Forget Lollapalooza! These are the top 10 music festivals to experience this summer
It’s all about Essence Fest, Roots Picnic and Woodstock — and Cardi B, Gambino, and Jay-Z
When members of The Mamas and the Papas, record producer Lou Adler and publicist Derek Taylor joined forces to produce the first massive live rock event, 1967’s Monterey International Pop Music Festival, they likely had no idea their three-day California showcase was the seed of a multibillion-dollar industry. From 1969’s Woodstock (which took the concept to even loftier heights) to the unstoppable Coachella, which wraps this weekend, the music festival biz is soaring. And black music is a massive part of that energy.
Last year, the Southern California desert extravaganza took in a record-shattering $114,593,000 thanks to Beyoncé’s bar-raising performance, now immortalized in a sizzling Netflix documentary and a live album. And this year, there’s no shortage of multiplatform spectacles offering an abundance of hip-hop and pop music, endless artisanal food and beverage stands, electronic dance music throwdowns and everything in between, including art shows and DJ tutorials.
Pharrell Williams’ inaugural Something in the Water festival jumps off April 26: three days of music, talks and even pop-up church services on the sands of Virginia Beach. Performers include Teddy Riley, Diddy, Missy Elliott, Lil Uzi Vert, Anderson .Paak, Jhené Aiko and more. BroccoliCon and BC Fest get going that same weekend, welcoming Childish Gambino and Lil Wayne to Maryland. Migos, Travis Scott and Kid Cudi are set to headline Rolling Loud Miami (May 10-12), and if jazz is more your thing, you should check out the storied New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But much of music lovers’ attention (and money) will be spent on the summer concert circuit.
WHEN: June 21-23
WHERE: The Woodlands, Dover, Delaware
TIX: $299-VIP $699
SEE: Tyler, the Creator; TLC, Gunna; Travis Scott; Tank and the Bangas; Vampire Weekend; and DJ Snake.
Travis Scott’s leap from midlevel draw to Super Bowl-featured, Kardashian-stamped A-lister is surpassed only by the unlikely ascent of dusty rap echo Post Malone. Both artists join Las Vegas rock vets Panic! at the Disco as Firefly’s main stage performers.
WHEN: July 19-21
WHERE: Union Park, Chicago
TIX: Three-day general admission $175, single-day admission $75, single-day-PLUS $160, three-day-PLUS $375
SEE: Earl Sweatshirt, Rico Nasty, The Isley Brothers, Pusha T, Robyn and Neneh Cherry.
What officially began in 2006 as an esoteric showcase curated by then-influential music nerd bible Pitchfork has morphed into a more than respectable outing that proves it’s still capable of some curveballs. The great Isley Brothers, celebrating their 60th year in the recording biz (!!!), top the coveted Saturday bill ahead of long-running English-French electro pop fixtures Stereolab and the two-fisted likes of Pusha T and Freddie Gibbs.
WHEN: Aug. 9-11
WHERE: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
TIX: $385, VIP $815, Golden State Pass $1,595
SEE: Childish Gambino, Paul Simon, Flying Lotus 3D, Ella Mai, Mavis Staples, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals and Lil Wayne.
It’s not often you get the chance to witness folk rock icon Paul Simon, genre-hopping troubadour Flying Lotus, soul legend Mavis Staples, rising pop vixen Bebe Rexha and a thoroughly recharged Lil Wayne at the same gathering. Outside Lands boasts the summer’s most eclectic roster of acts, including the irreverent Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover. Amid claims he’ll retire his button-pushing hip-hop/psychedelic soul alter ego after his upcoming fourth studio project, Glover aims to become this year’s most omnipresent festival headliner, racking up six high-profile gigs.
WHEN: Aug. 24-25
WHERE: Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn, New York
TIX: $60-VIP $275 plus $30 fee
SEE: Jill Scott, FKA twigs, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Death Grips, Kamasi Washington, Tierra Whack, and Red Arkade
Sure, you are bound to hear some gripes that Afropunk, the biggest celebration of unapologetic blackness in all its Afrocentric, counterculture glory, has strayed from its original 2005 underground roots. But get over it. While it’s true that such punk bands as Red Arkade and RebelMatic, as well as growling rap rockers Fire From the Gods, are not given front-and-center promotional space like the more booked crowd-pleasers Jill Scott, FKA twigs and Kamasi Washington, the event’s badass, beautiful swagger is intact.
WHEN: July 25-27
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
TIX: $50, VIP $100
SEE: Slick Rick, EPMD, Maxwell, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mary J. Blige, Blackstreet featuring Teddy Riley and Dave Hollister
More than just a throwback celebration of old-school hip-hop and classic rhythm and blues, the Cincinnati Music Festival delivers the best bang-for-your-buck ticket price and still packs plenty of star power, featuring 2016 King and Queen of Hearts touring mates Maxwell and Mary J. Blige.
WHEN: June 2
WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
MUST-SEE: Cardi B, Meek Mill, Migos, Tory Lanez, Megan Thee Stallion
The tri-state area’s most prominent rap and R&B fest, produced by New York City radio station Hot 97, will be a coronation of the newest queen of hip-hop, Cardi B. The Bronx-born superstar, who is showing no signs of slowing down her domination of the world, will be among the headliners.
WHEN: July 5-7
WHERE: Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin
TIX: Day tickets €79.50, two-day tickets €139.50, weekend tickets €199.50
MUST-SEE: A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert — plus Cardi B and Future.
Our lone international entry, Dublin’s three-day bash is more emphatic proof of hip-hop’s global takeover. All of the major draws here are among rap’s elite brass, plus you have upcoming superstars Lil Uzi Vert and Rae Sremmurd. But closing with the explosive dream pairing of Cardi B and Future on July 7? That’s money.
WHEN: July 4-7
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
SEE: Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Nas, H.E.R., City Girls, Big Freedia, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg and RBRM (Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike from New Edition)
How’s this for an impressive stat: Last year, the Essence Music Festival attracted more than 510,000 attendees, making it one of the largest gatherings in the event’s enduring run. Judging from this year’s stacked array of talent — led by recent Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Missy Elliott, as well as the icon that is Mary J. Blige — in its 25th anniversary year, the fest hosts a much-deserved tribute to fan favorite Maze and Frankie Beverly. The four-day celebration will once again be the hottest ticket in the Big Easy.
WHEN: June 1
WHERE: The Mann at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
TIX: $69.50-VIP $350
MUST-SEE: The Roots, H.E.R., 21 Savage, Raphael Saadiq vs. The Soulquarians, The Read podcast and City Girls.
Since its 2008 inception, the Roots Picnic has been the music festival world’s ultimate cool kids’ table. But what makes this year’s installment especially noteworthy is that the revered Philly hip-hop band will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its greatest artistic statement: Things Fall Apart. Questlove, super emcee Black Thought and crew will play their 1999 masterpiece in its entirety.
WHEN: Aug. 16-18
WHERE: Watkins Glen, New York
SEE: Jay-Z, The Killers, Chance the Rapper, Santana, The Black Keys, Janelle Monae and Earl Sweatshirt.
At this point in his unsinkable 20-plus-year career, Shawn Carter is an unstoppable touring force, giving credence to his self-proclaimed status as “rap’s Grateful Dead.” Indeed, history is made every time Jay-Z steps onstage. No doubt living up to the grandiose magic of the 1969 Woodstock event, which featured the peerless likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Sly and the Family Stone, is a towering task. Good thing Hov has OG Woodstock originals Santana and David Crosby backing him up — as well as the show-stealing Janelle Monae.