2016 Summer Music Festival Preview

All you need to know about Forecastle is that it has an area called the Bourbon Lodge.


Beale Street Music Festival
April 29 – May 1
Tom Lee Park, Memphis
Tickets: 3-day pass $105–135

One of the best values in festivals returns this year with one of the best lineups going. The Memphis in May Festival celebrates Canada this year (please, let there be poutine), and they booked one of the biggest Canadian acts of all time to headline: Neil Young. Young returns to Memphis with his band, Promise of the Real, for the first time since 1983—that would be 10 years before fellow headliner Meghan Trainor was born. Beck and Modest Mouse were both in Memphis last summer, but that doesn’t make their appearance this year any less exciting. Excellent lower-level acts like Courtney Barnett, The Arcs, The Struts, (Memphian) Julien Baker, Trampled by Turtles, and Houndmouth make this lineup as impressive in depth as it is in cost.

Shaky Knees Music Fest
May 13–15
Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta
Tickets: 1-day pass $97/3-day pass $215

Shaky Knees’ lineups continue to stand out in a festival landscape heavily saturated with a lot of the same acts. The top of their lineup is filled with unique gets like Jane’s Addiction performing Ritual de lo Habitual, My Morning Jacket, Slowdive, At the Drive-In, Huey Lewis and the News performing Sports, and Explosions in the Sky. The bottom of the lineup is filled with interesting acts as well, including Beach Slang, Foxing, The Japanese House, and Diet Cig. Even mainstream acts such as The 1975 and Walk the Moon are welcome additions to the lineup, since they are scheduled against headliners and will help to thin out the crowds. (Separately ticketed late night shows all over Atlanta even help alleviate some of those inevitable schedule conflicts.) We loved last year’s festival, and we’re excited to see what the move to Centennial Olympic Park looks like this year.

Hangout Music Fest
May 20–22
Gulf Shores, AL
Tickets: 3-day pass $289

In 2015, Goldenvoice, the group behind festivals such as Coachella and Firefly, started promoting and producing Hangout. That influence has changed the direction of the lineup and is already being seen with The Weeknd’s exclusive 2016 festival booking and the sharing of Calvin Harris as a headliner with Coachella. While the lineup has skewed younger (apparently to target younger festival attendees who will hopefully consider additional vacations to Gulf Shores and the festival in the years to come), there are still several acts for older music fans to get excited about, including Florence + the Machine, Lenny Kravitz, and The Wailers. Other standout acts include Alabama Shakes, Haim, Grimes, Jason Isbell, Run the Jewels, and Leon Bridges. Though the lineup direction for Hangout has changed, one thing has not: Even a bad day on the beach is better than a good day anywhere else. A vacation built around a music festival sounds good to us. We’ve enjoyed Hangout every year we’ve covered it and we can’t wait to get back to Gulf Shores this year.

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 9–12
Manchester, TN
Tickets: 4-day pass $349.50

Some festivals are appealing because they are small, low-key productions. Bonnaroo is appealing for exactly the opposite reason. Every June, Bonnaroo “becomes Tennessee’s 7th largest city basically overnight.” Bonnaroo is a music festival that becomes its own city, and as such, there is something going on within the city limits 24/7. This year, bands such as Pearl Jam, Dead and Company, LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, M83, and Chris Stapleton will compete for attention with activities like a Ferris wheel, the Kalliope Stage and Christmas Barn (that play dance music until the sun comes up), the silent disco, yoga, art, comedy, cinema (often featuring premiers and Q&As with actors and directors), and a campground that rarely sleeps. Bonnaroo is celebrating its 15th year, and we plan to be there to help celebrate the magic.

Forecastle Festival
July 15–17
Waterfront Park, Louisville, KY
Tickets: 3-day pass $182.65

All you need to know about Forecastle is that it has an area called the Bourbon Lodge. That’s where you find excellent local food and (of course) Kentucky bourbon. If you need music on top of that, The Avett Brothers and Ben Harper kick things off on Friday, with Glass Animals and Moon Taxi. Alabama Shakes show off their headlining chops on Saturday night, and you will not want to miss the show they’ll put on in the South. Walk the Moon and Big Gigantic will get everyone dancing, while Shakey Graves bring some perfect whiskey-drinking tunes. Sunday winds down with Death Cab for Cutie, but Ryan Adams or Gary Clark Jr. are just as big of draws. The riverfront and the hospitality of Louisville make it a truly memorable experience.

Sloss Music and Arts Festival
July 16–17
Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, AL
Tickets: 2-day pass $125–150

Birmingham, Ala.’s Sloss Fest is returning for its second year. Since it’s promoted by AC Entertainment, the same people behind Bonnaroo and Forecastle (the same weekend), you can expect some of the same acts—Ryan Adams, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Grouplove, The Arcs—with a fraction of the crowd. Birmingham is an underrated Southern city with a great music scene, and Sloss Fest is the perfect celebration of that.

July 28–31
Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Tickets: GA sold out; only VIP packages remain; all tickets available from online ticket marketplaces

For the first time, Lolla tries its chops as a four-day festival. Yes, that means on top of having to buy tickets on StubHub, you’ll also have to find a hotel for an extra night. What that will get you is an insanely packed lineup that includes one of the few American shows Radiohead will put on this year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will probably be playing some new tunes, LCD Soundsystem is continuing its reunion tour, and basically every other band touring this year will make an appearance. Of course, festival front man Perry Farrell couldn’t pass up the chance to bring Jane’s Addiction along for the 25th year of the festival. The lineup keeps going: over 170 bands deep—and lobster corndogs.

The Wrecking Ball ATL
August 13–14
The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA
Tickets: 2-day pass $110

In only its second year, Atlanta’s Wrecking Ball has separated itself from the festival herd by nailing its niche. Their lineup is a greatest hit list of bands that have played The Masquerade, an Atlanta institution for rock and punk shows. This year’s lineup includes headliners Quicksand, L7, Dinosaur Jr., and Drive Like Jehu, along with reunions from bands like Thursday (first show since 2011), Piebald (first show since 2008), and The Promise Ring (first show since 2002). This year will see 60 artists perform in an expanded, five-stage format, with two outdoor festival stages and three intimate indoor club stages. Get ready to rock.

September 10–11
Forest Park, St. Louis, MO
Tickets: ??

No one knows what Loufest will bring to the table this year, but a weak 2015 lineup certainly didn’t help poor ticket sales. There just weren’t many headliner-level bands touring last fall who didn’t headline their own St. Louis show Louis. With what appears to be a bevy of large acts touring this fall, here’s hoping things turn around. Either LCD Soundsystem or Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly wouldn’t hurt. No one is expecting Radiohead, but that would turn some heads. If Beale Street Music Festival can put its lineup together for under $150 a ticket, a similar offering should be expected here if those in charge at C3 Presents/Live Nation expect to bring a thriving festival to the beautiful Forest Park.

Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival
September 24–25
The Park at Harlinsdale, Franklin, TN
Tickets and lineup announcement the first week of May

Another second-year festival we have fallen in love with is Franklin, Tenn.’s Pilgrimage Festival. Pilgrimage, which goes down at the end of September, perfectly fills the festival gap at the end of the season. Its lineup of roots and folk-centric music is the perfect harvest blend for a festival that eases you into fall and out of festival season. Last year’s lineup was unique, with headliners like Wilco, Willie Nelson, Weezer, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Other highlights included Chris Stapleton, Dr. John, Jimmy Cliff, and Dawes. This year’s lineup is scheduled to drop the first week of May. | Bruce Matlock & Matt Wallin

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