pop, Miguel's exploratory R&B, Girl Band's grinding-gear punk and Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds in its 50th anniversary year. The non-musical offerings are strong as well: Record labels and vinyl merchants will hawk wares, poster show Flatstock will offer music-related art from all over the globe and the food lineup ranges from vegan gyros to fully loaded hot dogs.

Must-See Acts: Brian Wilson, Carly Rae Jepsen, Miguel, Kamasi Washington, Girl Band, Beach House, Julia Holter, Savages, Oneohtrix Point Never, Sun Ra Arkestra

Official Site: pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Panorama Music Festival; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Panorama Music Festival

When: July 22nd-24th

Where: New York, New York

Why Go: Coachella producer Goldenvoice launches its first New York fest with a lineup that includes sets from Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem. And would you like some technology with that? With an interactive "Future Lab" announced, the Randall's Island event promises to blend music, science and good eats. Passes include a free ticket to the Ramones retrospective at the Queens Museum, home of the festival's namesake, the 9,335 square foot model Panorama of the City of New York.

Must-See Acts: Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes, LCD Soundsystem, Sia, FKA Twigs, Sufjan Stevens, Major Lazer, A$AP Rocky

Official Site: panorama.nyc

Newport Folk Festival; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

NEWPORT, RI - JULY 27: Aerial view of the 2014 Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park on July 27, 2014 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)

Douglas Mason/Getty

Newport Folk Festival

When: July 22nd-24th

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Why Go: The Newport Jazz Festival's rootsy little brother has been a festive meeting place for folk, blues, country, bluegrass, folk-rock (after Bob Dylan broke the electricity barrier in 1965) and all things Americana since 1959. Genre blurring is still the name of the game during this weekend when HBO folk parodists, middle-aged punk lifers, a folk supertrio, Mali garage rockers and mesmerizing acoustic singer-songwriters will bare their souls.

Must-See Acts: Flight of the Conchords, Ray Lamontagne, the Arcs, Freakwater, Violent Femmes, Case/Lang/Veirs, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Hayes Carll, John Moreland, Aoife O'Donovan, Songhoy Blues

Official Site: newportfolk.org

Lost Highway Motorcycle Show and Concert; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Photo Courtesy of A12 Entertainment

Lost Highway Motorcycle Show and Concert

When: July 23rd

Where: San Bernadino, California

Why Go: Two stages will showcase rockers and country acts – including the twangy but tough Brantley Gilbert, the brashly fabulous Eagles of Death Metal and punk lifers Social Distortion –while pro motorcycle riders pull off tricks and jumps. If the high-octane atmosphere inspires you to get your own hog, there'll be motorcycles for sale on site, as well as an art show featuring helmet designs.

Must-See Acts: Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Eagles Of Death Metal, Social Distortion, Paul Cauthen

Official Site: losthighwayfest.com

Lollapalooza; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 01: DJ/Producer Alesso performs during the 2015 Lollapalooza music festival at Grant Park on August 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic,)

C Flanigan/FilmMagic/Getty


When: July 28th-31st

Where: Chicago, Illinois

Why Go: This year's Lollapalooza headliners trace the musical evolution of many a millennial: The Red Hot Chili Peppers (middle school), Radiohead (high school) and LCD Soundsystem (college and the abyss thereafter) will all be coming to Grant Park, pushing the acts that usually headline these things off to the second stages. Meanwhile, the side stages could draw some of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Major Lazer and Disclosure are the biggest EDM names, J. Cole and Future are the biggest rappers and Lana Del Rey could possibly upstage everyone. Come early for newcomers like D.R.A.M. and Potty Mouth, but stock up on sunscreen at the Walgreens across the street.

Must-See Acts: Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey, Halsey, Jane's Addiction, Haim, the 1975, Major Lazer, Chris Stapleton, Grimes, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Official Site: lollapalooza.com

Newport Jazz Fest; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Douglas Mason/Getty

Newport Jazz Fest

When: July 29th-31st

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Why Go: This three-stage daytime festival located in a seaside state park has hosted some of the jazz world's most legendary performances since its establishment in 1954. Envy the free view enjoyed by local yachters as the cream of the international jazz scene's soloists, combos and big bands celebrate jazz's majestic past, present, and future. Savor the fact that liquor has only been served since 2007.

Must-See Acts: Chick Corea Trilogy, Norah Jones, Charles Lloyd New Quartet, Kamasi Washington, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, the Bad Plus, Gregory Porter, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, Angélique Kidjo

Official Site: newportjazzfest.org

Hard Summer; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

POMONA, CA - AUGUST 01: A general view of atmosphere and the girls of HARD Summer at the HARD Summer Music Festival 2015 at Fairplex on August 1, 2015 in Pomona, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

Gabriel Olsen/Getty

Hard Summer

When: July 30th-31st

Where: Fontana, California

Why Go: Hard cordially invites you to a world where dubstep never died, trap's still hot and "tropical house" is someplace where L.A.'s one-percent go to escape the stressful Beverly Hills lifestyle. On the last weekend of July, Angelenos can head east to rage and rave on the lawn of the Auto Club Speedway. Here, rap isn't just source material for EDM to co-opt and repackage but a neighboring zone on a shared continuum. Ice Cube and Major Lazer headline a lineup that includes Travis Scott, Boys Noize, Dizzee Rascal, Felix Da Housecat, Kaytranada, Flosstradamus and DJ Khaled, whose Snapchat will likely provide the definitive festival commentary.

Must-See Acts: Ice Cube, Major Lazer, Pretty Lights, Dillon Francis, Dizzee Rascal, Lil Uzi Vert

Official Site: hardsummer.com

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Andrew Jorgensen

Outside Lands

When: August 5th-7th

Where: San Francisco, California

Why Go: Outside Lands is set within San Francisco's expansive and dusty Golden Gate bowl, encompassing four stages, a comedy tent, a DJ tent, and a stellar assembly of food booths and wine tastings. There are plenty of last-minute surprises, too: In 2015, Deltron 3030 reunited for an unannounced set, while Hot Chip knocked out a DJ set before their main stage performance. This year, Radiohead — who headlined the first Outside Lands in 2008 — returns for a Friday headlining performance, and even snarky techies will stick around to sing along with Lionel Richie during his Sunday closing set. 

Must-See Acts: Radiohead, Lionel Richie, the Muppets' Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem, Lana Del Rey, J Cole, Duran Duran, Zedd, Major Lazer, Air, Sufjan Stevens, Chance the Rapper, Anderson Paak

Official Site: sfoutsidelands.com

Eaux Claires; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Mike Diskin

Eaux Claires

When: August 12th-August 13th

Where: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Why Go: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon still lives and records in his western Wisconsin hometown, and last year he made an additional investment in his community, partnering with the National's Aaron Dessner to bring a new art and music festival to a farm just outside of the city. This year's Eaux Claires will be your only chance to catch a performance from Day of the Dead, Aaron and Bryce Dessner's all-star Grateful Dead tribute project.

Must-See Acts: Day of the Dead, Bon Iver, James Blake, Shabazz Palaces, Erykah Badu, Beach House, Vince Staples, Melvins, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Mavis Staples, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

Official Site: eauxclaires.com

Lock’n; 30; Must-See; Summer; Music; Festivals; Rolling Stone

Clay Cook, Keith Moseley, Jimmy De Martini, Michael Travis, Michael Kang, Zac Brown, Bill Nershi,John Driskell Hopkins, and Kyle Hollingsworth of the Zac Brown Incident performs on day 2 of the Lockn' Festival at Oak Ridge Farm on Friday September 6, 2013 in Arrington Virginia.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)

John Davisson/Invision/AP

Lockn’ Festival

When: August 25th-28th

Where: Arrington, Virginia

Why Go: Don't come knockin' when Lockn' is rockin'. It's all about the music at this no-frills affair on a bucolic farm nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lockn's unique two side-by-side stage set-up ensure that the music never stops and you never need to make any tough scheduling decisions – the jamband-friendly event is noted for inventive act-to-act transitions. Expect late-night sets by Joe Russo's Almost Dead to give headliners Phish and Ween a run for their nugs.

Must-See Acts: Phish, Ween, My Morning Jacket, Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Umphrey's McGee, White Denim, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Donna the Buffalo, Hard Working Americans, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Twiddle

Official Site: locknfestival.com