A Guide to the Best American Music Festivals in 2019

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A Guide to the Best American Music Festivals in 2019

Hands up if you’re ready to spend $12 on domestic beer and watch all your favorite bands perform on the same patch of ground. With Coachella behind us, it’s officially festival season, which means it’s time to pull out your calendars, checkbooks and sunblock and figure out which fest is best for you. We’re hoping to make that decision a little easier with this nifty guide breaking down some of the summer’s most delightful (or at least most intriguing) lineups. We’ve included all the info you need to know—date, location and the most exciting acts on the poster—and organized it all by region, so you can plan a road trip to a festival nearby if a flight to Tennessee for another year of ‘Roo isn’t in the cards. We’ve done our best to include festivals that are diverse in terms of genre, gender and geography, so we hope whether you’re a folk fan from San Francisco or a rock fan from Rochester there’s something here for you.

NORTHEAST

Boston Calling
Location: Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston, Mass.
Dates: May 24-26
Highlights: Tame Impala, Travis Scott, Chvrches, Christine and the Queens, Mitski, Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, Snail Mail, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Boston Calling is not only a destination for music, but also food, comedy and drink. The festival hits it out of the park on the music side this year, featuring an array of hip hop, rock and pop acts, but it also has a respectable comedy lineup including Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate and more. —Ellen Johnson

Governors Ball
Location: Randall’s Island Park, New York, N.Y.
Dates: May 31-June 2
Highlights: Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, Brockhampton, Jorja Smith, Mitski, The Internet, Kacey Musgraves, Florence + the Machine, Major Lazer, Soccer Mommy, Sunflower Bean, SZA
For nearly a decade now, artists and music lovers alike have flocked to Randall’s Island, nestled in the East River between Manhattan and the Bronx and Queens, for the Governors Ball. Music isn’t the only attraction here, as Gov Ball features art and activities, even including a life-size board game in past years. The festival highlights some of NYC’s favorite food and strangest culinary mashups (this year one of the Franken-foods is the “Doughnug Slider,” a chicken nugget nestled between two mini doughnuts). But the fun doesn’t end once you step off Randall’s Island: Governors Ball After Dark shows bring acts like U.S. Girls, Kaytranada and Noname to some of the Big Apple’s most beloved venues. —Clare Martin

Welcome Campers
Location: Camp Lenox, Otis, Mass.
Dates: May 25-27
Highlights: Torres, Liza Anne, Half Waif, Henry Jamison, Wet
Have you ever wished you could go back to summer camp as a grownup? Finally, you can, and instead of “Kum Ba Ya” and tent-pitching, there’s live music and booze. Welcome Campers, the all-inclusive fest hosted annually by music discovery site The Wild Honey Pie, seeks to bring out the “kid in all of us” by bringing music fans together for a weekend of fun outdoor activities (i.e. campfires, dance parties and swimming) and performances by independent artists. —Ellen Johnson

EAST COAST

Newport Folk Fest
Location: Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.
Dates: July 26-28
Highlights: Jeff Tweedy, Kacey Musgraves, Courtney Marie Andrews, Lucy Dacus, Mountain Man, Sheryl Crow, Dawes, Gregory Alan Isakov
The iconic festival platform for folk and folk-adjacent (whatever that means these days) acts returns to Fort Adams State Park for its 61st year in 2019, this time welcoming a broader spectrum of sounds than ever before. Big names include country’s hardest working road warrior Kacey Musgraves, Wilco patriarch Jeff Tweedy and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, but keep checking the website as more additions to the lineup are announced. Newport is also the place to check out newer faces like Adia Victoria, Black Belt Eagle Scout and Yola, plus Paste favorites like Lucy Dacus, Mountain Man and Haley Heynderickx. —Ellen Johnson

Watch First Aid Kit perform at Newport in 2012:

SOUTHEAST

Afropunk Atlanta
Location: Mechanicsville, Atlanta
Dates: Oct. 12-13
Highlights: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, FKA Twigs, Danny Brown, Leikeli47, Ravyn Lenae, Earth Gang
Nicknamed the “Carnival of Consciousness,” Afropunk, which takes place in different cities all over the world, pays tribute to and serves as a celebration grounds for black culture and artistry. This year’s lineup is stacked with veterans and newcomers alike, including Danny Brown, Gallant, Fantastic Negrito, Leikeli47 and Ravyn Lenae. The festival is also quite the fluorescent fashion show, with many of its attendees rocking DIY’d outfits and accessories. —Lindsay Thomaston

Bonnaroo
Location: Manchester, Tenn.
Dates: June 13-16
Highlights: Solange, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, King Princess, Cherry Glazerr, Courtney Barnett, Donna Missal, Peach Pit, Faye Webster
This well-known fest spans a 700-acre farm, offering up plenty of room for sprawling campgrounds and its typical multi-genre music lineup. With a nod to its Tennessean backdrop, the 2019 lineup sports a dose of southern gothic (Trampled by Turtles, anyone?) alongside other high-profile acts like Childish Gambino, Kacey Musgraves, Post Malone and Cardi B. —Lindsay Thomaston

Watch an interview with Sharon Van Etten at Bonnaroo in 2011:

MerleFest
Location: Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C.
Dates: April 25-29
Highlights: The Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile, The Milk Carton Kids, Steep Canyon Rangers, Molly Tuttle, Jerry Douglas
When it comes to roots music, it doesn’t get much better than MerleFest, the annual folk fest founded by Doc Watson in 1988 in memory of his son, Eddy Merle Watson. Heralded the premier destination for “traditional plus” music (a.k.a the Watsons’ definition for traditional Appalachian music plus whatever else sounded nice on their ears), MerleFest is, like so many other roots festivals, an expansive display of Americana. This year’s lineup harbors more staunch traditionalists like The Del McCoury Band and Peter Rowan as well as folks from the experimental side of the roots road, like Molly Tuttle and The Brother Brothers. There’s also an onslaught of new faces on the bill, so if you’re after some new music, MerleFest might be the perfect place for discovery. —Ellen Johnson

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival
Location: The Park at Harlinsdale, Franklin, Tenn.
Dates: Sept. 21-22
Highlights: The Killers, Leon Bridges, The Head and the Heart, Jenny Lewis, Rayland Baxter, Caroline Rose
One of the year’s best music festivals is on a farm in Tennessee. No, not that one! Pilgrimage Festival brings the best of roots, rock and Americana to the 86-year-old farm at The Park at Harlinsdale for a weekend of music, food and merrymaking. Just outside of Nashville is a musical experience you can’t recreate in the city: a lineup of live performances that wraps up before 9 p.m. Now that’s what I’d call an all-ages festival. —Ellen Johnson

Shaky Knees
Location: Central Park, Atlanta
Dates: May 3-5
Highlights: Beck, Cage the Elephant, Tame Impala, Tears for Fears, Sharon Van Etten, Liz Phair, Jim James, Maggie Rogers, Deerhunter, Soccer Mommy
Shaky Knees is a favorite of ours here at Paste. Now in its sixth year as the go-to summer stop for Southern indie rock fans, Shaky Knees is one of the best festivals in Atlanta, also home to the Paste HQ. This year’s bill includes a healthy mix of legacies (and those approaching legacy status) like Tears for Fears, Beck and Interpol and on-the-rise rock favorites like Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy and Julia Jacklin. —Ellen Johnson

MIDWEST

Bellwether
Location: Waynesville, Ohio
Dates: Aug. 9-11
Highlights: Beach House, Cake, Cold War Kids, Twin Shadows, Caroline Rose, STRFKR
Believe it or not, Ohio actually does have more to offer than cornfields and Cincinnati—like Bellwether, the three-day ode to alternative that offers up glamping, yoga, and after parties galore for when your faves aren’t performing on the main stages. —Lindsay Thomaston

Mo Pop Festival
Location: West Riverfront Park, Detroit, Mich.
Dates: July 27-28
Highlights: Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Kali Uchis, Lizzo, Noname, Snail Mail
Revel in indie rock, pop and hip-hop artists across the 20 acres of the West Riverfront Park at Mo Pop. Lizzo and Vampire Weekend play the first day, with America’s inaugural bop star sure to play songs from her recently released record Cuz I Love You. And Tame Impala will bring it home on Sunday. Mo Pop also offers a variety of experiences, such as the Detroit Dart Club, the Haute to Death & Friends dance party and pop-up restaurants at the Shipyard. —Clare Martin

Pitchfork
Location: Union Park, Chicago
Dates: July 19-21
Highlights: Haim, Mavis Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, Sky Ferreira, Soccer Mommy, Rico Nasty, Parquet Courts, Robyn, Charli XCX
Lack of diversity in a festival lineup? Hmm, no—Pitchfork doesn’t know her! This year’s carefully curated programming features a host of musical powerhouses, ranging from indie to pop to soul and nu metal. Having just broken her long hiatus with a new single and the promise of more music looming on the horizon, Sky Ferreira’s set in particular is sure to incite plenty of attention. —Lindsay Thomaston

SOUTHWEST

FORM Arcosanti
Location: Arcosanti, Ariz.
Dates: May 10-12
Highlights: Anderson .Paak, Florence and the Machine, Skrillex, American Football, serpentwithfeet, Japanese Breakfast, Snail Mail, Khruangbin, Miya Folick, Lonnie Holley, Mary Lattimore, Vagabon, Pussy Riot, SASAMI
FORM Arcosanti is about as progressive and egalitarian as music festivals come. It’s hosted in an experimental microcity in Arizona with festival admission restricted to just 2000 creatives. With no lineup clashes, an impressively diverse bill and emphasis on intimate performances and collaborative workspaces, FORM Arcosanti is the forward-thinking marriage of art, music, ideas, architecture and wellness that feels needed in these taxing times. —Lizzie Manno

Levitation
Location: Austin, Texas
Dates: Nov. 7-10
Highlights: Lineup TBA
Previously known as Austin Psych Fest and founded by members of The Black Angels and friends, Levitation brings the best of classic and modern psychedelica to Austin’s diverse Red River District and East Side venues and art spaces. They’ve drawn acts like The War on Drugs, Primal Scream, Spiritualized, Ty Segall and The Brian Jonestown Massacre in the past and have curated similar events abroad and at SXSW. Now in its 11th year, the fest’s 2019 edition should prove to be another mind-bending collision of psychedelic culture. —Lizzie Manno

WEST COAST

Desert Daze
Location: Lake Perris, Calif.
Dates: Oct. 10-13
Highlights: Stereolab, Animal Collective, more artists TBA
Desert Daze takes place on Moreno Beach, about an hour and a half outside of L.A. and surrounded by scenic views of the San Bernardino Mountains and Lake Perris. The psych-leaning festival has previously hosted acts like Tame Impala, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, and they’ve announced Stereolab and Animal Collective as the first two “artist transmissions” of 2019. Desert Daze offers three full days of “curated sonic conjuring.” —Lizzie Manno

Outside Lands
Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Dates: Aug. 9-11
Highlights: Childish Gambino, Paul Simon, Leon Bridges, Lil Wayne, Better Oblivion Community Center, Tierra Whack, Weyes Blood
Outside Lands is one of those festivals that strikes the right balances—between legacy and upcoming acts, experience and music and rock and hip hop. Paul Simon is the first name on the lineup, followed by fellow headliners Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots and The Lumineers. The San Francisco festival, held in the city’s sprawling Golden Gate Park, is also known for pushing the envelope in terms of experience: Wine Lands and Beer Lands are on the menu, but so is Grass Lands, one of the first ever cannabis installations at a major U.S. music festival. —Ellen Johnson

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Capitol Hill Block Party
Location: Capitol Hill, Seattle, Wash.
Dates: July 19-21
Highlights: Lizzo, RL Grime, Phantogram, Mitski, Valley Maker, Peachpit
While Seattle’s historically queer Capitol Hill neighborhood finds itself invaded by Amazon tech bros, the six-stage festival of the same name keeps the city’s rebellious spirit alive. Capitol Hill Block Party is one of the few remaining independently owned festivals of its size and features some of the Emerald City’s best bars, eateries and shops. Phantogram kicks off the party on Friday, with RL Grimes closing out on Sunday. —Clare Martin

Fisherman’s Village
Location: Everett, Wash.
Dates: May 16-18
Highlights: Wolf Parade, Laura Veirs, The Coathangers, Omni, Black Belt Eagle Scout
It’s always nice to see newer festivals carrying on the rock traditions of the Pacific Northwest, and Fisherman’s Village, now in its sixth year of operations in the Seattle suburb of Everett, knows its roots. This year’s lineup is the biggest ever, showing off regional artists like Laura Veirs, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Super Sparkle and Pickwick, as well as national acts like Omni, Moaning and Valley Maker. —Ellen Johnson

Pickathon
Location: Happy Valley, Ore.
Dates: Aug. 2-4
Highlights: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Lucius, Mandolin Orange, Fruit Bats, Julia Jacklin, Damien Jurado, Mountain Man, The Beths
Pickathon has extended its reach far beyond the Americana sounds of its roots—among the names on this year’s lineup are enlightened surf-jammers Khruangbin, experimental rocker Lampchop, post-pop warrior Miya Folick, New Zealand guitar pros The Beths and D.C. punk favorites Flasher. Hosted annually in the appropriately named Happy Valley, Ore., Pickathon is one of the best musical destinations in the Pacific Northwest, a festival that truly seems to get better with age. —Ellen Johnson

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