Wet Hot American Summer Festivals

Article by: Rosie J. Spinks|@rojospinks

Thu May 29, 2014 | 00:00 AM

A festival is not a festival without one essential ingredient: summer. It’s easy to see why the warmest season of the year seamlessly lends itself to the finest musical acts in the country’s best locales. So when it comes to the months of June through September, the dedicated festival-goer has a major task: deciding just which festivals to commit to. From modern day stalwarts like Burning Man and EDC, to heritage festivals like Newport Folk and Monterey Jazz Festival, the summer offerings in the US leave little to be desired. And, of course, it’s not just the music, but the art, food, culture and social initiatives that are becoming more and more part of the summer festival scene.


BonnarooManchester, Tennessee

June 12-15, 2014

Hero Bonnaroo Chris Friese Httpflic.Krp6z Jw Gq

Bonnaroo gets its name from an amalgamation of Ninth Ward New Orleans slang (“bon” meaning good “rue” meaning street, translating to “best on the streets”) and the festival lives up to its name. First taking place in 2002, organizers were keen to recreate the scale and reputation of festivals like Coachella, Glastonbury, and Lollapalooza, but with a sustainable bent. This summer’s event—which is expected to be attended by close to 100,000 people—includes a mixture of classic and new-school acts such as Elton John, Lionel Richie, Phoenix, and Frank Ocean.

Firefly Music Festival: Dover, Delaware

June 19-22, 2014

Firefly Music Festival 2013 Theo Wargo:Getty Images   03

When Chicago-based company Red Frog Events set out to create a mega music festival on the East coast, they set their sites high: Firefly was created to rival Coachella—except in a lush Delaware forest instead of a California desert. With an inaugural 2012 festival that included mega-headliners The Black Keys, The Killers, and Modest Mouse, the 2014 instalment will look to accommodate more than 100 bands and 80,000 visitors.

Electric Daisy Carnival: Las Vegas, Nevada

June 20-22, 2014

Hero Electric Daisy Carnival Erik Kabik

The world’s largest electronic music festival, EDM is less of a festival and more of a non-stop dance party and wonderland for adults. With international outposts in other cities like Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, and Atlantic City, the Las Vegas instalment is definitely the top choice for true partiers seeking “Ibiza in America”. With major international DJs and a variety of insane light and sound displays, EDM’s goal is to leave attendees in a perpetual state of wonderment.


High Sierra Music Festival: Quincy, California

July 3-6, 2014

High Sierra Music Festival High Sierra Music Festival    04

If you’re looking for a festival that is a little off the beaten track, the countercultural vibes of HSMF are probably for you. Founded in 1991, the stages have been graced by well-knowns such as Ben Harper and the Black Crowes, but also a smattering of unknowns in the genres of bluegrass, funk, reggae, jazz, electronic. Organizers pride themselves on introducing new acts to audiences and offering a eco-friendly and organic atmosphere that feels right at home in the Pacific Northwest.


Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival: Brooklyn, New York

July 9-12, 2014

Robertadammayerbrooklynhiphopthe Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival 2012

Trance music and tents not your thing? Then get yourself to the Brooklyn Hip Hop festival, the city’s largest gathering celebrating not just hip hop music, but the culture, artistic progression, and social change associated with the genre. Founded in 2005, the festival has come a long way since beginning in the parking lot of the Williamsburg based Brooklyn Brewery, and this year the event will take place closer to its roots in north Brooklyn. This year’s acts are unlikely to disappoint with Raekwon of Wu-Tang, Jay Electronica, and CJ Fly as headliners.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Chicago, Illinois

July 18-20, 2014

Hero Pitchfork Tonje Thilesen

Since 2006, when online indie music magazine Pitchfork extended their brand into a festival, the summer gathering has consistently offered up impressive mainstream headliners as well as soon-to-be-big acts. Known for keeping ticket prices low and catering to Chicago’s coolest crowd, the festival lineup this year includes Beck, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt as well as an uber indie record fair organized by Chicago community record station CHIRP radio.

Newport Folk Festival: Newport, Rhode Island

July 25-27, 2014 

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When it comes to history, Newport Folk Festival has several claims to fame, having played host to the first public performances some of the genre’s most ground-breaking acts including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Serving as a predecessor to the modern day festival, this summer’s instalment will feature some of the day’s most eclectic modern acts, including Ryan Adams, Band of Horses, Jeff Tweedy and Jenny Lewis.

August & September:

Outside Lands: San Francisco, California 

August 8-10, 2014

Outside Lands 2013 Art Gimbel   26

Outside Lands embodies San Francisco: epic musical acts, impressive culinary offerings, eco-consciousness and a beautiful, green urban setting. Running since 2008, the festival has seen seriously eclectic acts from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Radiohead to The Black Eyed Peas and Al Green. The lineup in 2014 will prove just as unpredictable with none other than Kanye West as headliner.

Burning Man : Black Rock City, Nevada 

August 25-September 1, 2014

Hero Burning Man Sidney Erthal

There’s a reason why tickets to the 2014 instalment of this grand-daddy of festivals sold out in 45 minutes: Burning Man doesn’t just offer a festival experience, but an alternate reality. The week-long event is less about music or performance and more about a mix of community, art, radical self-expression, and self-reliance. With just 20 participants in the festival’s first year in 1986, attendance has swelled to nearly 70,000 in subsequent years, a testament to how unforgettable the event really is.

Bumbershoot: Seattle, Washington

August 30-September 1, 2014

Hero Bumbershoot Christopher Nelson

This urban arts festival gets its quirky name from an old-English adaptation of the word “umbrella”—it’s meant to serve as an umbrella event for a variety of artists and performers. With music, film, comedy, spoken word, dance, theatre, performance, and visual arts all in the mix, it’s sure to offer something for everyone in “the great North Left” city of Seattle.

Monterey Jazz Festival: Monterey, California

September 19-21, 2014

Hero Monterey Jazz Cole Thompson

When it comes to that alluring and timeless genre known as jazz, no festival can offer the bragging rights of MJF, now in its 57th year. Nearly every major jazz act of the past five decades—from classics like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to modern greats like Bobby Hutcherson and Dave Brubeck—has graced the fairgrounds, and this year is no different. With 500 artists across 8 stages, main acts this year include Herbie Hancock, The Roots, and Booker T. Jones.