USA Summer Music Festivals 2012

Summer feels like music festivals. Music festivals feel like summer. The two are interchangeable for me despite the fact that music festivals take place year-round. But while some festivals stake their claim on the cooler months, most of them schedule out consecutive days of music (and fun) during the summertime. Because of this, you’ll never make all of the summer music festivals in one summer, but you can make a few of the good ones. What follows is a list of some of the best-looking music festivals for summer 2012.Sasquatch
When: May 25-28
Where: The Gorge, George, Washington
Who: Jack White, Beck, Bon Iver, Tenacious D, The Shins, Beirut, Feist, The Roots, Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, Metric, Explosions In The Sky, The Joy Formidable, Santigold, St. Vincent, Mark Lanegan Band and more.

When: June 7-10
Where: Manchester, Tennessee
Who: Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, The Beach Boys, Bon Iver, The Avett Brothers, Skrillex, Feist, Ludacris, The Temper Trap, Alice Cooper, Tune-Yards, St. Vincent, The Black Lips, Battles, Santigold, The Antlers, Bad Brains and more.

Outside Lands
When: August 10-12
Where: San Francisco, California
Who: Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Jack White, Foo Fighters, Beck, Skrillex, Sigur Ros, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor, Passion Pit, Andrew Bird, Franz Ferdinand, Zola Jesus, Die Antwoord and more.

Governors Ball
When: June 23-24
Where: Randall’s Island, New York City
Who: Fiona Apple, Beck, Passion Pit, Kid Cudi, Modest Mouse, Atmosphere, Explosions In The Sky, Built To Spill, Major Lazer, Cage The Elephant and more.

When: July 13-15
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Who: Feist, Vampire Weekend, Hot Chip, Dirty Projectors, Purity Ring, Grimes, Sleigh Bells, Youth Lagoon, Beach House and more.

Capitol Hill Block Party
When: July 20-22
Where: Seattle, Washington
Who: Neko Case, Major Lazer, Grimes, Youth Lagoon, Cloud Nothings, Thee Oh Sees and more.

When: August 3-5
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Who: Jack White, The Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, At The Drive-In, Black Sabbath, The Shins, Passion Pit, Sigur Ros, The Shins, Bloc Party, Florence + The Machine, Metric, Franz Ferdinand, The Temper Trap, Band of Skulls, Chairlift, White Rabbits and more.

When: September 1-3
Where: Seattle, Washington
Who: Jane’s Addiction, Skrillex, Gotye, M83, Awolnation, Keane, Passion Pit, City and Colour, Mudhoney, Low, Heartless Bastards, Lights and more.

Bonnaroo goes green

It’s possible that some of the biggest applause heard at last weekend’s Bonnaroo extravaganza was not for Lil’ Wayne or Mumford and Sons, Eminem or Dr. John, but for the phalanx of silver tankers that arrived once or twice a day slopping over with cool, fresh water to resupply the fest’s communal fountain/shower.

Each time a line of the half-dozen shiny trucks entered through the campgrounds, their big rolling tires generating even more dust, the crowds parted reverently to allow them access.

Even more than microbrews and vegetable samosas, drum circles and pot, umbrellas and sun block, fresh, clean water is the key to keeping the festival alive.

During its ten-year run, the mid-summer fest – this year’s version hosted 120 bands and more than 80,000 – has experienced all weathers, from downpour to heat wave. This year’s was the latter. Other than a few drops and some distant lightning near the onset of Buffalo Springfield’s reunion show late on Saturday night, the skies were clear and pale, dry and hot. Which meant those 160,000 feet scuffling around the 700-acre compound very quickly turned the place into a dust bowl. The stages were often masked by a fine scree of brown Tennessee dust hovering in the air 30 feet above ground.

Creating a sizable city, even if for just four days, requires massive logistics on top of selling and delivering all those computer-coded wristbands and organizing the arrival and departure of fleets of band-bearing tour buses. Most of life’s essentials – particularly water – have to be brought in from elsewhere. (Two deaths were reported over the weekend; heat exhaustion may have been in part responsible, though so could have overdose, genetics or freak accident. That number brings the total to have taken their last breaths at Bonnaroo at 10 in 10 years.)

%Gallery-126954%Thankfully there seemed to be plenty of water. While there were the ubiquitous long lines outside the occasionally overflowing porta potties, the lines to fill water bottles, Camelbacks and empty gallon milk jugs with drinking water were manageable (the drinking water was tested daily by the state’s Department of Health to make sure it stayed … drinkable). One of the most popular carry-ons at the fest was a Nalgene water bottle with their own misting fans. Surprisingly a big semi-circle of misting fans near the fountain seemed to be underused.

The fountain strategically built at Centeroo – big enough to shower 50 or 60 at a time – is the literal heart of the festival, especially when temps reached nearly triple digits, with some dropping by multiple times in a day to dust off.

Like several of the big summer fests, Bonnaroo has put lots of effort into greening its event, for obvious reasons: Anytime you create a small city in the middle of nowhere for several weeks (set-up begins months in advance, especially now that the show’s organizers own most of the land that hosts the festival) you’re going to have an impact: Think of all the air miles, buses, RVs spewing fossil fuels that deliver those 80,000+ and the garbage left behind. To its credit the festival has won a variety of awards for its efforts, based on self-evaluations and external audits.

Attendees, for example, have the option of adding any amount of money to their ticket purchase price to support the festival’s green efforts, like carbon offsets, a composting program, future plans for more solar power, which about half of ticket buyers pay into.

Last year’s event was about the same size and the North Carolina-based Clean Vibes company, which was hired to look after the leftovers, reportedly sorted 489 tons of garbage, diverting about a third of it to be recycled. That included carrying 101 tons of recyclables (81 tons of that was plastic bottles), plus 23 tons of cardboard, 21 tons of scrap metal, 45 tons of compost and 5 tons of cooking oil.

I talked with a bunch of the dedicated “Trash Talkers” – they are identified so by their t-shirts – who stand by each recycling drop and either advises on which bin to drop what (recyclable, compost, garbage) or stick plastic-gloved hands into the mess to personally re-sort. They’d gotten in for free, saving the couple hundred bucks on a weekend pass, and seemed happy to be there, despite a weekend of trash sorting. A 24-year-old from South Carolina standing near the Which stage said he’d organized his whole weekend work schedule around this one, Friday night posting, so that he’d have a good view of Primus.

Despite any touted green ethic, whether by organizers or attendees, there was trash… everywhere. I watched 40,000 people back off from the stage after Mumford & Sons played for 90 minutes and the ground was carpeted with plastic cups, plastic beer bottles, plates, wrappers, etc. People are people, essentially slobs, and it wouldn’t have mattered if the crowd had gathered for a jam band or a Nascar race, it was a mess. As it moved away, many heading for the main stage for a Black Keys set, even more volunteers moved in with plastic garbage bags to try and pick up and sort as much of the mess as possible. Convoys of electric ATVs piled high with plastic bags filled with garbage were even more ubiquitous than the water truck convoys.
Organizers clearly understand the link between clean water and life since several international non-profits focusing on water issues were featured at this year’s version, including its lead non-profit partner Challenge, as well as charity: water and Water for People.

Even post-fest, water was on people’s mind. This suggestion from a chat room posted minutes after the last act left the stage:

Ways to improve bonnaroo?

  1. Several more mist tents with a slightly higher output of water
  2. At least 5 more filtered water stations, with adequate water pressure
  3. MORE SHADE!! 1 tent the size of “This Tent”, without a stage, and without the sides. 40 cheap ceiling fans running at full blast would be a nice touch too.
  4. More / Better art installations
  5. More / Nicer / More frequently cleaned Portapotties

[flickr image via Jason Anfinsen]

Bonnaroo Photo Galleries

I made kind a big fuss about Bonnaroo. I tried to encourage anyone who had the means to attend the festival. Because, as excruciating as the Tennessee sun while camping can be, the festival was the highlight of my summer last year. Whether or not you managed to make it to Manchester, Tennessee for the festival, you should scope the photos Bonnaroo has released from last weekend’s festivities.

The people running the show over at did a great job with compiling photo galleries this year–galleries of just about every act and moment that was a part of the event. Take a peak and either look for your own face or see what you missed. If you like what you see, start thinking about Bonnaroo 2012.

Check out the recently-released Bonnaroo photos here.

Bonnaroo: know before you go

Bonnaroo kicks off today. In fact, at this precise moment, music-lovers anticipating one of the best weekends of their respective summers are pitching their tents and working out which bands they’ll see tonight. I remember this feeling. I went to Bonnaroo last year and had such a blast that I got passes for this year’s festival, as well. Unable to make the trip at the last minute, I am living vicariously through festival-goers, flipping through their Facebook photos as they roll into my news feed. The photos will chronicle the fun they’ll inevitably be have. If you’re gearing up for the next few days of Bonnaroo, here’s a little run-down of things you should know before you go. This will help you to get a little more acquainted with the festival before it swings into full gear and, with any luck, it will increase the chances of you having a smooth and stress-free experience.

  • Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival takes place every year in Manchester, Tennessee. It’s held at Great Stage Park and this year’s festival is #10 for Bonnaroo. The term ‘bonnaroo’ originated in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans a slang interpretation of the French words ‘bon’ (good) and ‘rue’ (street), which translated to “the best on the streets” in New Orleans. The term was popularized by Dr. John with his 1974 album Destively Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo has invested its resources since the beginning in sustainability and for this reason, it is one of the most Earth-friendly music festivals out there. The festival drew in roughly 75,000 fans last year, most of them having traveled to the festival.
  • Tickets. Tickets are sold out. If you don’t have a ticket, you’re not going. Start saving up for next year’s festival.
  • Alcohol. No glass containers or kegs are allowed on the premises of Bonnaroo. No outside alcohol is allowed inside of the What Stage Venue or Centeroo.
  • Grilling. Grilling is permitted, but only with small grills and camping stoves.
  • Fires. Absolutely no open fires are allowed.
  • Gas. There is no gas available on the festival grounds, so make sure you fill your tank before entering the festival.
  • Pets. No pets, none at all.
  • Re-entry. No vehicles can leave the grounds before 9pm Friday night and expect to re-enter. If you do leave Friday and expect to re-enter, then you must depart from either the East or West Tollbooth. You will only be allowed to leave and re-enter once during the festival.
  • Day parking. Those parking just for the day may only enter and depart through the West Tollbooth.
  • Leaving on foot. Patrons are permitted to leave on foot if they are scanned out by the East or West Tollbooth.
  • Wristband. Do not put it on before you get to the festival. Period.


  • Be neighborly! Bonnaroo is a friendly place–embrace it.
  • Schedule music-seeing carefully. You won’t be able to see everything you want to see, just know that and prepare for that.
  • Have a shade-solution. It will be difficult to find shade for certain shows, so come with a parasol or sun hat at least.
  • Bring cash and avoid ATM fees.
  • For every alcoholic beverage you consume, consume a glass of water. This is a good rule of thumb in general, but especially when you’re outside in the heat all day. Bonnaroo has seen its share of alcohol or drug-related deaths–take care of yourself.


  • Spare set of keys
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Plenty of sunblock, a sun hat, a sun umbrella, whatever you need to combat the sun and heat.
  • Aloe
  • Cooler with food
  • Flashlight
  • Raingear and mud boots
  • Camping gear
  • Blanket for seating
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra toilet paper
  • Flag or balloon to identify camp site
  • Small luggage lock for tent
  • Earplugs
  • Camera WITHOUT detachable lens
  • Pen/Paper
  • Phosphate and sulfate free soaps
  • Ashtray for cigarette smokers


  • Fireworks
  • Weapons
  • Illegal substances
  • Vending materials of any kind
  • Bicycles, scooters, or any other personal motorized vehicle
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Styrofoam coolers


  • Drinking water
  • Medical assistance
  • Wash stations
  • Showers
  • Portable toilets with toilet paper
  • General store
  • Food, beverages, and snacks for sale
  • ATM machines

Bonnaroo 2011: Why you should go

Bonnaroo 2011: why you should go

Bonnaroo 2011
is bound to be fun. I say this with confidence because I packed a car (and a cooler) and pitched my(embarrassingly huge, but purchased as a gift by my mother) tent at Bonnaroo last year. I had scored some V.I.P. passes to the festival last minute and decided, without much hesitation, that it was about time I experienced a camping music festival for myself. As soon as I rolled into the parking/camping lot for the festival, I knew I’d made the right decision.

My fiance and I pulled into the muddy lot and put our borrowed car in park. We pulled out said giant tent and began to piece together the puzzle that putting it together wound up to be. We did this with PBRs in hand and serendipitously, it seemed, everyone around us was doing the same thing: wrestling with tent instructions and alternating stakes with beer-filled aluminum cans. The sun was setting in that neon pink and orange light, the kind of colors that consistently paint the sky on the best summer nights. Our neighbors were also from Brooklyn, and also really really excited to be hanging out beyond the Tri-State borders for a few days.


We entered the festival last year just in time to catch The Temper Trap’s show. We’d never heard of them before, but just a song into their set we found ourselves asking people around us, “Who are these guys?”, knowing that it didn’t actually matter who they were–the experience of being at this festival was already speaking for itself, above and beyond the name or online merch. store url for any specific band.

We traveled all over in 2010. From New Orleans to Grenada, Costa Rica to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we certainly didn’t stay in one place for very long. And yet when all was said and done, those four days we stayed in that one place, Bonnaroo, will never be forgotten.

Although general admission tickets are now sold out for the upcoming Bonnaroo 2011, V.I.P. tickets are still available. And after having had V.I.P. tickets myself, all I can say is this: you’ll be showered and not walking miles each morning to get into the heart of the festival. The 4-day party takes place in the small town of Manchester, Tennessee and the dates this year are June 9-12.

Not sure if you want to invest in the sonic adventure yet? Well, here are some highlights that just might remedy your uncertainty.

  • Silent Disco. Everyone’s wearing wireless headphones, but dancin’ to the same song. From the outside looking in, everyone’s shakin’ their thang in utter silence. Inside? It’s a party.
  • Planet Earth. Bonnaroo is paving the path for eco-friendly festivals. Local food, composting, free water… the Bonnaroo green initiatives know no limit.
  • Yoga. Imagine hundreds (or thousands depending on how many people can rise and shine in time) doing sun salutes in unison as the Bonnaroo day breaks. It’s truly a sight to behold.
  • Artists’ Market. I was impressed with the wide expanse of legitimate artist booths at Bonnaroo last year. More handmade local goods, less made in China duplicates. That’s the idea and Bonnaroo holds to it. My handmade purse I purchased last year is regularly referred to as the ‘Bonnaroo Bag’ at home.
  • Bonnaroo Cinema & Comedy. If you need a break from all of the music listening, good-food eating, and fine-beer drinking, you can always chill out at Bonnaroo Cinema or Comedy tents to change up the kinds of shows you’re seeing.
  • Good vibes, anyone? Never before have I entered a certain community and felt so immediately welcomed and loved. There was something in the air at Bonnaroo last year, some kind of love and peace cocktail, if you ask me. And this, above everything else, is what will bring me back this year if I can make it.
  • Travel. Few people actually live in Manchester, Tennessee. Because of this, Bonnaroo is a time for travel for most attendees. It’s a time to pack the bags and file into cars, trains, buses, and plains and get there, one way or another. Talk to anyone who has traveled to Bonnaroo and they’ll back me up when I say: Bonnaroo is as much about getting there as anything else.
  • The MUSIC. Last, but of course not least, Bonnaroo is about the music. Some artists highlighting this year’s roster for me: Robert Plant & Band of Joy, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Mumford & Sons, Primus, Florence + the Machine, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Explosions in the Sky, Gogol Bordello, Beirut, Ratatat, Atmosphere, Portugal. The Man, Band of Skulls, Man Man, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Black Keys, and, you guessed it, many many more.

For more information on Bonnaroo, check out their website.