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Commentary: Music festivals offer best acts on summer stages

Tim Kubick / For The Lantern


Last weekend you might have heard one of your slightly tipsy and more “hip” friends slur on about whatever sick music festival they plan on attending this year. They probably invited you, tempting you with the promise of “the best music you will ever hear,” “new experiences” and what will likely be the most expensive tickets you will ever purchase. 

While Bonnaroo just unveiled its lineup on Feb. 19, let it be known that Bonnaroo isn’t the only place you can throw your mother’s advice out the door, camp in the woods with friends and wait an obscene amount of time for a portable toilet, all while listening to your favorite music for days. These are the temptations of days in the sun, where afterward, your hearing and immune system might never be the same. Here is a list of the top summer music festivals – the good, the bad and the ugly: 

1. Bonnaroo – Manchester, Tenn., June 13-16

As publicity goes, Bonnaroo has one of the biggest names in the music festival business, and with good reason. This year’s lineup includes Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons and Passion Pit, along with a slew of others. The upside: Bonnaroo is bringing in more than 20 different breweries in addition to the unreal lineup. The downside: don’t forget your own toilet paper. You will need it.  

2. Coachella – Indio, Calif., April 12-14 and April 19-21

Nestled into the desert of California, Coachella’s main stages boast names we all know. This year’s lineup includes Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Postal Service, Janelle Monae, Bassnectar and more. The upside: you can listen to nearly any genre within three days on either weekend. Want electronic dance music (EDM)? Rock? Coachella has it all. The downside: It’s the desert. It’s going to be really, really, really hot. 

3. Lollapalooza ­- Chicago, Aug. 2-4

While Lolla has been known for bringing in mostly alternative rock bands, in the past two years it has been more diverse in its musical choices. Sadly, the 2013 lineup has yet to be announced, and I for one will not even venture into the predictions arena. The upside: it’s in the city. For a lot of people, camping isn’t ideal, and hotels, many of which are within walking distance, are an option. The downside: notoriously limited food and vendor selections. 

4. Firefly Music Festival – Dover, Del., June 21-23

Personally, I think Firefly has managed to snag a better lineup than Bonnaroo, but the ultimate question is how the overall experience will compare to the legend that is Bonnaroo. For 2013, Firefly has announced Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, Ellie Goulding, Passion Pit and more. The upside: refer to the lineup. The downside: this is only Firefly’s second year. If mayhem breaks loose (which is likely), I’m unsure as to how well it will be handled. Firefly has already had website and ticket purchasing issues, so I am a bit of a skeptic. 

5. South by Southwest – Austin, Texas, March 8-17

Over two decades in the business gives SXSW a huge step up on other festivals. Put simply, SXSW knows what it’s doing, and even if something does go wrong it can be fixed. This year’s lineup for the conference’s music portion (March 12-17) includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend and Atlas Genius, among others. Green Day is also set to kick off its return to touring at SXSW on March 15, which was announced Monday. The upside: SXSW isn’t just a music fest, so going means you get film showings, comedy shows and more. Also, shows go much later than other festivals. The downside: it’s long and there is a lot of content to sift through, so specific planning becomes a necessity. 

6. Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas, June 21-23

For the electronic music lovers, Electric Daisy is the big event. It is held in multiple cities, but Las Vegas is the big 2013 spot. No official lineup has been released, but 2012 brought TiÃsto, Pretty Lights, Afrojack and others. The upside: parties, Vegas. Do the math. The downside: dear goodness so many lights, ravers, fist-pumping and lasers. If you are epileptic or have a fear of becoming epileptic, don’t go. 

7. Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, July 19-21

For the purpose of full disclosure I do have a soft spot for Pitchfork. As one of the industry’s leading music reviewers, it has to put on a top-notch festival. The current headliners for the festival are R. Kelly, Belle and Sebastian and Björk. The upside: tickets are not as pricey as a lot of other options. The downside: it’s Pitchfork. Music snobs will be running around in hordes. 

8. Bumbershoot – Seattle, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 

As per usual, this festival will be taking place on Labor Day weekend. Bumbershoot has been in the music festival business since 1971, so it is ahead of the pack experience-wise. Since it is not scheduled until later in the year, the lineup will not be posted until the summer hits, but 2012 included Skrillex, Mac Miller, M83 and City and Colour. The upside: concertgoers are asked to turn off cell phones. Thank you Bumbershoot for putting an end to the horrors of cell phones in arenas. The downside: rain or shine the concerts will go on, so you could possibly be standing in a Seattle deluge for three days. 

9. Vans Warped Tour – many U.S. cities, March 28-Aug. 4 (Cleveland July 18, Cincinnati July 30.)

For many, Warped Tour marked its first festival experience. It is the iconic teen music scene, and the 2013 Warped Tour has a fitting lineup. Motion City Soundtrack, Hawthorne Heights, Chiodos and The Used are all confirmed for the summer tour. The upside: angsty teens welcome. The downside: angsty teens welcome.  

10. Ultra Music Festival – Miami, March 15-17 and March 22-24

Another electronic festival, but this one is a little different. There are Ultra Music Festivals all over the world, and that fact draws in a significant number of international acts. This year’s lineup includes Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Zedd, Steve Aoki and others. The upside: it’s the 15-year anniversary. Something special has got to be in the works. The downside: backpacks not allowed, so don’t even try. 

If only the list could be longer: Summerfest, Mayhem Fest, Rock on the Range, Newport Folk Fest, Outside Lands, Rock the Bells, Made in America, Voodoo Music Experience.

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