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The 10 Best Music Festivals of 2013

December 16, 2013  |  7:29am
The 10 Best Music Festivals of 2013
6. Austin City Limits
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Atoms for Peace at ACL 2013, Photo by Mark C. Austin
Another festival so big it needed two weekends, Austin City Limits has a presence year-round, hosting performances by festival artists and up-and-comers whether the fest is in session or not. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working—their line-ups consistently defy genre expectations, featuring the best in hip-hop, indie, rock and even country music, making repeat attendance almost obligatory for anyone who’s experienced the festival for themselves. Despite a canceled day three on the second weekend, Phoenix and Atoms for Peace both showed up on weekend one.

“The sun set on Phoenix and the masterpiece the French natives create unfolded,” said Paste correspondent Kristen Blanton. “The bottom line: this beloved band delivers. Delivering an incredibly personal performance in front of 60,000 people is challenging to achieve and yet, Thomas Mars smooth vocals cut to the back of the crowd with an effortlessly cool demeanor. Atoms for Peace capped off the night, and the performance was perhaps everything a Thom Yorke fan could every want: smoke, Yorke vocals and the hyper-modern supergroup ripping and rocking into the final hour of the night.”

7. New Orleans Jazz Festival

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Charles Bradley at Jazz Fest, Photo by Mark C. Austin
New Orleans is a city that thrives culturally 365 days a year, so it’s not exactly shocking that a festival devoted to celebrating its culture and drawing in a huge roster of innovative music would span over many days. In addition to appearances from popular acts The Black Keys, Phoenix, and Maroon 5, an obvious respect for New Orleans’ roots was evident from the very first day, which featured performances from The Soul Rebels and Donald Harrison, Jr.

“It was a thrilling example of how gifted jazz musicians can improvise on any material in any context,” said Paste correspondent Geofrey Himes of The Soul Rebels’ performance. “One 40-minute medley of songs included the band’s version of Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky”; Gosin did the rap and then picked up his horn and delivered a solo that opened up the song’s harmonic possibilities, just as he might have done soloing on a George Gershwin tune.”

8. South By Southwest

PHOX performs at Paste’s SXSW 2013 Dayparty
Does mammoth music event South By Southwest even count as a music festival? Many would consider this music industry gathering to be more of a conference, as its’ sprawl across Austin into music venues, bars and street corners takes on far more than one festival entity could accomplish. But any lover of music festivals needs to experience this chaotic affair, which continues to grow exponentially (with official and unofficial events) every year. Now, though the emphasis is on finding the next big thing in music, those who make the pilgrimage can enjoy performances from established musical vets, ranging from The Flaming Lips to Prince. This is an event that knows no limits, and to leave it out of your yearly festival itinerary would be an equally limitless oversight.

9. Bumbershoot
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Matt & Kim at Bumbershoot 2013, Photo by Chona Kasinger
Bumbershoot’s yearly arrival is a sign that Seattle’s summer is over, one last hurrah before kids head back to school and dreary weather sets in. With 43 years under its belt, its arrival is as predictable as the seasons. For the most part, the venerable festival has aged well, even if longtime Seattleites might not recognize it as the same free event that started in 1971. Between comedy, visual arts, the Flatstock poster exhibition, panel discussions and many other happenings over the course of the long weekend, there’s almost too much for one person to take in. This year’s festival stuck to the model of “something for everyone,” with a mix of acts designed to draw people of all ages to “Seattle’s festival.” —Julia Mullen Gordon

10. FYF Fest
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Yeah Yeah Yeahs at FYF Fest 2013, Photo by Philip Cosores
FYF Fest turned 10 years old this year, kicking off the first of two days packed with music rooted in the punk, indie, and underground scenes. But, this year, “packed” was even more subjective than the word usually is, as the downtown L.A. event introduced changes this year that seemed to opposed the common festival trajectory of expansion. Essentially, the festival receded. It maintained the two-day status launched last year, but fewer bands were booked, fewer stages were erected, and it seemed less like an effort to milk profits. Between finding free parking, water bottle refills and a wide array of delicious food options with filling portions, you could easily spend less than $20 on top of your $99 two-day pass and be comfortable and content. While non-L.A. readers have probably heard of FYF Fest as it has grown to becomes a destination festival for some, many probably don’t know that FYF puts on concerts year-round. Certain bands have come to be associated with FYF Fest, because FYF books and promotes their shows in L.A. and the surrounding area. Deerhunter for a long time had the claim that every show they ever played in L.A. had been an FYF show. FYF Fest helped put together event shows from Pulp and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There’s an FYF Scavenger Hunt, and FYF Christmas Party, and novelty concept shows, like an ice cream social with Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, or Ryan Gosling’s Dead Man’s Bones’ 50’s prom. Bands that frequently have aligned with FYF Fest have become known as “FYF Bands” and can be anyone from Cold Cave and Fucked Up to Purity Ring and Johnny Jewel’s acts (Glass Candy, Chromatics), to even unlikely associates the Head and the Heart and CHVRCHES. —Philip Cosores

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