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Ranking the Best Music Festival Lineups of 2017

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Ranking the Best Music Festival Lineups of 2017

If South by Southwest officially marks the beginning of festival season each year, then we are well on our way into another summer of flower crowns, mud puddle-jumping, double-fisting and, of course, excellent musical discovery. When each fest announces its lineup, the entire internet seems to drop everything in order to scan the biggest names atop each poster down to those in the teeny tiny font. With that in mind, we decided to honor that aesthetic with our own festival poster: here then are 25 of best summer music festivals of 2017, ranked by strength of lineup.

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Illustration by Joan LeMay

1. Newport Folk Festival
Dates: July 28-30, 2017
Location: Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.
Headliners: Fleet Foxes, Wilco, John Prine
Verdict: The headliners here are strong, but it’s the overall strength of Newport’s lineup that led us to voting it to the top of our fest poster-inspired billing. No artist or band is dud here. No one is a blatant misfire or out-of-place addition. Most have already achieved some critical praise and fan adoration. Rarely does a fest program such an intimate gathering with such consideration and precision, especially one that fits in so snugly with Paste’s tastes.

Plus, watch a conversation with Newport Folk Festival producer Jay Sweet and author Rick Massimo, whose new book I Got A Song: A History of The Newport Folk Festival is out now.

2. South by Southwest
Dates: March 10-19, 2017
Location: Austin, Texas
Headliners: Ryan Adams, Avett Brothers, Wu-Tang Clan (if you argue that SXSW has headliners)
Verdict: There’s always something new to discover at the 10-day musical extravaganza that is South by Southwest, just based on the length of the fest and density of the events. It’s just hard to argue against that many musical acts over the course of that much time! Here were 20 artists we were excited to see, as well as 10 that ranked among our favorite.

3. Pickathon
Dates: August 3-6, 2017
Location: Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, Ore.
Headliners: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Dinosaur Jr., Deer Tick, Drive-by Truckers
Verdict: Two of the biggest draws to this farm-based festival are its transformative performances spaces and its seemingly predictive lineup choices for who’s about to break next. Fest organizers start to book lineups almost a year out, but Pickathon has managed to snare some of this year’s most buzzed bands like Jay Som, Big Thief and more. Dig in and see if you can guess who’ll make it big next year.

4. FYF Fest
Dates: July 21-23, 2017
Location: Exposition Park, Los Angeles, Calif.
Headliners: Missy Elliott, Björk, Frank Ocean, Nine Inch Nails 
Verdict: This was the first lineup announcement this year that made twitterers start to shout that it was the lineup of the summer. But the strength of this L.A. fest doesn’t stop at its top-liners. A hefty range of hip-hop moguls, R&B legends and newcomers and punk rock icons including Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Iggy Pop and Solange are billed next. And that doesn’t even get to the small text folks of this diverse bill.

5. Music Tastes Good
Dates: September 30-October 1, 2017
Location: Marina Green Park, Long Beach, Calif.
Headliners: Ween, Sleater-Kinney, Ride
Verdict: Music Tastes Good is one of the premier pairings of food and music in the style of a summer festival. This year, seven chefs from Long Beach, Calif. meet seven chefs from New Orleans, resulting in a culinary collaboration amongst the new port cities. But in terms of the tunes, Music Tastes Good serves up a delicious pairing of new and old, soft and loud, established and up-and-coming.

6. Outside Lands
Dates: August 11-13, 2017
Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
Headliners: Metallica, The Who, Gorillaz, Lorde
Verdict: Outside Lands is going all out for its tenth anniversary. The fest tapped hometown heroes, Metallica, to represent the largest of the large-font headliners. Further down the bill, Dr. Octagon’s reunion is sure to be big.

7. Monterey Pop 50th Anniversary
Dates: June 16-18, 2017
Location: Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, Calif.
Headliners: Booker T. Stax Review, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Verdict: While no lineup of living artists (no, holograms don’t count) could ever usurp the legacy of the Summer of Love, the 50th anniversary celebration of Monterey International Pop Festival serves as a brilliant homage. Classic groups like Booker T. Stax Review and Eric Burdon & The Animals perform alongside folks headlining future headliners like Kurt Vile, Hiss Golden Messenger, and more.

8. Shaky Knees
Dates: May 12-14, 2017
Location: Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, Ga.
Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, The Pixies, Ryan Adams
Verdict: While festival stalwarts like Newport and SXSW have been around for decades and events like Bonnaroo and Coachella have become mainstream de rigueur, it takes a lot more for newbies to establish themselves as credible musical entities. In its fifth annual edition, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees has proven itself, thanks to a lineup highlighting some of Paste’s smaller-text favorites like Pinegrove, Sylvan Esso, and Fruit Bats. Check out our daily recaps here.

9. Sasquatch! Music Festival
Dates: May 26-28, 2017
Location: Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Wash.
Headliners: Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper, The Head and the Heart
Verdict: Probably the most diverse lineup of the batch, Sasquatch manages to make a fest headed up by the mainstream radio-friendly Twenty One Pilots into something even hipsters would attend with the inclusion of indie-emo outfits like American Football and Car Seat Headrest and Northwest heroes like Blitzen Trapper and The Shins. With a smattering of new bands, as well, it’s truly the every-person’s fest of the summer.

10. Panorama
Dates: July 28-30, 2017
Location: Randall’s Island Park, New York City, N.Y.
Headliners: Frank Ocean, Solange, Nine Inch Nails, A Tribe Called Quest 
Verdict: Out of the three major fests invading New York City this summer, Panorama wins for mass appeal. It covers hip-hop with Tyler the Creator and A Tribe Called Quest. It’s got R&B with Frank Ocean and Solange. Cashmere Cat and Justice cover electronic music, and bands like MGMT Future Islands, Tame Impala and more round it out with alternative rock.

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