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Summer Festivals 2017: 5 Stories to Watch

From Bonnaroo’s comeback to Chance the Rapper’s victory lap

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Find out what to look for during festival season 2017, including Chance the Rapper's dominance and the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac's new Classic fests.

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As many major artists gear up to hit the road for big summer tours, others are preparing for a festival-heavy season. Here are five stories to watch, from the arrival of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac’s Classic East/West events to the return of Jay Z to the festival circuit.

Fleetwood Mac, Classic Fests Triumph

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Classic Fests Triumph

Last year, Desert Trip proved baby boomers will pay big for a festival. This year brings Classic East and West, industry giant Irving Azoff’s two-day stadium events in New York and L.A. headlined by Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, who will play their first gigs since the death of Glenn Frey (his parts will be sung by special guests). The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan are also on the bill. It’s not cheap: Lower-deck seats top out at $950. “We’re on track to sell out,” says Bob Roux, co-president of concerts for Live Nation, who’s thinking about more for next summer. “Conceptually, we’re
on to something.” 

The Summer of Chance

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The Summer of Chance

If you’re going to a major festival, expect to see Chance the Rapper. After the massive success of last year’s Coloring Book, he’s headlining four major fests including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Firefly – about the same number of festivals Outkast played for their big reunion in 2014. “It’s safe to book Chance everywhere,” says Adam Voith, the agent for Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver. “He’s on top of the world.” 

Jay Z

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Jay Z Returns

The rapper is hitting the road for the first time in three years for his own Made in America fest in Philadelphia, Austin City Limits and the Meadows, a New York fest in its second year. A concert-industry source says Jay will make about $3 million for the Meadows, and calls it “a favor” to Live Nation, which recently extended his touring contract. “They don’t need him on Governors Ball,” the source says, referring to Live Nation’s longer-running NYC event. “They need him to launch a festival.”

New Orleans' Essence Festival

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Unsung Fest

Though it doesn’t receive the press of
Coachella, New Orleans’ Essence Festival draws just as many people. This year’s
features Chance, Diana Ross and Solange. In 2016 it drew 450,000 and included a
moving Kendrick Lamar set. “We’re a predominantly black audience,”
says Cori Murray, the entertainment director. “You get moments you won’t
get anywhere else.”

Bonnaroo Bets On U2

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Bonnaroo Bets On U2

Last year, Bonnaroo’s attendance plunged 38
percent – partly the result of new major-city fests like Panorama and Governors
Ball. This year, the Tennessee festival scored U2, who will play for a new
crowd between their own stadium sellouts. “I don’t think it means ‘problem
solved,'” says Tom Windish of Paradigm, which books acts like Coldplay. “I
don’t know how many U2 fans are going to go see them out there.”