Spring and summer are prime music festival season, and after being largely suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the most part they've come roaring back in 2022. The United States being the huge country that it is, there are dozens of options for all musical tastes. Here's a sampling of the top ten, in order of dates (all given for this year, but will be similar in 2023):
South by Southwest, Austin, Texas - March 11-20
Marking its 35th year in 2022 with an attendance of around 224,000, the ten-day SXSW focuses on music as well as film, comedy, and interactive technology, including more than 2,000 performers from 65 countries playing rock, punk, metal, hip-hop, indie, and electronica; major stars this year were Ashanti, Beck, Shaun Mendes, and Dolly Parton. Parallel to all the concerts are myriad film screenings, health and wellness expos, trade shows, and networking events. Estimated attendance this year was 224,000.
Ultra Music Festival, Miami - March 24-26
Since debuting here in 1989, one of the world's premier electronic dance music festivals has been held in many cities across the globe, but this is still the biggest and most famous, with as many as 155,000 attending over two to three days in the city's Bayfront Park. with acts appearing over the years including Diplo, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Moby, Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, and Paul Van Dyk.
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio, California - April 15-17 & April 22-24
Held on two successive weekends at the Empire Polo Club, eight stages host various genres including rock, pop, hip hop, electronic dance music, and indie, while various sculptures, art installations, and food stands scattered throughout the grounds. Over the years, crowds sometimes adding up to more than 250,000 flock to see the likes of Beyoncé, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Ariana Grande, Guns N' Roses, Calvin Harris, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Prince (back in the day, of course), and Radiohead.This year it was Billie Ellish, Harry Styles, Swedish House Mafia, and The Weeknd.
Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans - April 29-May 8
Also known as Jazz Fest, this nine-day celebration of the music and culture of NOLA and Louisiana in general at the Fair Grounds Race Course includes not just traditional and contemporary jazz but Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, gospel, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, hip hop, country, and bluegrass. There are a dozen performance stages and hundreds of more tents showcasing culture, cuisine, crafts, clothing, family activites, and more.
The Governors Ball, New York City - June 10-12
Now in its 11th year, the Gov Ball is named after its original venue, Governors Island, most recent editions have been held on Randalls Island, and this year it was in Citi Field in Queens. annual music and arts celebration that pulls in around 150,000 to hear acts like Beck, the Black Keys, Lana del Rey, Missy Elliott, Billie Ellish, Guns N' Roses, Stevie Nicks, Vampire Weekend, and Wu-Tang Clan. You can also check out art installations and participate in various activities including lawn games, human board games, and "silent discos."
Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee - June 16-19
Ten stages and more than 150 artists from across the globe are on display at Great Stage Park, with genres including gospel, reggae, jazz, Americana, bluegrass, pop, and rock. Do some outdoor yoga, silent disco, art installations and kid-friendly games while you're waiting for the next band to begin. As one of the USA's most diverse music festivals, Bonnaroo also features stand-up comedy and environmental presentations on many stages. Marking its 20th edition this year Bonnaroo is known for its hippuish vibe, idyllic rural setting, hedonistic on-site camping, and world-class headliners such as Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Elton John, Dave Matthews Band, Eminem, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Phish, the Police, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Wu-Tang Clan.
Essence Festival of Culture, New Orleans - June 30-July 3
Music plays a central role in this three-day celebration of African-American culture held in the NOLA's Superdome, including expos and seminars, art displays, and hundreds of merchants offering Afrocentric clothing and accessories. The pop, hip hop, R&B, and other legends who have performed here reads like a Who's Who of U.S. black culture: Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Cedric the Entertainer, Jamie Foxx, Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, John Legend, Smoky Robinson, Diana Ross, Snoop Dogg, and Luther Van Dross; even Barack Obama once made an appearance. This year Janet is back, alongside Kevin Hart and Nicki Minaj.
Lollapalooza, Chicago - July 28-31
Held in downtown's expansive Grant Park, Lolla was founded as a traveling festival in 1991 by Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, and has stayed put in Chi-town since 2005. More than 400,000 music lovers come to hear alt rock, punk rock, hip hop, electronica, and heavy metal, with past headliners such as Arctic Monkeys, Butthole Surfers, Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, and Smashing Pumpkins. This year's big names include Dua Lipa, Green Day, Machine Gun Kelly, and Metallica. There's plenty of art and food to go along with it, along with Kidzapalooza, a festival within a festival centered around family-friendly music.
Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada - August 28-September 5
Now in its 36th year, this legendary celebration of liberation and self-expression sees the construction of a pop-up town to house some 80,000 attendees, volunteers, and artists. A gigantic wooden effigy is set ablaze during Burning Man. Be aware that dust storms are prevalent, so bring goggles and face masks to keep yourself safe.
Afropunk, New York City - September 10-11
Started in 2005, another celebration of black music and culture attracts some 60,000 to Commodore Barry Park in the Fort Greene neighborhood of the borough of Brooklyn, and over the years has featured Grammy-winning musicians like Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Lenny Kravitz, and Grace Jones. You'll also find the Spinthrift Market of crafts and other products as well as Bites 'n' Beats, showcasing food trucks and New York City restaurants. There are now plenty of Afropunk offshoots worldwide, too, in the USA including Miami (may 20-22) and Minneapolis (June 18-19).