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2013 Music Festival Guide

Going to a music festival is something everyone should do. Here’s how to make sure you don’t end up at the wrong one.

The lights drop. The crowd shrieks. The smell of sweat fills your nostrils as the throng sweeps closer to the stage. The anticipation cranks to the breaking point and, then, the first blast of noise. You’re attending your 18th or so concert of the day because you’re at a music festival. But which one are you at? Knowing what festivals offer is the difference between an edenic getaway to a land of cherished bands with likeminded masses and an endless nightmare of weird music and weirder fans. To help you decide which festival is right for you, here’s the RELEVANT breakdown of this year’s big ones.

Outside Lands

Where: San Francisco (August 9-11)

Headliners: Lumineers, The xx, Vampire Weekend (Rumored)

The Crowd: WASPy

If you’re headed to Outside Lands, make sure to pack only the essentials: a mix of assorted artisan cheeses (stored at 55 degrees F), your moisture-wicking yoga pants, mini-shots of whey protein, acai berry and wheatgrass to keep your metabolism high and, finally, your bamboo water bottle with a built-in carbon filtration system to stay hydrated.


Where: Chicago (August 2-4)

Headliners: Phoenix, The National, Postal Service, The Killers

The Crowd: Melting Pot

Few festivals are more accessible than Lolla, whose side stages are peopled by a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of and whose main stages are crammed with bands everybody has heard of. Basically, if you listen to music, there’s a place for you at Lollapalooza. But if you really want to go, you’re going to need a quick trigger finger. Last year’s pre-sale discount tickets sold out in less than a minute.


Where: Middle of Nowhere, Tenn. (June 13-16)

Headliners: Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Kendrick Lamar

The Crowd: Survivors

Bonnaroo is ideal for people who find concerts boring if they don’t include a decent chance of death. The festival is half crowd-pleasing music acts and half Hunger Games as everyone is expected to fend for themselves in the humidity-soaked sweat blanket of the Tennessee wild. Many music lovers will come, but only the strong survive.


Where: Mount Union, Pa. (June 26-29) Enumclaw, Wash. (August 7-10)

Headliners: Lecrae, Switchfoot, David Crowder

The Crowd: Youth Groups

For 16 years, CreationFest has been presenting the Gospel through whatever means they have available, including (but not limited to) worship acts, CCM artists and speakers like Louie Giglio and Tony Campolo, to name a few. T-shirts spelling out “Jesus” in the Reese’s logo are not required but are definitely welcome.


Where: Chicago (July 19-21)

Headliners: Belle and Sebastian, R. Kelly, Björk

The Crowd: Hipsters

Here’s a simple rule as you try to make the call on this one. If you think any band has ever, ever, in the history of musicdom released an album that was better than their first one, Pitchfork Music Festival isn’t for you. But on the other hand, if you have ever struggled to explain why you like listening to music on vinyl more than on your iPod, then welcome home, hipster. We’ve been expecting you.


Allison Kelley Newman


Allison Kelley Newman commented…

Bonnaroo is like a drug-infused hippy-hillbilly music fest. The only reason it's "dangerous" is because there is rampant drug-use and people don't stay hydrated. I lived in Middle Tennessee, about an hour away from Manchester, for 6 years and every summer there would be tons of news crews reporting deaths of Bonnaroo-ers because they just didn't take care of themselves. Too much alcohol, too little water- in 90 degree heat. Bad combination.

Please if you're going, drink lots of water, and call your mama! Things like this are more fun when the people at home aren't worried about you.... Despite all this I still wish I was going.

Chris Sohl


Chris Sohl commented…

You can always Forecastle with the Black Keys and the Avetts instead!



Rancina commented…

The festivals are really interesting event out there. It is always as good as it could one festival be. Good job, auto followers instagram.

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