The 15 best music festivals in the world in 2013

Time Out editors from New York to Melbourne round-up the best music festivals on the planet this summer

The 15 best music festivals in the world in 2013 © Paul Underhill
By Time Out editors

Grab your comfy sneakers, sunscreen and wayfarers, and hit one of these summer music festivals, wherever on the globe you may be. We’ve listed the biggest and best outdoor concerts happening in Europe, the US, Canada and even Australia. Consider this a handy travel guide, or just a tip sheet for those who like to be up-to-date on global happenings.


Governors Ball

When and where: June 7-9, New York City, USA

Headliners: Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Guns N’ Roses, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Nas, Grizzly Bear, Kendrick Lamar, Pretty Lights, the Avett Brothers, the xx, Feist, Beach House, the Lumineers

Three years in, this multiday celebration has attracted a diverse lineup—especially its wonderfully weird trio of headliners. Kings of Leon kick things off on Friday night, but we’re expecting things to get really interesting on Saturday and Sunday, when Guns N’ Roses and Kanye West, respectively, take the main stage. Rounding out the bill are up-and-comers (Kendrick Lamar, Haim), established acts (Nas, the Lumineers), indie-rock royalty (Grizzly Bear, Feist) and many more.

Orion Music and More

When and where: June 8, 9, Detroit, USA

Headliners: Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Deftones, BASSNECTAR, Dropkick Murphys, Gogol Bordello, Infectious Grooves, Rocket from the Crypt, FLAG, Silversun Pickups, Foals

Heavy-metal big guns Metallica organize this weekend bash for the second year, this time moving the festivities from the Jersey shore to the Motor City. The quartet, headlining Sunday, curates a diverse, heavy-leaning lineup that also makes room for poppier guitar-based acts like Silversun Pickups and the Joy Formidable. Red Hot Chili Peppers top the Saturday night bill, which also corrals metal-funk throwbacks Infectious Grooves (featuring Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo) and Keith Morris–fronted Black Flag reunion FLAG. There’s also plenty of nonmusical amusements to nerd out on, including a showcase of classic cars, a horror-movie expo and, for serious fans, a pop-up museum of Metallica memorabilia.


When and where: June 13-15, Barcelona, Spain

Headliners: Kraftwerk, Skrillex, Paul Kalkbrenner, Soulwax, Major Lazer, Laurent Garnier, Seth Troxler, Nicolas Jaar, Pet Shop Boys, TNGHT, Matthew Herbert, Derrick May, Darkstar, Bat for Lashes, Jurassic 5

Barcelona sure knows how to throw a party, as Sónar’s formidable track record proves. Though its lineup policy has floated more toward the mainstream end of alternative dance music in recent years, its underground cred is very much intact and many still say it’s the best dance festival on the planet. This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary, and as always there’s a huge program covering all corners of the electronic spectrum. Top-biller at this year’s edition goes to German pioneers Kraftwerk— performing their 3-D greatest-hits show—U.K. pop duo Pet Shop Boys and populist dubstep DJ Skrillex. Sónar’s daytime shenanigans have also found a new home, closer to the mammoth aircraft hangar that houses nighttime antics. Oh, and sunshine, cheap cervezas and numerous hotel-rooftop parties across the city help sweeten an already-very-sweet deal.


When and where: June 13-16, Tennessee, USA

Headliners: Björk, Wu-Tang Clan, the xx, Kendrick Lamar, Animal Collective, A$AP Rocky, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Nas, Four Tet, Death Grips, Ariel Pink, Django Django

Four days of fun in the Tennessee sun with a supersized helping of ace bands playing? That’s Bonnaroo. Soundtracking what’s sure to be a scorching schedule is a range of acts covering everything from hip-hop to electronica, classic rock to pop, alt rock and lo-fi. It’s all there, basically. Some of the many highlights include new hip-hop hope Kendrick Lamar, downtempo London trio the xx, offbeat nu-folk band Grizzly Bear and brilliantly angry East Coast rap legends Wu-Tang Clan. Worth a plane fare to Tennessee? Abso-bonnaroo-tley.


When and where: June 29-July 7, Roskilde, Denmark

Headliners: Kraftwerk, Animal Collective, Crystal Castles, Baauer, Rihanna, Queens of the Stone Age, Sigur Rós, Slipknot, Kendrick Lamar, Daedelus, Disclosure, Efterklang, King Krule

This Danish beast has been powering along since 1971 and now stands tall as the largest northern European music and culture festival on the circuit. Put simply, it’s huge, a fact accentuated by its duration of an entire week. But these guys are pros, and it’s a slick operation—who else publishes their beer prices on the festival website beforehand? As you’d expect, the lineup covers anything and everything, drawing together the classic synth explorations of Kraftwerk, the alt-stoner rock of Queens of the Stone Age, the electronica-disco stylings of Daedelus, the quietly affecting Sigur Rós, the messy blues of King Krule and just so much more.


Festival Internacional de Benicàssim

When and where: July 18-21, Benicàssim, Spain

Headliners: The Killers, the Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Primal Scream, Dizzee Rascal, Johnny Marr, Azealia Banks, the Courteeners, Hurts, Kaiser Chiefs, Palma Violets, AlunaGeorge

Benicàssim, accent on the a, has long been an international favorite, thanks to the site’s close proximity to the beach and the option of lots of free camping either side of the actual festival. It’s a grand idea to book time off around these dates and have yourself a good old Spanish holiday—plus there’s always a great beach party to finish off your hedonistic long weekend. If, incidentally, music is also your bag, Arctic Monkeys, the Killers and Queens of the Stone Age all headline. Combined with a supporting cast of world-beating emcees, anthemic indie-rock stalwarts and smaller Spanish bands to add some local flavor, this lineup screams music fun in the sun.


When and where: July 19-21, Chicago, USA

Headliners: Björk, Belle and Sebastian, R. Kelly, M.I.A., Joanna Newsom

A production of the hipster music website Pitchfork, this compact festival on a public baseball field hosts the hottest acts of the blogosphere and nostalgic favorites from the ’90s. It usually works like this: Hordes of college kids in tank tops going nuts in the dust; older record collectors on the fringes bobbing their heads. Under a big tent you’ll find an incredible record fair, the best shop in town for a few days, with labels like Sub Pop and the Numero Group selling their wares. Tip: The smaller third stage has grass, shade and typically more fun.

Splendour in the Grass

When and where: July 26-28 New South Wales, Australia

Headliners: Mumford & Sons, the National, Frank Ocean, Of Monsters and Men, Empire of the Sun, Bernard Fanning, the Presets, TV on the Radio, Klaxons, Flume, Babyshambles, Passion Pit, James Blake

This three-day festival near the northern New South Wales town of Byron Bay is the festival everyone puts on their must-do list down in Australia. As soon as the dates are announced (usually late July) Aussies on the east coast book their annual vacation days, check for any tears in their tents and get a new pair of gum boots (rain boots to you, and it’s winter in this neck of the woods, so they come in handy). The lineup’s a mix of big internationals at the top of the bill—last year Jack White and the Smashing Pumpkins, this year Frank Ocean—as well as the buzziest locals:  Flume, Birds of Tokyo, Matt Corby…. For alternative types, there’s a Tipi Forest at the center of the festival grounds where you can check out the latest EDM sounds being made in the close-by northern NSW and southeast Queensland club scenes, plus a Global Village for those who want to go less local. With this year boasting a lineup that includes Ocean, the National, Of Monsters and Men plus the return of locals Empire of the Sun, Splendour looks sure to hold its supreme place on Australia’s festival calendar.



When and where: Aug 2-4, Chicago, USA

Headliners: The Cure, Phoenix, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend, the Postal Service, New Order, Hot Chip, Local Natives, Major Lazer, Beach House, 2 Chainz, Cat Power

A transcendent moment you must experience—watching one of the best bands in the world, Lake Michigan blue to one side, blowing a welcome breeze, and the towering Chicago skyline framing the scene on the other. Lollapalooza has a stunning setting smack-dab in Grant Park. With eight stages spread over a few square miles, and acts ranging from global DJs to kiddie folk, this behemoth can be overwhelming, especially considering daily attendance in the six figures. But unlike other major festivals, there’s (blissfully) no camping. Who needs it with the city at your doorstep? You can never see everything, but you’ll never lack something to see. Also, the food, curated by celebrity chef Graham Elliot, brings some great local gourmet fare.


When and where: Aug 2-4 Off, Katowice, Poland

Headliners: The Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, the Walkmen, Patrick Wolf, Deerhunter, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jens Lekman, Skalpel, Japandroids, Woods, Austra, Bohren & der Club of Gore, Thee Oh Sees

Billy Corgan’s grunge legends the Smashing Pumpkins headline this genre-defying alternative music festival alongside the definitive shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine, who are incredibly loud live. There are loads of great noise, metal and left-field electronica acts on the lively bill. Both Polish and international outfits are performing, and we’re particularly excited by Swedish group Goat, who perform their intense, Middle Eastern–influenced psychedelic rock in ritualistic masks and robes, as well as rising Canadian noise punks Metz.


When and where: Aug 2-4, Montreal, Canada

Headliners: The Cure, Beck, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, New Order, Vampire Weekend, Frank Ocean, the Lumineers, Kendrick Lamar, Hot Chip, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, Tricky

Held in the idyllic Parc Jean-Drapeau on Montreal’s Île Sainte-Hélène, Osheaga is one of the best bets north of the border, with acts to satisfy Anglophiles and Francophiles both. For the former, gothic-pop yowler Robert Smith and the Cure, anthemic folkies Mumford & Sons and reunited postpunks New Order (less original bassist Peter Hook); for the latter, indie-rockers Phoenix and turntable group C2C, among others. Beck, backed by a full band, should be bringing some West Coast sunshine to the proceedings.


When and where: Aug 6-10 Oslo, Norway

Headliners: The Knife, Kraftwerk, Blur, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, Azealia Banks, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Slayer, Disclosure, Beach House, Mount Kimbie, Tame Impala, Local Natives

This smallish Norwegian boutique festival is set on the historic site where Oslo was founded a thousand years ago. There’s your history lesson; now you can enjoy the music from an eclectic and ace lineup traversing electronica, arty rock, hip-hop and metal. It’s in a beautiful spot just a ten-minute walk from Oslo’s main train station, and one of the greenest around, serving organic local food and minimizing its environmental impact in every way possible. Rocking out with a conscience can be fun, see?

Outside Lands

When and where: Aug 9-11, San Francisco, USA

Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix, Kaskade, Vampire Weekend, Pretty Lights, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, D’Angelo, the National, Jurassic 5, Willie Nelson & Family, Grizzly Bear

The City by the Bay graciously lends its Golden Gate Park for this three-day fest. It’s a bit all over the place, curatorially speaking. Consider the headlining trio: Sir Paul, Red Hot Chili Peppers and industrial powerhouse Nine Inch Nails. Still, you won’t hurt for options, whether it’s R&B recluse D’Angelo, garage-popper King Tuff or blue-eyed soul kings Hall & Oates. This being the West Coast, you can expect outstanding food from Bay Area restos, fresh vino and suds from nearby vineyards and craft breweries, and a crunchy ecological angle that won’t harsh your mellow (a solar- and alternative-energy-powered stage).

FSF Fest

When and where: Aug 24, Los Angeles, USA

Headliners: ‪Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, TV on the Radio, Beach House, MGMT, Devendra Banhart, Yo La Tengo, Thee Oh Sees, STRFKR

The enthusiastically named Fuck Yeah Fest rallies rowdy postpunkers, lowbrow artists, anarchist skaters, caustic stand-ups and all manner of other virulently antiestablishment types for a weekend of indier-than-thou amp-busting fringe culture. This year, to celebrate the fest’s ten-year anniversary, the folks at FYF Fest are really stepping it up compared to their humble beginnings at the Echo all those years ago: The 2013 headliners include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, TV on the Radio, Beach House and MGMT. Other swoonworthy artists on the bill include Devendra Banhart, Yo La Tengo, Thee Oh Sees and STRFKR.


Electric Picnic

When and where: Aug 31-Sep 1, Stradbally, Ireland

Headliners: ‪Fatboy Slim, Björk, Arctic Monkeys, My Bloody Valentine, The Knife, Franz Ferdinand, Wu-Tang Clan, David Byrne & St.Vincent, Eels, Ellie Golding, Noah & The Whale, Black Metal Motorcycle Club, Johnny Marr

It’s usually a young congregation and this year’s line-up will exasperate matters, meaning welly-booted rock chicks and their skinny-jeaned admirers will likely dominate. There are tents for both comedy and spoken word gigs, theatre and circus performances and loads, loads more.

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