10. Electric Daisy Carnival
I had to dig deep into the gray matter to remember who even played this inaugural Chicago edition of the EDM festival that news networks use to scare parents about drugs. Avicii and David Guetta topped the bill of this three-day rave at the Chicagoland Speedway, along with "the most important headliner of all YOU and the vibes and energy you bring." Stop it. Still, the people watching is good.
9. Do-Division Street Festival
Adorable weirdo Ariel Pink headlined this collaborative venture between Empty Bottle and House Call. The top street fest in town tends to oscillate between Do-Div and Wicker Park. This year, the western one won us over with its booking.
8. Spring Awakening
The second of the big four EDM fests, this Soldier Field sm�rg�sbord of dubstep caters to teenagers. We are not teenagers, nor are we crazy about the setting. Undoubtedly, you witness more groin pulling on the field than in a Jay Cutler season.
7. Tomorrow Never Knows
Largely overlooked as a festival, as it takes place in January across multiple (indoor) venues, TNK annually serves up acts that will return to Chicago throughout the year to bigger and bigger audiences. See: Jessie Ware (pictured) and the Palma Violets in 2013. The upcoming installment is even better, with Superchunk, John Newman, Yuck and more.
6. North Coast Music Festival
Mother Nature was not a fan. Biblical rains screwed headliner Passion Pit, shorting the band's gear and forcing it to play DJ. The Wu-Tang Clan closed out the Union Park jamboree, which seemed to pack a weaker bill. Probably because there are umpteen big-ticket EDM events these days. But no crowd has more colorful costumes.
5. Wavefront Festival
Location, location, location. Summer festival + beach. Duh. Why had nobody else in town thought of that? Members of LCD Soundsystem, Fatboy Slim and Diplo led a pack of dance-music veterans in a bill far brainier than its competition. Fun fact: I could hear this sucker all the way in Evanston.
4. Chicago Jazz Festival
As Blues Fest struggles to stay relevant, as the World Music Festival thins, this DCASE event outdid itself with a lineup that was forward-thinking and approachable, classic and progressive. Hamid Drake (pictured), Rudresh Mahanthappa,Charles Lloyd and Robert Glasper are some of our favorite jazzers of the modern day. Glasper works with chart-topping rappers. So why can't Blues Fest score something contemporary like the Black Keys?
In 2013, the headliners weakened as the throngs of people (well, high school and college kids) swelled. Saturday was a total clunker, the worst single day of this behemoth yet. I can't remember a single performance that impressed me that afternoon. However, Sunday was stellar, wall-to-wall goodness, too much to even take in. You just can't argue with the sheer volume of quality acts here. (If you can manage to get to them in time.) A down year and an uncomfortably large-'n'-douchy crowd pushes my usual perennial favorite to No. 3. On a positive note: The official website finally got rid of that inane circus theme.
2. Riot Fest
Um, they booked the freaking Replacements. Incessant rains could not spoil the good mood at this continually growing underdog. The big question is, who do they get next? (My vote: Jawbreaker.)
1. Pitchfork Music Festival
Again, the skies took a dump on our fun, cutting short a breathtaking set from Bj�rk on Friday. The bookers thought outside their music-snob box with R. Kelly, and still brought the makers of many of my favorite albums of the year. When P4K can nab M.I.A. and she's not even headlining this more modest affair, it has won the game. I will not argue with the people's choice.
These festival rankings are based on consistent musical quality and overall experience, looking only at the 2013 installments. Rain crashed just about every party, leveling the playing field—or, well, turning all the summer music festival grounds into muck. Nothing quite as bad as Apocapalooza 2012. Still, another pair of sneakers in the garbage bin.
Click the festival names for a boatload of photos, live reviews and more on-the-field coverage of Chicago music festivals.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best of 2013