By Nicole Briese
As the weather begins to warm up (any day now!), we’ve got just one thing on our minds: festival season. Each year, at the end of winter’s long, harsh reign, we’re rewarded with a bevy of events that take all of our favorite things (music, food, booze) and combine them for extended weekends of fun.
In theory, if you had the time (and the cash) you could fill just about every calendar weekend, beginning and ending your adventures in Austin, Texas — the city’s bread and butter, SXSW, kicks things off beginning today (March 11), while the Austin City Limits Music Festival brings things home in October. As for the months in between? You can travel from Indio, California, to Spain, Japan, Denmark, and beyond.
You’d certainly never be bored: Each festival, or celebration of music, has its own unique imprint — the newly-launched End of the Rainbow, for instance, is a raver’s paradise, while heavyweights like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella maintain their years-long standards of excellence.
Read on for your very own guide to all the best fests of 2019, and start making those travel plans, stat.
The Dates: March 11-17
The Place: Austin, Texas
Can’t Miss: Laura Jane Grace, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, Swervedriver, Thee Oh Sees, Charlotte OC
As anyone who’s ever attended SXSW knows, this week-long Texas event is so much more than a music festival. Sure, you can discover your fair share of up-and-comers or rock out to veterans such as ‘90s shoegazers Swervedriver, but you can also take part in wellness and gaming expos, hit up conferences on everything from food to the film and television industry, and network to your heart’s content. There’s more to do than one person could ever take in (2,000-plus official performers is a lot to get through), but hey, it’s worth a shot, right?
The Date: April 6
The Place: Dorothea Dix Park, Raleigh, North Carolina
This brand new fest from North Carolina native J. Cole got off to a bit of an uncertain start — its inaugural date of September 15, 2018, which was scheduled to feature Big Sean, SZA, Young Thug and Nelly, was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. 2019 is looking up, however, with a brand new date of April 6. No Young Thug to speak of, but Nelly, Big Sean, and SZA join 21 Savage, 6lack, Teyana Taylor, and so many artists on the Dreamville roster. Ticket holders have the option to keep their passes or receive a refund in full — though we’re guessing they’ll want to keep ‘em!
The Dates: April 12-14, 19-21
The Place: Empire Polo Club, Indio, California
By now, Coachella needs no introduction. This two-weekend-long arts and music happening in the California desert has become the go-to music destination for celebs, tastemakers, and the like. Everything about Coachella, from its uber-stylish attendees to its mind-blowing talent, seems to be a cut above: Ariana Grande has been tapped to wow its crowds and simultaneously make history — she’s the fourth female to ever headline the fest as well as the youngest female to ever take home the honor. Meanwhile, the fest will likely be Solange’s first live dates since her dropping her brand-new album, When I Get Home.
The Dates: April 26-28
The Place: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Produced by Live Nation and Pharrell Williams (a native of Virginia Beach) this three-day festival on the city’s most famous stretch of sand is set to kick its inaugural year off in 2019 with a bang. “It’s unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before," the legendary producer assured the Virginian Pilot. Judging by the list of acts, he’s not kidding: In addition to its can’t-miss headliners, everyone from Jaden Smith and Deepak Chopra to the Dave Matthews Band is scheduled to perform. And that’s not all: A basketball tournament and “programs focused on art, technology and health” are also expected to entice guests.
The Dates: April 30 - May 18
The Place: Across New York City
A tour of NYC's musical hotspots like the reopened Webster Hall and the historic, panoramic Rainbow Room, Red Bull features the much-anticipated return of FKA twigs, a grand showcase for rising Spanish singer Rosalía, and an entire room for Tierra Whack to unspool anything she wants — including the five new songs she's already dropped in 2019. And there's so much more.
The Dates: May 16-19
The Place: Gulf Shores, Alabama
Hangout Fest began with a bang in 2010 — not only was it the first major music festival to be held on Alabama’s Gulf Shores, its first-year lineup boasted musical heavyweights such as John Legend and The Flaming Lips. And it’s only gotten better since: 2019’s artist list includes something for just about everyone, from the punk enthusiasts who will love The Interrupters to rap fans who can take pleasure in spitting every line of headliner Cardi B’s “Money” live, to the indie heads who can rejoice with Vampire Weekend’s expanded lineup.
The Dates: May 24-26
The Place: Gorge Amphitheater, Quincy, Washington
Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater is in for a big change this year with End of the Rainbow taking over for the fest formerly known as Sasquatch! The indie rock event, which featured Bon Iver, The National and Twenty One Pilots in recent years, ended its 17-year-run in 2018, making way for EOTR’s onslaught of EDM, dubstep, and rap. Santigold and Bassnectar are poised to take the stage for 2019, and camping options are available for purchase.
The Dates: May 30-June 1
The Place: Parc del Fòrum, Barcelona, Spain and Porto, Portugal
Like Lollapalooza, this overseas festival has greatly expanded since its inception in 2001, growing from an audience of roughly 8,000, to a six-figure headcount. Primavera Sound (not to be confused with its Portuguese counterpart, Nos Primavera Sound) treats fest-goers to a wide-ranging variety of talent that spans nearly every genre each year, and 2019 is no exception: Everyone from Liz Phair to Erykah Badu will be on hand. Carly Rae Jepsen will be there, too, but will she have a full album to perform? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Dates: May 31-June 2
The Place: Randall’s Island Park, New York City, New York
Not to be confused with the Oscars party of the same name, Governors Ball filled the gaping music festival void in the Big Apple in 2011 and has been gaining momentum ever since. Its sounds are diverse, its food selections are grand, and its backdrop features the city: wins all around!
The Dates: June 13-16
The Place: Great Park Stage, Manchester, Tennessee
Once a modern-day nod to Woodstock chock full of jam bands like Phish and folk rockers, this four-day extravaganza of music and arts has become a venerable who’s who of Grammy winners. Song and Record of the Year winner Childish Gambino headlines on June 14, while Album of the Year songwriter Kacey Musgraves is set to appear the following day. Closing out the fest on June 16 is reigning Best Rap Album champ Cardi B and three-time winner Brandi Carlile. Oh, and The Lonely Island are stopping by ahead of their (somehow) first-ever U.S. tour. What a roster!
The Dates: June 21-23
The Place: The Woodlands, Dover, Delaware
Now in its seventh year, Firefly has grown into one of the most versatile music experiences out there for 2019. Music-wise, Panic! at the Disco is billed alongside acts such as Tyler, the Creator, TLC, and Vampire Weekend, while the fest’s Woodlands locale is like summer camp come to life. In between sets, you can relax in a designated hammock known as “The Nook,” groove to your own beats in the fest’s “silent disco” and explore art while traversing the pathway in between stages.
The Dates: June 27-30
The Place: Double JJ Resort, Rothbury, Michigan
Can’t Miss: Kygo, Bassnectar, Odesza, Zeds Dead, Alison Wonderland
A raver’s dream, Electric Forest features all of the essentials for living your best dubstep life, from fireworks displays and vibrant lights to all the EDM beats your heart could ever want for. 2019’s grooves will come courtesy of DJs Kygo and Bassnectar. Better get those glow sticks ready.
The Dates: June 29-July 7
The Place: Roskilde, Denmark
One of the oldest fests on the list, Denmark’s Roskilde (originally named Sound Festival) was dreamed up in 1971 by two high school students looking to bring music to the hippies of their generation. These days, it’s one of the largest in Europe, attracting big name talent (The Cure, Travis Scott), plus lone theater acts, daring attendees (a “naked run” takes place each year with free tickets to next year’s show to the winners), and campers galore.
The Dates: July 19-21
The Place: Union Park, Chicago
This Chicago festival, known for its alt-rock and indie acts, is always top-notch in the talent department, and it's the same this year: Everyone from electro-pop princess Robyn to ‘90s darling Neneh Cherry is on tap to perform. Pitchfork is also a great place to discover new and emerging artists, however, so keep your eyes peeled for the names at the bottom of the list!
The Dates: August 1-4
The Place: Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois
Can’t Miss: Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, J Balvin, Tame Impala, The Chainsmokers
What began as a touring alt-rock fest in 1997 as founded by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell has grown into a global phenomenon, with annual events in Chicago, where it has been headquartered since 2003, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. A January rumor had Ariana Grande’s name up at the top of the headliners — and that turned out to be true. She leads along with Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilot, and The Strokes; this year's crop also features can't-miss sets from festival faves Tame Impala, Flume, The Chainsmokers, and J Balvin.
The Dates: August 16-8
The Place: Watkins Glen, New York
Can’t Miss: Miley Cyrus, Halsey, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z, Janelle Monae
Woodstock is back! After reboots in 1994 and '99, the historic festival has returned to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the original's "three days of peace and music." Key to note here is how the (relative) newbies like Princess Nokia, Jade Bird, boygenius and dozens of others mingle alongside big-time veterans — including Santana and Dead and Company, who both also played the 1969 fest. Get ready.