While visions of beachcombing, blockbusters and general sunshine are sure to be on your mind this season, it’s the national music festivals like Bonnaroo, Pitchfork and Lollapalooza that have really been captivating your summer planning — and for good reason.
But with any multi-day extravaganza comes an outrageous ticket price, and passes can exceed $200. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about the large festivals selling out — as much as your wallet might hate you for it. And if picking up a ticket of your own is too daunting given these tough economic times, you’ll just have to get a little creative.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
$234.50 plus fees
Manchester, Tennessee has become a Mecca for music enthusiasts over the past few years — it’s hard to beat kicking off the summer at a gathering of some of the top names in music, comedy and hallucinogenic drugs. For four days, this small farming town becomes overrun by hundreds of thousands of hipsters, hippies, vagabonds and wandering souls old and young.
This year’s festival features heavy hitters like Jay-Z, LCD Soundsystem and Stevie Wonder; festival regulars Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon and Umphrey’s McGee; and sets by comedians like Conan O’Brien and Aziz Ansari. Festival organizers suggest bringing camping gear, plenty of water, a “flag or balloon to identify your campsite” and, of course, “good vibes and a smile.”
Be sure to check out: The Flaming Lips performing Pink Floyd’s legendary Dark Side of the Moon and comedian Steve Martin’s foray into bluegrass with the Steep Canyon Rangers.
How to get in: Hitchhike a ride to Manchester, find a wandering hippie and trade your gas money for his wristband and a bag of ’shrooms — you won’t be disappointed.
Pitchfork Music Festival
$40/day plus fees
The snobby reviews and hipper-than-thou demeanor associated with the Pitchfork name seem to melt away when you’re standing front-row for Modest Mouse or the newly reunited Pavement. Which, if you’re smart, is exactly what you’ll be doing this July, besides seeing Panda Bear and Wolf Parade perform tracks off their upcoming albums, Broken Social Scene pack a dozen people on the stage and Sleigh Bells tear a few eardrums to shreds.
Over the past few years, the top Internet tastemaker’s foray into outdoor festivals has quickly become one of the most anticipated music events of the summer. So just knock back a few pints of Goose Island 312 to brave the hipster parade and brace yourself for some of today’s most exciting newcomers and indie standbys.
Be sure to check out: Titus Andronicus, New Jersey garage-rockers with a killer live show and a wry sense of humor à la Art Brut. Shit, I sound like a Pitchforker already.
How to get in: Get into a furious debate about the new LCD Soundsystem record or Brian Eno’s effect on modern pop with a passerby, all the while discretely unraveling the wristband around his or her carefully tattooed wrist.
$215 plus fees
Boasting headliners like Lady Gaga, the Arcade Fire and a newly reunited Strokes (not to mention ’90s powerhouses Soundgarden and Green Day), Chicago’s three-day festival in scenic Grant Park takes the crown. Effortlessly fusing mainstream acts with more buzzworthy newcomers, Lollapalooza is sure to appeal to music snobs and Top 40 radio junkies alike. In addition to celebrated acts like Spoon and The National, this year also features blog-throbs Yeasayer, the xx and Frightened Rabbit.
Newly expanded to include the parks across Columbus Drive, this year’s festival will be less claustrophobic (despite an anticipated rise in attendance) and easier to navigate. Still, festival-goers would be wise to camp out in front of your favorite headliner’s stage around noon to reserve a spot.
Be sure to check out: The Soft Pack, Harlem and Warpaint, some heavily buzzed-about names along the bottom of the bill that live up to all the hype.
How to get in: Find a friend to pass back their wristband around the unguarded gates along Lake Shore Drive, or just pull a Perry Farrell and drop in from a helicopter.