The Best of 2017’s Festival Circuit: A Highlight Reel

By Erin Christie

Worldwide, music festivals have become a staple in what makes the spring and summer months something truly worthwhile and something to anticipate.  Whether you are a tried and true music- lover at heart, searching for the best lineup possible for the most affordable price, or if you’re simply someone looking to have an amazing experience within the fest taking place closest to you, festivals are enjoyed by many across the spectrum, drawing large crowds eagerly waiting for a weekend of live music, carnival food, and potential sunburns.

     The 2017 festival season was certainly one to remember, setting the scene for 2018 to be even bigger and better.  With so many amazing lineups being released with each passing day and so many different options to choose from, one may wonder: where do I even start?

     Below is a concise list of some of the best festivals of the last year—as contributed by attendees based on their general experience and opinions on the festival as a whole—in no particular order: when making your decision as to where to go this season, make sure to consider everything!

Governor’s Ball, a contemporary music festival that takes place on NYC’S Randall’s Island is certainly one of the most iconic in the running.  Having taken place consistently for the past eight years with headliners such as Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Phoenix, Lorde, Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cage the Elephant, and more during 2017 alone, such definitely makes it worthy of one of the top spots within this lineup.  Having attended myself, this was one of my very first festivals and without being biased, it was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had the opportunity to embark upon, combining my love for the city with my love for music (and specifically, for Lorde, Childish Gambino, Beach House, BANKS, and more), allowing for one of the most unforgettable weekends of my year.

Andrea Cianfarani recalls Governor’s Ball as being “one of the most beautiful things [she has] ever been to.”  With a focus on promoting an atmosphere of community, safety, and shared love of music, the festival does a great job of spreading a pure and true “good energy,” as Cianfarani describes, this leading her, and many other past attendees, to already have their 2018 tickets purchased and on the way.

Packed with tons of activities throughout the duration of the weekend—such as the Honda x Waterloo artist signing tent (where I, personally, had the chance to meet Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, Dua Lipa, and BANKS- which was certainly a highlight of my weekend!), mini golf, silent discos, “share a coke”- where attendees are guaranteed refreshing drinks without charge throughout the day, candy bars, unique art installations, and  much more, Gov Ball is so much more than any generic music festival.  Throughout the weekend, I was never bored- even when I found myself without an artist that I was desperate to see on any of the four stages, there was so much to do and so much to see that even with that considered, I wasn’t discouraged.  One of my most cherished memories of the weekend was simply sitting on the vast lawn and indulging in some of the amazing food that the fest had to offer with my friends and chilling while Wu Tang popped off.  Gov Ball truly never offers a dull moment and that made it the perfect first fest for me, setting the precedent for what festival season could truly offer me.

This coming spring, Gov Ball is bound to be nothing by spectacular with acts such as Eminem, Jack White, Brockhampton, Wolf Alice, CHVRCHES, Billie Eilish, Khalid, and more taking the stage over the three- day weekend from June 1st to 3rd. To find out more and to purchase your tickets, head to the fest’s site: http://governorsballmusicfestival.com

Boston Calling is, without a doubt, one of the premiere musical events of summer in New England, marking the beginning of summer and of a music festival season to be remembered.  Having recently switched venues to Harvard Athletic Complex to inhabit their well- organized stage system, Boston Calling remains one of the front- runners in terms of general efficiency and success, drawing massive crowds throughout the three- day weekend during which it takes place.  This past spring, local, Gabby Miranda had the opportunity to attend and had great things to report: “The atmosphere was amazing, and being there with my best friend and seeing my favorite bands and even find new amazing music was so fun and I am already headed to Boston Calling 2018!”

Another attendee, Logan Wilder, had an iconic experience, himself, while at the fest, making it a trip very much worthwhile for him: “[The] highlight of the lineup for me was Mac Demarco: I missed a few acts that I was hoping to see so that I could stay up at the front [to see him], but it was worth it in the end because mid-set, Mac took his shoes off and threw his socks into the front row and I caught one. I will forever cherish that article of clothing from the legend himself.”

In a general sense, as a Bostonian, myself, Boston Calling has remained a prospect forever cherished by the local music community here, creating an environment where one can be unapologetically free and experience the music that is so dear to them in a live setting, making for a wonderful weekend unlike any other in the city, especially if you manage to catch a memento.  To find out more about the fest itself and where to purchase your tickets if you’re going to be free the weekend of May 25th– 27th, check out https://bostoncalling.com/

Gulf Shores, AL’s Hangout Music Festival is a spectacle to behold, as Lyndsie Kallas- attendee for the past two years- recalls.  “When I went in 2016, I fell in love with the beach so I basically promised myself I’d keep returning as long as the lineup was worth it.”  2017’s lineup—including the infamous Mumford & sons, Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper, Major Lazer, and some of Kallas’ favorites—COIN, LANY, Young the Giant, Lewis Del Mar, Weezer, White Reaper, and Phoenix— definitely made it worthwhile, especially with the environment considered. “The thing that makes hangout fest so special to me is the atmosphere: the beaches are absolutely beautiful and to be able to experience live music with your closest friends with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore in the background is an experience you’ll only get there. Another plus is being able to wear beach clothes! Like where else do you get to walk around in beachwear and hear your fave bands?”  Hangout, defined by its salty shores, stellar tunes, and amazing activities galore is one not to be missed out on, even if you have to travel a substantial amount to get there, as Kallas and many others can support wholeheartedly.

To take place from May 18th – 20th this coming spring, Hangout’s 2018 lineup has just been released and features artists such as The Killers, Portugal. The Man, The Chainsmokers, Halsey, Grouplove, Kendrick Lamar, Foster the People, and many more.  If you’re interested in a weekend of amazing live music spent on the beach, take a look at purchasing tickets, checking out further information, and more at the festival’s website: http://hangoutmusicfest.com

     Florida maintains and infamous reputation for the amount of stellar music festivals that it manages to put on throughout the season but taking the cake come Ft. Lauderdale’s own Riptide Music Festival which took place from December 2nd to 3rd last year.

The lineup offered doesn’t determine how good the festival will be, per say, but in having an exceptional one, that certainly helps- in the case of Riptide, this was certainly a feature that kept it higher up in the ranks, offering amazing sets from a wide range of artists. To Ava Butera the lineup “was awesome—including acts such as Saint Motel, Weezer, Andrew Mcmahon, Pvris, Joywave— and it was was hands-down, the best [festival] of the year because I finally got to see Cage The Elephant after loving them for so many years!”

Aside from an amazing musical experience, the fest also offers a ton of activities and interactive opportunities that are surely unforgettable including the Underground Village where attendees can win free backstage meet & greet passes and catch their favorite artists in an pop- up setting, live art installations, 790: The Ticket’s Sports Oasis (where attendees can take a break, chill, and delve into “the game” and crack open a cold one with the boys), the Ford Blue Lounge (which also hosts smaller live acts, free actives, and giveaways) and so much more.

For attendee, Siena Lund, Riptide offered so much more than a great lineup and some amazing on-site experiences: “it was my 1st time ever on a plane and flying to a festival and the people at the fest were super welcoming!!  A guy that worked for the festival/radio station running the fest saw me and my mom creeping on Cage The Elephant and taking sneaky pictures of them. Instead of telling us to leave he took our cameras to take pictures of matt and even gave us the sharpies Matt was using! That was the most memorable thing for me because I’m so used to workers being rude/not really caring about their attendees and he went out of his way to do that for us when he could have totally ignored us.”  In having memorable moments like that, it can truly help define one’s festival experience.

Riptide, apart from offering a lineup unparalleled- especially for a relatively young, smaller festival that is much more locally run, has truly touched the hearts of those who have had the opportunity to attend within these past two years and it is surely to continue getting better and better each season.  Keep a look- out for this year’s lineup announcement and learn more info about the fest on their website: https://riptidefest.com.

Austin City Limits is one of the few festivals that takes place slightly later in the year but even with that considered, that does nothing to hinder how stellar it manages to be each time it is put on, gathering crowds from all over for an amazing time.  The 2017 lineup was something to behold containing a diverse array of artists such as Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, The XX, Gorillaz, The Killers, Solange, Milky Chance, Angel Olsen, Foster the People, The Lemon Twigs, Whitney, Thundercat, and so many more, no matter which weekend you attended, it was bound to be filled with nonstop fun (as cliché as that sounds).

Priding itself on offering some of the best music, food- complete with the ACL Eats Food Court and various stations (such as the Camelbak Hydration stations and others offered by Chipotle, Bodega, and more), as well as other great activities and features throughout the park- such as the Honda x Waterloo artist signing stage, silent discos, interactive experiences with American Express- where you can make your own complimentary merch to commemorate the weekend, and more, ACL is jam- packed with gems.

For 2017 attendee, Cassie, “It was the first time I went to any concert by myself, and I enjoyed the freedom of being able to check out the artists I wanted”- Zilker Park, where ACL takes place each year is incredibly expansive and filled to the brim with so much to do and see aside from the 8 stages that even when alone, like Cassie was, it can still be a wonderful time.

To check out more info. about ACL and to possibly purchase tickets for 2018’s extravaganza, check out the fest’s site: https://actfestival.com.

Chicago, IL’s Lollapalooza is easily one of the most infamous festivals within the circuit and for the best reasons possible.  Offering a wide array of artists- from Chance the Rapper, The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, Lorde, Glass Animals, Mac Demarco, Tegan and Sara, Getter, White Reaper, The Drums, Charli XCX, The Walters, Declan Mckenna, The Japanese House, PUP, and so many more- it goes without saying that Lolla offered one of the greatest weekends of last year.

With 8 stages and 170+ bands and activities galore- from the art market (Green Street)-where attendees can find jewelry, artwork, and more, incredible food stations (from “carnival” food to fine dining)- each year, Lolla gathers a huge crowd from all over, each attendee eager to take it all in and fill the next four days ahead of them with as much excitement as possible.  The park itself is HUGE so, without a doubt, no matter where you turn, there is bound to be something to do, something to see, or a stage to gather at which is truly great.

One of the greatest things about Lolla is their utilization of after shows- throughout Chicago, various venues host after shows where artists playing the festival group together for more tight- knit full sets that take place during the nights of the festival weekend.  So, even after all the fun of the day is over and the park is closed, attendees can turn to local venues and see an artist that they possibly missed in a more intimate setting after the fact.

Each year, Lolla truly sets the bar for festival season’s elite and it is certain that 2018 will offer a weekend even better than the last.  To find out more info about the fest itself and to purchase tickets when the lineup is released, check out Lolla’s site: https://lollapalooza.com.

Shaky Knees Music Festival takes place over three days in Atlanta, GA each spring, offering a weekend of larger- than- life artists, great food, and even more to explore.  As their site states, “Shaky Knees is more than just a music festival”- they pride themselves in offering something for everyone: from on-site activities along with a diverse lineup of 60+ artists performing throughout the fest’s dates, it is anything but ordinary (and it is also relatively cheap in comparison to other festivals in major cities such as New York or Chicago!)

For Sam Schraub, Shaky Knees was the first music festival that she ever attended: “What made this festival so special was how small it felt even though it was such a big event. There’s a more relaxed environment with Shaky Knees that I have yet to see with other festivals.”

Of the festival circuit, because Shaky Knees is fairly small in comparison to other festivals, such makes it easier to not only get around and experience everything there is to see without worrying that you’ll break your legs due to exhaustion, but also making the prospect of even meeting some of your favorite artists much more likely.  “While Gov Ball and Lollapalooza arrange signed meet and greets if you go to Shaky Knees you’re almost guaranteed to run into a celebrity or two. I met Jack Antonoff on my way to grab water and met Saint Motel on the way back. I even completely embarrassed myself in front of the band Whitney dancing during Phoenix’s set, but hey that’s the fun of a smaller festival!” Sam recalled.

The atmosphere itself also proved to be nothing but stellar, at least in Sam’s experience, which is something that is very unique: “Of the festivals I’ve been to, everyone at Shaky Knees came together more than usual. During Catfish and the Bottlemen’s set, fans of the XX (who were closing that night) moved out from their barricade spots to allow the CATB fans to have prime viewing, a rather stark contrast to what I experienced at Boston Calling getting punched in the shoulder to move during the 1975’s performance.”  In being able to genuinely have fun and experience your favorite artists’ sets with great crowds of devoted, loving fans who actually care about the people around them, that is a definite plus as far as festivals go.

The lineup for Shaky Knees 2018—taking place on May 4th– 6th—was just recently released and it features artists such as Jack White, The National, Fleet Foxes, Alvvays, All Time Low, Sir Sly, The Frights, The Voidz, Matt and Kim, Lord Huron, and many more, creating the precedent for what is bound to be a great time.  To purchase your passes and to learn more about the fest itself, checkout https://shakykneesfestival.com.

Dover, DE’s Firefly Music Festival remains one of the premiere players within the festival scene each summer and 2017 was no exception. With a lineup including artists such as the Weeknd, Muse, Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper, Glass Animals, The Naked and Famous, Kesha, Banks, Sunflower Bean, and many more, it was already written in the stars that The Woodlands was about to host one of the greatest weekends of the summer.  As attendee, Jordan Taylor, describes, “[Firefly] was my first festival and the atmosphere was really fun and I had a great time!  I saw artists like The Weeknd, Bishop Briggs, Bleachers, The Naked and Famous, and MUNA! I would definitely go again because I genuinely had such a good time!”

With such a stellar lineup aside, Firefly is packed with an array of side- projects such as The Market (where one can take a break from dancing your face off and pick up some mementos to remind you of the amazing weekend you had), The Brewery (where one can delve into a collection of Firefly- unique drinks), The Coffee House (where one can take a break, indulge in a coffee, and watch some of their favorite live acts on a unique, intimate stage), and so much more.

To make your Firefly experience that much easier, too, The Woodlands hosts a variety of lodging packages- including amenities such as power, air conditioning, private showers and restrooms, and more- to allow for a unique, comfortable living situation during the fest’s duration.  Can you imagine being able to live in luxury whilst spending a weekend surrounded by your favorite artists?

Firefly Music Festival is bound to hold another weekend—from June 14th to 17th—for the books this coming summer: to find out more and to buy your passes once the lineup for this year is released, check out their site: https://fireflyfestival.com.

Arizona’s hometown heroes, The Maine, put on a proper festival this summer in celebration of their 10- year anniversary of their formation.  For Nikki Gibala, attending 8123 Fest—named after their artist collective— in Phoenix was an experience and a half: “It was super fun to celebrate The Maine’s 10- year anniversary in the same scene that they started! In having a local festival such as this—organized and sponsored by the band and celebrated by fans from all over as well as friends and family—such only increases the great, welcoming atmosphere that comes with live gigs: “It felt like a welcome home party; there was such a wonderful sense of community,” Gibala reminisced.  Along with a headlining set from The Maine, acts such as The Summer Set, Beach Weather, John the ghost, and even A Rocket to the Moon- reuniting for one last set together- ensued, making for an incredible evening.  If set to take place again as a recurring event in the future, it is sure to host a ton of fun, making for an opportunity unlike any other, especially if you are a fan of The Maine.  

The festival circuit for this coming spring and summer is quickly approaching with many lineups- such as Coachella, Boston Calling, Governor’s Ball, and more already having been released.  With the factors of cost, lineup, and general experience considered, if you’re planning on taking part in the fun, which festival will you be most likely to attend?

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