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Photograph: Courtesy Coachella/Julian Bajsel

The best music festivals in the US

Fests are officially back on! Get sweaty at the biggest and best music festivals in the US

Scott Snowden
Written by
Jen Woo
Contributor
Scott Snowden
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Slowly, tentatively, we're beginning to embrace normality once again as humankind emerges from the pandemic and the live music scene is rebounding with a new, exciting energy. Starting this summer, your favorite artists will return to large stages in Austin, New Orleans, Indio and more for the best music festivals in the US, alongside fun event activations, comedy tents, massive art installations and even spa services (seriously).

So, what is the biggest music festival in America? Well, that depends on what you're after. Whether you've been longing for bass-thumping EDM and the chance to dress up in costume, soulful jazz ensembles and some of the best Southern food around, or big name headliners behind some of the best pop songs ever written – fests are back and ready to get you dancing in 2022. Here are the best festivals in the US over the next year, in chronological order. May they inspire the music-filled weekend of your dreams. 

Best music festivals in the US

When: March 11–20, 2022

Where: Austin, TX

The first SXSW was held in 1987 and since then the festival has grown both in terms of attendance—by some counts, 280,000 people attended the 10-day festival in 2019—and in terms of influence: SXSW is Austin’s biggest revenue-producing event and one of the most important gatherings on the nation's entertainment calendar. The event is broken down into SXSW Music (with 2,000-plus acts performing across the city); SXSW Film (with screenings of anticipated movies, panels and workshops); SXSW Comedy (a week of laugh-out-loud lineups inclulding established and emerging talent), and the increasingly popular SXSW Interactive, which features speakers, panels and a pitch competition, SXSW Accelerator.

When: March 24–27, 2022

Where: Knoxville, TN

Named for the open-minded approach to listening it asks attendees to have, Big Ears regularly hosts contemporary classical music performances along with adventurous indie-rock, jazz, metal and electronic music. To list genres is almost antithetical to the spirit of the festival, which recognizes no such distinction in its omnivorous bookings. For four days, Big Ears transforms the city into a paradise for music of all kinds, taking over regal music halls, intimate clubs and hushed churches, all of which are centrally located and within walking distance. 

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When: April 15-17 • 22-24, 2022

Where: Indio, CA

More than 100,000 music lovers make a pilgrimage to the Empire Polo Club during each identical weekend of Coachella, whether bound for campgrounds or shuttling over from golf resorts and mid-century modern homes. Though its bespoke dining experiences and hotel party scene may try to steal headlines, Coachella remains about the relaxed desert air euphoria of a well-curated music festival. Those that purchased tickets for the canceled 2021 fest will automatically receive new wristbands for 2022 and an amazing line up this year includes Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Swedish House Mafia, Danny Elfman and many, many others.

When: April 29-May 1, 2022

Where: Atlanta, GA

Rock enthusiasts flock to Atlanta’s Central Park to enjoy more than 60 bands across four stages, and they're greeted with a rather eclectic range of up-and-coming, trending, and world renowned musicians. This year presents Billy Idol, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Nine Inch Nails, My Morning Jacket and a whole host of some of the biggest names in modern music.

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When: April 29-May 8, 2022

Where: New Orleans, LA

One of the country’s longest-running music festivals, held annually since 1970, Jazz Fest is also one of the biggest. Nearly half-a-million people show up to take in a massive bill of jazz, blues, rock and roots music. While most festivals are content to book the same handful of reunited alt-rock bands making the rounds, Jazz Fest always boasts hall of fame caliber headliners. This year’s lineup goes well beyond jazz with names like The Who, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Luke Combs, Lionel Richie and lots, lots more.

When: May 20-22, 2022

Where: Gulf Shores, AL

One of the more unlikely success stories in the festival business, this fest right on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico had the bad luck to launch in the midst of 2010's Deepwater Horizon oil spill—but it hung in there and grew big enough to get bought up by the company that puts on Coachella. The Hangout lineup leans heavy on energetic indie, electronic and pop acts that fit the beach-party vibe. Confirmed acts for this year include, Post Malone, Fall Out Boy, Leon Bridges, Jack Harlow and many others.

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When: May 27-29, 2022

Where: Napa, CA

It wouldn’t be a true Wine Country event without an abundance of vino, gourmet food, and a mid-fest massage (seriously). But BottleRock really sets itself apart by satiating both your flavor and sonic palettes—and the range of attractions don’t disappoint. Confirmed acts include, Metallica, P!nk, Twenty One Pilots, Luke Combs, The Black Crowes, Kygo, Pitbull, Greta Van Fleet, Mount Westmore, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Chvrches, Bleachers, Spoon, Banks, Alessia Cara, Saint Jhn, Vance Joy and lots more.

When: June 10-12, 2022

Where: New York, NY

What began as a few tents among abandoned buildings and military barracks is now a staple festival, occupying a unique place among summer concerts in NYC. All stages will be nestled in the center of an astroturf-lined Citi Field, with a 360-degree layout to prevent sound bleed between stages and eliminate long walks for fest goers. It’s the one local fest where you can catch hip-hop chart-toppers, tastemaker-approved buzz bands, left-field pop heroes and, yes, dance-commanding EDM overlords. This year’s lineup includes Kid Cudi, Halsey, Black Pumas, Peach Tree Rascals and a lot more.

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When: June 16-19, 2022

Where: Manchester, TN

Long-running Bonnaroo has a reputation as the funkiest of the modern major music festivals, from its backwoods Tennessee location and its hedonistic on-site camping to the slightly hippie-fied lineups and signature all-star 'superjam.' This year’s lineup includes Sidepiece, Illenium, Flume, Pidgeons Playing Ping Pong, Nora En Pure and many more. 

When: June 23-25 • June 30-July 2 • July 7-9, 2022

Where: Milwaukee, WI

When Summerfest revealed around 100 headliners, they were just getting started. Taking place over three consecutive weekends, the lineup features a whopping 800+ artists across 12 stages. Acts include Jason Aldean, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Wu-Tang Clan, Machine Gun Kelly, Halsey, Rod Stewart, Backstreet Boys, Thomas Rhett and many more. 

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When: July 15-17, 2022

Where: Chicago, IL

The musical tastemakers of Pitchfork bring a painstakingly curated lineup of critically lauded indie rockers, hip-hop artists and forward-thinking musicians to Chicago’s Union Park each summer. Since its inception in 2006, the festival has remained an ideal size, boasting reasonable crowds (about 20,000 people per day), three stages and plenty of room for lounging in the sun or shade. Acts for 2022 include Spiritualized, The Roots, Lucy Dacus and many more.

When: August 5-7, 2022

Where: San Francisco, CA

In the years since its inaugural weekend back in 2008, Outside Lands has become a signature San Francisco event. Three days of dancing to dozens of bands and yucking it up with A-list comics are punctuated by drinking and dining experiences that put traditional festival food to shame. (In previous years, there have been such things called 'Cheese Lands' here, as well as a 'Wine Lands' and Bubble Tea Party in a magical forest). Do not forget to wear layers, and prepare to get dusty. The bands rock, the fog rolls in and it’s a long and awesome weekend.

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When: August 26-28, 2022

Where: Columbus, OH

Founded in 2019 as a means to promote and raise funds for mental health initiatives at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, a share of revenue from this fest continues to help support the medical center’s programs. After skipping 2020, the festival returns for its second year this fall, with hitmakers including Kesha, Wilco, Grouplove, Black Pumas and AJR. The family-friendly event spanning 54 acres of outdoor space also includes a plethora of culinary options, a robust artisan village, and activities for children.

When: September 2-4, 2022

Where: New York, NY

Electric Zoo is New York City’s premier electronic music festival that takes place over Labor Day weekend. With stacked artists ranging from bass to techno and everything in between, it's an unusual and exciting way to spend the holiday. The line up has yet to be announced, but last year's event featured a Supernaturals' theme, inviting 'all cosmic creatures, astral aliens, intergalactic illusionists, supernatural wizards, shamans, witches, and extraterrestrial beings' to experience a spectrum of electronic music and its various sub genres. That should give you some idea of what to expect.

 

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When: September 16-18, 2022

Where: Chicago, IL

Forget about flower crowns and neon tank tops—Riot Fest is a place to show off your old high school jean jacket, plastered with patches and pins. Originally conceived as a punk-rock celebration, this three-day event has grown to welcome alternative rockers, hip-hop acts, electronic artists and more. You can also ride a Ferris wheel, eat funnel cake and see a sideshow—it’s kind of like a state fair with way better music. At the time of writing only two acts have been officially confirmed: My Chemical Romance and The Original Misfits. 

When: September 23-25, 2022

Where: Dover, DE

Nestled in the Woodlands of Dover, Delaware, this festival is an open-air, camping-friendly fest that presents 120 bands across seven stages as well as artisan boutiques, a silent disco, and fun, daily surprises like drag brunch and yoga. Campgrounds are set up along the stage with areas to recharge batteries between major headliners this year including, Weezer, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, The Kid Laroi and more.

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When: October 7-9 • 14-16

Where: Austin, TX

ACL takes place over two weekends and it's easy to see why: Organizers need all the time in the world to stuff Zilker Park full of some of America’s biggest (and most eclectic) names. At the time of writing, no acts have been officially confirmed, but if previous years are any indication, it will a musical extranaganza that's worth making an effort to get to.

When: October 27-30, 2022

Where: Austin, TX

Formerly known as Austin Psych Fest, Levitation has become a big name on the Austin festival scene, celebrating the psychedelic sounds of the ’60s and the evolution of experimental rock. This weekend-long bacchanal is all about boundary-pushing and musical expression. No line up acts have yet been confirmed at the time of writing, but you can sign up for the newsletter on the website to get all the latest news as it happens. 

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When: 2022 dates TBA 

Where: Chicago, IL

Founded as a touring festival by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell in 1991, Lollapalooza has made Chicago its permanent home since 2005. The gargantuan event spans the entirety of Grant Park, subjecting more than 100,000 daily attendees to long walks between stages, porta-johns and beer tents. The reward for your sun-drenched slog? A veritable who’s-who of marquee festival acts, from hip hop to indie rock and everything in-between.

When: 2022 dates TBA 

Where: Detroit, MI

Detroit’s Movement is the antithesis of the sprawling, sense-assualting EDM mega-raves like Electric Daisy Carnival that come to mind when you hear the phrase 'electronic music festival.' Launched in 2000 as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and held downtown in the city that gave the world techno, the focus here is on music over spectacle, with a lineup that mixes pioneers with next-generation innovators.

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When: 2022 dates TBA 

Where: New Orleans, LA

Described as 'musical gumbo,' this festival brings together all that NOLA has to offer: music, art, and tasty eats over Halloween weekend. While the lineup is yet to be announced, previous years have hosted Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, The Killers, and LCD Soundsystem. In addition to more than 65 bands over three days, food here takes precedence. Whether it’s at the Forked Up Food Court or the Feast Under the Stars the night before the event, some of the top chefs in town will be bringing the flavor. 

When: 2022 dates TBA 

Where: Newport, RI

Best known as the place where Dylan went electric (before being cut off by angry folk traditionalists), Newport’s been showcasing the changing face of Americana for nearly half a century. While the lineup usually has a healthy dose of acts that reflect its history of traditionalism, it also features rockers, R&B singers and electronics-assisted performances. This year holds two three-day events with performances, storytelling, and workshops.

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