Summer may be gone but there are still plenty of U.S. music festivals to check out this year. Places like Chicago and New York City aren't quite bracing for winter yet: Events like Riot Fest and Meadows Festival provide one last reason to hear music under the open sky, even if you need to bring a sweater. And in cities like Los Angeles or Austin, fall is prime music festival season (and a great time to take a trip if you're stuck up north).
Best fall music festivals in the U.S.
Though the fledgling Ohana Festival's beachfront location is its forte, it also has a lineup to match this time around. Social Distortion, Eddie Vedder and Jack Johnson headline the second iteration of the low-key fest, though we're far more impressed with the undercard: Pixies, HAIM, Fiona Apple, Ray Lamontagne, TV on the Radio and more.
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The last time Jay-Z took the stage in NYC for a headlining show, it was 2014. That'll change this fall, when the Brooklyn native performs in the headlining slot at the Meadows Art & Music Festival, taking place September 15–17 at Citi Field. The lineup is as solid as we've seen, with a focus on hip-hop and indie-rock. Along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gorillaz, the fest will feature Future, Nas, M.I.A., Erykah Badu, Blood Orange and Broken Social Scene. Promising up-and-comers such as Bay area rapper Kamaiyah, hip-hop trio Swet Shop Boys and pop singer Lizzo fill out the bill.
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If you once scribbled dream music festival lineups in the margins of your high school notebooks, they probably looked a bit like Riot Fest. The annual Chicago event embraces rock and hip-hop nostalgia wholeheartedly, with a lineup that boasts industrial icons Nine Inch Nails, Wu-Tang Clan playing Enter the 36 Chambers in its entirety and the long-awaited reunion of cult punk act Jawbreaker. And if you don't care about the music, you can eat a funnel cake, check out freaky sideshow performers or ride a Ferris wheel.
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Pretend you're majoring in music, literature or technology at this multi-faceted fest on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Sets from the likes of Animal Collective, Noname, Thundercat and Big Thief form the bulk of Pygmalion's syllabus, but you can also sit in on a lecture from Lincoln on the Bardo writer George Saunders or attend a 24-hour hackathon. Just leave the Jäger bombs and toga parties to the real college kids—you don't want to be late to Badbadnotgood.
Sept 30–Oct 2: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco
Gifted to the city of San Francisco by the late, great Warren Hellman, this free three-day music fest in Golden Gate Park is a Mecca for fans of Americana, playing a very close second fiddle (pun intended, and only according to some) to Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. Hardly Strictly always boasts an eye-crossing number of high-caliber acts (Randy Newman, Sturgill Simpson and Justin Townes Earle are on the bill, to name just a few), and production is minimal, which means seeing a set feels more like jamming with friends in the woods than being in the middle of a music festival. The vibe is mellow, the music is spectacular and best of all, it’s BYOB.
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Now in its 16th year, Austin City Limits returns this fall for two back-to-back weekends of hip-hop, rock, indie pop and electronic sound waves at ATX's crown jewel, Zilker Park. With the Live Musical Capital of the World's twinkling skyline as its backdrop, the festival showcases over 140 bands on eight stages—not to mention, there's a killer food truck scene to keep everyone fueled between sets (plus Barton Springs is a short jaunt away for when the heat becomes too much). JAY-Z, Gorillaz and the Killers sit at the top of this year's eclectic bill, but make time to see Nashville quartet Welles and Austin-bred sibling trio The Bishops.
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Punk legends, local lo-fi faves and a little bit of doom metal collide at this antidote to your average music festival. Desert Daze sets up an organized city of tents in its Joshua Tree landscape while still holding on to a generator-fueled desert party atmosphere. But the best case to make the trek is the lineup: Iggy Pop, Spiritualized, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, sleep, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Eagles of Death Metal and dozens of others.
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The Miami-born music festival, now in its fourth year, takes over the Mana Wynwood Production Village with one-of-a-kind tech activations (last year saw a VR experience created in partnership with NASA) and back-to-back sets by local acts and major headliners. The 2017 lineup features Gorillaz (playing their first Miami show ever), Danny Brown, Mark Ronson, Bonobo and the xx, the British indie trio made up of Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith (who previously deejayed the festival as a solo artist under the name Jamie xx).
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Whereas music from Bon Iver, the Kills, Moby and TV on the Radio would be the headline at any other festival, here it takes a backseat to the fact that it's all curated by David Lynch. The surrealist director is once again taking over the Theatre at Ace Hotel with a mix of music, mediation, screenings and a slate of talks that'll see L.A. artist Ed Ruscha, comedian Pete Holmes and a crew of Twin Peaks collaborators, among others, all taking the stage.
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Oct 27–29: Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, New Orleans
Timed to land right around the end of October, this music festival invites big names like Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and the Killers to headline the ultimate Halloween party. This year, LCD Soundsystem bring the sounds of their comeback LP, american dream, for a surefire dance party. And don't sleep on acts like R&B singer Kehlani and indie-rock stalwarts Afghan Whigs. This being New Orleans you can expect plentiful food offerings like shrimp Poboys and fried duck quesadillas to keep you from stuffing yourself on trick-or-treating candy.
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