From March through September, the indie world blossoms thanks to several relatively new, massive festivals in the United States, and the old reliables in the UK. These are excellent places to spend a weekend seeing bands from big to small in (for the most part) the great outdoors. Here’s a quick-hitting guide to the most essential festivals in the US, so you can get your fix:
Where: Sunrise, Florida
When: March 9-11
Who: My Morning Jacket, Explosions In The Sky, The New Pornographers, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Cat Power, Band of Horses, Toots & the Maytals
Why: The 2007 festival season kicked off this weekend in South Florida with Langerado. This three-day festival blended jam bands with indie rock so seamlessly that patchouli and indifference were standing at every stage. Read more of our recap here
What: South by Southwest
Where: Austin, Texas
When: March 14-18
Who: Hundreds. Just start here
Why: The biggest showcase in the indie music industry, Austin’s four-day South by Southwest had more bands – in more places – than you could possibly imagine. Read our day-by-day recap here
Where: Indio, California
When: April 27-29
Who: Rage Against The Machine, Björk, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, Crowded House, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Willie Nelson, Interpol, Travis, LCD Soundsystem, !!!, The New Pornographers, Ghostface Killah, The Roots, Air, The Decemberists, Faithless, and many more
Why: Still the biggest & baddest one out there, Coachella redid the game in 2004, and still ranks as America’s top indie music festival. Some may say it’s trailed a bit to the mainstream with headliners Björk, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine, but this is Rage’s big reunion – and who could ever accuse Björk of being ‘mainstream’? More importantly, Coachella still features the kind of indie acts you’d pay to sit in the southern California desert sun for three days for, and there’s plethora of up-and-coming (or already-here) bands to catch, so you can then forever after say, “I saw them when…”
Where: Westside Manhattan, New York
When: May 9-19
Who: Arcade Fire, Air, Polyphonic Spree, Deerhoof, The Secret Machines, and more
Why: Brand-new on the festival scene, this collection of big name, cutting edge acts (all chosen by David Bowie!) play across Manhattan in May, in benefit of the High Line, the abandoned elevated rail that shoots down the island’s west side. Friends of the High Line just began turning the overgrown architecture into the kind of park that never been done before, and the Thin White Duke’s got The Arcade Fire (at Radio City Music Hall!), Air, and even Ricky Gervais performing in support.
Where: Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington
When: May 26-28
Who: Björk, Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, Interpol, Spoon, Polyphonic Spree, Neko Case, The Hold Steady, Grizzly Bear, Clinic, The Long Winters, Loney, Dear, Aqueduct, Money Mark, and many more
Why: This year’s big up-and-comer, Sasquatch! has grown from a strictly Pacific Northwest festival into something much larger, headlined this year by Atlanticists Björk and the Beastie Boys. With them, The Arcade Fire, Interpol, Spoon, and many more, Sasquatch! looks to seriously break-through this year (like Bonnaroo last year, and Coachella in 2004). And the Memorial Day Weekend affair is being held in The Gorge, North America’s best outdoor venue.
What: River to River Festival
Where: Downtown Manhattan, New York
When: June 1-August 24 Read our full schedule here
Who: Spoon, Menomena, Animal Collective, New Pornographers, Camera Obscura, The National, Shearwater, Au Revoir Simone, Ra Ra Riot, Fujiya and Miyagi, Bishop Allen, Drive-By Truckers, and more
Why: Every summer since 9/11, the southern tip of Manhattan holds a series of outdoor events to attract visitors an area best known for Wall Street and Ground Zero. Included in this are a number of indie-rock concerts, all of which are free. It’s always a bit of a grab-bag, and spread out across the entire summer, but with acts like Spoon and Camera Obscura, all scheduled on weekdays at seven, River to River can be the perfect way to unwind after work, in one of the hardest-working places in the country. See our ongoing reviews, photos, and recaps here
Where: Manchester, Tennessee
When: June 14-17
Who: Police, Tool, White Stripes, Flaming Lips, Wilco, Franz Ferdinand, Spoon, The Roots, Hot Chip, Kings of Leon, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, Sasha & Digweed, Wolfmother, The Black Keys, Ziggy Marley, Girl Talk, Annuals, and many more
Why: What was once known as “that jam band festival in Tennessee” blossomed in a big way last year, as it recruited numerous indie and mainstream acts, along with a ton of new fans. Bonnaroo looks to follow on that success in 2007, with the reunited Police as headliners, enough indie bands to keep it honest, and enough hippie acts to keep it fun. Where else can you listen to urban America’s finest indie rock for four days straight, caked in mud and baked on the finest Kentucky bluegrass?
What: Pool Parties
Where: Brooklyn, New York
When: June 24-August 19 Read our full schedule here
Who: TV On The Radio, Superchunk, Blonde Redhead, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Ghostland Observatory, Man Man, Octopus Project, YACHT, Oakley Hall, I’m From Barcelona, +/-, The Thermals, Illinois, Birds of Avalon, and more to come
Why: The crumbling, abandoned, empty WPA-era community pool next to McCarren Park in Brooklyn becomes hipster central on Sunday afternoons this summer with Pool Parties. This set of shows features a sort of run-down urban America of the past meets the shiny, corporate-sponsored festivals of today, and everything’s free. Worth visiting just for the biggest collection of porta-potties in the five boroughs, a nice collection of acts will be performing on the massive pool’s massive stage, including Brooklyn’s own über-hip TV On The Radio, with nineties alt-grunge gods Superchunk starting things off, in only their second show in four years! See our ongoing reviews, photos, and recaps here
Where: East River, New York
When: July 12-14 Read our full schedule here
Who: Les Savy Fav, Menomena, Land of Talk, The Besnard Lakes, Dragons of Zynth, O’Death, Beat the Devil, The Budos Band, Frankpollis, and more
Why: Solar One, New York’s first solar-power "Green Energy, Arts, and Education Center" lets the music shine along the East River with the three-day Citysol. Whether you believe in global warming or not, music powered by the sun sounds just as sweet, from South Street Seaport to Stuvesant Cove Park in southeast Manhattan. See our ongoing reviews, photos, and recaps here
Where: Chicago, Illinois
When: July 13-15
Who: Sonic Youth, of Montreal, The New Pornographers, Cat Power, Clipse, Iron & Wine, Girl Talk, Grizzly Bear, Jamie Lidell, and more to come
Why: From that indie music rag you love-to-hate and hate-to-love, comes this three-day fest in Chicago’s Union Park. Saturday and Sunday lean towards the singer/songwriter and neo-jam band, but for the first night, Sonic Youth is playing their landmark 1988 masterpiece, Daydream Nation. All of it.
Where: Coney Island, New York
When: July 21
Who: New York Dolls, We Are Scientists, Matt and Kim, Voxtrot, The Black Lips, Cursive, Noisettes, Lavender Diamond, White Rabbits, M.I.A., The Detroit Cobras, Twilight Sad, and more
Why: Now in its seventh year, alternative weekly godfather The Village Voice are putting on a one-day festival on Brooklyn’s famed Coney Island. Acts include one old-school Big Apple band, one big-name from today’s New York, and some compelling up-and-comers – all in one day, at one easy place, and unlike almost all the other festivals here, it’s free. The two stages at the end of the streets might create unfortunately cramped crowd areas, but that’s more than made up for by the sights & sounds of Coney Island itself, including the iconic ‘Shoot the Freak’, Cyclone rollercoaster, Wonder Wheel, and especially the Circus Sideshow. Read more in our recap here
Where: Chicago, Illinois
When: August 3-5
Who: Pearl Jam, Daft Punk, Muse, Modest Mouse, Interpol, My Morning Jacket, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, Spoon, TV On the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Yo La Tengo, Blonde Redhead, !!!, Peter Bjorn and John, Cold War Kids, Annuals, Electric Six, Juliet & The Licks, and many more
Why: The granddaddy of America’s alternative music festivals, Perry Farrell’s traveling side-show of the nineties was revived in 2005 as a three-day event in Chicago’s Grant Park. This year, Lollapalooza has its biggest and best line-up since putting down roots, with headliners Pearl Jam bringing it back to that grunge-era flavoring. It’s got enough great bands to rival the big boys, and in a much more accessible (and habitable) location.
What: Virgin Festival
Where: Baltimore, Maryland
When: August 4-5
Who: The Police, The Smashing Pumpkins, Modest Mouse, Interpol, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On the Radio, Cheap Trick, M.I.A., The Crystal Method, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, Incubus, Amy Winehouse, and many more
Why: Something for everyone – young, old, hip, or not. Two days at Pimlico Race Course with, pound for pound, one of – if not THE – best lineups of the summer. Old school (The Police, Cheap Trick), radio-rockers (Incubus, Smashing Pumpkins), alt-kings (Spoon, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and hip-hop acts (Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys) grace the fest.
Where: Seattle, Washington
When: September 1-3
Who: The Shins, Wu-Tang Clan, Panic! At the Disco, Fergie, Joss Stone, Kings of Leon, Crowded House, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Andrew Bird, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Gogol Bordello, Art Brut, Tokyo Police Club, Menomena, The Apples In Stereo, Magnolia Electric Co., St. Vincent, and many more
Why: This arts & crafts festival on the grounds once used for the 1962 World’s Fair was a showcase for Seattle’s post-grunge indie scene, as well as bringing some of the first large-scale hip-hop concerts to the Pacific Northwest. The festival covers similarly wide ground this year, as rap stars like The Wu-Tang Clan and pop stars like Fergie share the festival with the likes of The Shins, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and others in the alternative music scene.
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado
When: September 14-15
Who: The Flaming Lips, Cake, The Decembrists, Kings of Leon, Spoon, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Editors, Cloud Cult, White Rabbits, Art Brut, Matt & Kim, Au Revoir Simone, THe Dears, The Broken West, YACHT, Cat-A-Tac, Ra Ra Riot, and many more
Why: With indie festivals sprouting everywhere from central Washington State to Coney Island, it seemed almost wrong that none was taking place in America’s premier live music venue, the all-natural Red Rocks Amphitheatre, so thank god Monolith has landed. While it’s not clear yet whether this will be a yearly occurrence or just a one-off (it probably depends on this year’s ticket sales), Monolith has a line-up that stand toe-to-toe with any of the other festivals here, all in the justifiably legendary Red Rocks.
What: Treasure Island
Where: San Francisco Bay, California
When: September 15-16
Who: Modest Mouse, Thievery Corporation, Spoon, Built To Spill, Gotan Project, DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, M. Ward, M.I.A., Ghostland Observatory, Au Revoir Simone, Earlimart, Flosstradamus, Film School, Sea Wolf, Dengue Fever, and more
Why: Another newcomer, San Francisco is getting in on the indie festival racket in the most unusual place you could imagine (after maybe Alcatraz…), the man-made Treasure Island, smack in the middle of the bay. Built for the ‘Golden Gate International Exposition’ of 1939, this island right off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was a naval base until decommissioning in 1996, where it was mostly notable for serving as a soundstage for Robin Williams vehicles like Flubber and Patch Adams. Thankfully, it was saved from this fate worse than death in 2005 by developers planning a self-sustaining, ‘car-independent’ city. All this means the place has Art Deco architecture, manic over-acting, and no parking. Midway between the upscale San Fran and the downscale Oakland, the Treasure Island Music Festival is itself curiously divided, with a Saturday of electronica and hip-hop, with a decidedly Asian flavor, and a Sunday of rawer, art-rock indie rock.
What: Austin City Limits
Where: Austin, Texas
When: September 15-17
Who: Bob Dylan, Björk, The White Stripes, The Killers, Wilco, Arcade Fire, Muse, My Morning Jacket, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, Spoon, Indigo Girls, The Decembrists, Regina Spektor, Kaiser Chiefs, LCD Soundsystem, Amos Lee, Ben Kweller, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Andrew Bird, Peter Bjorn and John, Yo La Tengo, Blonde Redhead, Sound Team, The Broken West, Willy Mason, and many more
Why: While PBS’ venerable Austin City Limits has been on the air since 1977, it was only in 2002 that it spawned its own music festival, in Zilker Park. But much like its forebearer, the Austin City Limits Music Festival hosts much more than country music, and in fact has really always stretched the indie rock-jam band-bluegrass divide, unlike more recent converts. The three-day festival in the self-proclaimed ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ has maybe its biggest acts to date, and certainly the biggest headliner of all the festivals in the one and only Bob Dylan. See who’s on Austin City Limits this week here
What: Swerve Festival
Where: Los Angeles, CA
When: September 28-30
Who: We Are Scientists, Devotchka, Bonde Do Role, Oh No! Oh My!, Snowden, Illinois, Thee More Shallows
Why: Nothing like winding down the festival season in sunny Southern California. Three days of music, art, and film in an effort to being creativity together organically, which is a little rare in LA.