I have been to my fair share of stateside music festivals and I have had amazing experiences at every one of them. That being said, there is always an opportunity to expand your horizons and make new experiences and memories. Here are 10 festivals that I need to (and will) get to in this lifetime.
1. Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium:
Over the past few years some of my friends have gone and have raved about it. Jealousy kicks in when you hear that the two-day fest has 180,000 attendees. It’s a global melting pot of people, festival goers hail from over 214 different nations. So many that Brussels Airlines has an additional 140 flights for the weekend. I guess it makes sense that it’s held in a place called Boom. I’ll get there one day, hopefully sooner rather than later.
2. Rock the Bells in San Bernardino, California (among many other cities):
So there is no legitimate excuse as to why I haven’t been to Rock the Bells. I live maybe an hour and a half from San Bernardino. The concert is also held in Mountain View, CA, Rutherford, NJ, and Washington, D.C. Remember when the world went wild when Tupac was resurrected at Coachella in 2012? Well Rock the Bells doubled down with holograms of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy-E. For ten years fans have been getting down to the tune of the Wu-Tang Clan, Tyler the Creator, Common, and Juicy J.
3. Sensation in Amsterdam, Netherlands:
So this event is held all over the world, but it originated in the Netherlands. It used to be an all-trance event, but over the years it has become a pure house event. All attendees are required to wear white. No exceptions. Every year there are around 45,000 attendees dancing to DJs like Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren, Swedish House Mafia, Hardwell, and Marco V. We have something similar held in SoCal called “White Wonderland,” but it ain’t got nothing on this. Next stop: Amsterdam!
4. Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada:
Now anyone that knows me knows that I am not up to the challenge of Burning Man. This weeklong festival sprawls over a desert. It’s a self-made community, everyone fends for themselves in what is described as a “commerce-free event.” Campers bring their own food and shelter and barter for other necessities from other campers. It’s uniqueness draws all times of people, from locals to travelers, celebrities to CEOs. Musicians aren’t paid to play, but plenty of big names have come to play in the past. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tackle this weeklong, shower-less event, but I am dying to see all of the amazing artwork and renowned, homemade art cars.
5. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana:
Full disclosure: I have been to this festival many times. Throughout high school I went every year, but I feel as though it would be a totally different experience if I went back as an (albeit immature) adult. I love that this festival has so much more to offer than just music. It started in 1970 and continues on, featuring a daytime fair along with a nighttime concert series. The festival totally encompasses what jazz and heritage in New Orleans is all about: food, fun, and a variety of music styles and cultures. They feature African bands, famous jazz bands, and big names like Aretha Franklin. Two suggestions: make sure to get a silkscreen poster for the year you attend (they have become one of the most popular poster series to collectors) and take the time to second line at least once (grabbing an umbrella and dancing in a line in front of a giant jazz band).
6. Warped Tour in a variety of cities:
I was lucky enough to attend the 10 year anniversary of Warped Tour way back in 2003. I rocked out to Coheed & Cambria, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murpheys, and Flogging Molly. This was the only festival that I have ever crowd surfed at and boy, did 13-year-old me love it. This all-day festival has had as many as 100 bands and 10 stages. Every year there is a “BBQ Band” that, in exchange for the privilege of playing on the tour, must prepare barbecue for the bands and crews each evening. I wonder what it’s like to chow down with Hayley Williams.
7. Boardmasters at Watergate Bay
This two-day surfing and skateboarding showcase has a solid lineup of hip hop, drum and bass, punk, and rock. This one made the list because it’s so interesting and different from your usual fest. Aside from the music, you can watch the best of the best perform crazy bike/surf/skate tricks that most of us can only imagine doing. That, and a Snoop Dogg show to back it up, makes it a pretty epic fest.
8. Glastonbury Festival in Pilton, Somerset, England:
This festival is the largest greenfield festival in the world and garners around 175,000 attendees each year. In addition to the usual music suspects, the fest features comedy shows, theater, circus, cabaret, and other acts. In order to maintain the festival, extensive infrastructure must be built each year to provide the appropriate amount of security, electricity, and water. The greatest part is that the majority of festival staff are volunteers, helping the festival raise millions of dollars for good causes. I am also dying to see the Arcadia. That giant spider looking thing (see above) is a. fucking. stage. Unreal.
9. Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan:
I have attended my fair share of Electronic festivals, but I have always wanted to make my way to Electric Forest. Put on by Insomniac, the same crew that does Electric Daisy Carnival, you already know that this festival is super streamlined. Of all Insomniac events, I have yet to run into an issue that they haven’t prepared for or taken into consideration. I just love the idea of changing an entire forest into an electronic play zone. Plus, you can’t beat taking a nice hammock break between shows.
10. Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, Serbia
Last, but certainly not least, is Exit Fest. The event is held in the ancient, giant Pertovaradin Fortress and fits 35,000 fans. The setup of the fortress allows for many different stages and dance floors. This year, four years will be spent in the fortress, then the whole party continues to Montenegro, adding an additional three days in what is known as the Sea Dance Festival. Talk about a change of scenery!