Summer. Music. Could any two words in the English language possibly go so well together? There’s just something about warm weather that makes you want to be outside, bare feet touching soft grass and dirt underfoot, hands in the cool night air, eardrums fluttering to the vibrations of a strumming guitar.
And aside from Summer, what could go better with music than travel? Whatever your favorite genre, this season is prime time to catch some of the best live performances you’ll see all year. So what if nothing good is playing near your hometown? Jump in the car or book that cheap plane ticket. Music is just the excuse you’re looking for to get out on the road. From the smallest local city festivals, to the giant multi-headliner events now dotting the country (and the world), it’s time to start making some travel arrangements to catch your favorite band.
We won’t pretend to list out every music festival and event going on this summer – there’s way too many. But we’ve been to our fair share of good ones – and we know what’s worth the trip. Grab those earplugs and stop making those Free Bird requests, Gadling is bringing you our picks of this Summer’s best music events, both in your backyard and around the world.
There are some music events so incredibly epic, bringing together so many great bands, and unique performers in such unique settings, that they’re worth a trip halfway across the globe. That’s not to mention peculiar quirks of the local crowd. What better way to meet the locals than your shared love for Metallica? The international festivals below are definitely worth your money’s worth:
- Sonar Festival – Barcelona, Spain (June 19-21) – the cutting edge Sonar Festival, hosted in one of Europe’s most dynamic cities, brings together multimedia art and music for three days of decidedly high-tech fun and dancing. This year’s festival features big names like M.I.A. and Justice. Did we mention the city is on a beach for when you get tired of the party?
- Glastonbury – Glastonbury, England (June 27-29) – Glastonbury has long been known as one the one the premier festivals in England, if not the world, offering a huge lineup of some of pop music’s up-and-comers as well as established superstars. This year promises a similar showing, featuring hip-hop star Jay-Z, singer songwriter Leonard Cohen and bands like indie-rockers The National marquee acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Q Tip and Bruce Springsteen
- Gnaoua Festival – Essaouira, Morocco (June 26-29) – if your musical tastes run towards the more esoteric and global, consider a trip to Morocco’s Gnaoua Festival, held each year in the lazy seaside village of Essaouira. Gnawa is type of music indigenous to Northern Africa, characterized by its soulful chanting and acrobatic dancing. As if a visit to the whitewashed town of Essaouira wasn’t reward enough, you’ll bear witness to some of the most amazing musicians from across sub-Saharan Africa.
- Roskilde Festival – Roskilde, Denmark (July 3-6) – Denmark is not exactly a hot spot when you think of great musical events, but the annual Roskilde Festival is proof the Danes really know what they’re talking about. This year brings yet another killer lineup including uber-rockers Radiohead and Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Lucinda Williams, and many others.
Alright, so the Spanish music festival is out of your budget this year. That’s not a problem really – live music is practically a birthright of American citizens, guaranteeing that each summer you’ll find a heap of great musicians touring at a concert hall or ampitheater near you. To help you figure out what to check out, we’ve broken down some of our favorites based on geography: East Coast, West and Central. Take a look:
- EAST COAST – All Points West, New York, NY (July 31- August 2) – brought to you by the same team that pulls together the annual Coachella Festival in Indio, CA, New York City’s All Points West Festival is now entering its second year. Much as you’d expect from a sister festival to the excellent Coachella, All Points West brings in top-notch talent like the Beastie Boys and MGMT to a gorgeous waterfront park facing the Statue of Liberty.
- CENTRAL – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN (June 12-15) – many people wondered what was going on when a new festival was first announced in 2002 on a 700 acre farm in Tennessee. But the detractors have long since been silenced by Bonnaroo, now one of the country’s most famous music festivals. 2009 brings yet another eclectic and stellar lineup headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Phish and Wilco.
- CENTRAL – Lollapalooza, Chicago, IL (August 7-9) – consider Lollapalooza as the grandfather of national music festivals. It’s been around longer than just about every other major Summer festival around, originally created by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell way back in 1991. The fact Lollapalooza no longer tours the country each Summer also works to your advantage – the festival now permanently resides in wonderful Summer climes of Chicago. Headliners this year include Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon and The Killers.
- WEST – Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, CO (June 18-21) – you know you have a good thing going when your festival has been ongoing for 36 years. That’s exactly the advantage of the long-running Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a celebration of a distinctly American musical style nestled in the scenic heights of the Rocky Mountains. This year’s lineup includes a diverse roster of performers including David Byrne, Elvis Costello as well as old favorites like Jerry Douglas.
Ready for an encore? We only had space to list a few of our favorite summer musical events here. What did we miss? Have a favorite festival you think we should know about? Leave us your thoughts in the comments and there very well may be a Summer music roundup “Part II” in the near future.