The Midwesterner’s Summer Music Festival ‘Almanac’

We get it… there are so many music festivals – with a new one popping up seemingly every year, and some even facing collapse as more and more options sprout up each summer. The Midwest hosts some of the most eclectic festivals every year, some are newcomers, and some are summer staples. Hosting cities range from larger cities like Chicago and its “little brother” Milwaukee, to smaller areas outside the metropolises, ideal for somewhat secluded camping experiences.

With that in mind, we wanted to start a large festival preview (an almanac we’ll call it) piece to accompany our more in-depth preview pieces as the festival date(s) get closer. So stay tuned.

Below, you’ll find a preview of our top 5 festivals, with each offering their own distinctly unique experience.

Pitchfork Music Festival – Union Park, Chicago, IL – July 14-16

The Indie Music-Lover (and Beer-Lover, and Art-Lover, and Personal Space-Lover)’s Festival Heaven

Tickets: 3-Day Pass – $175 ($58.33/day) | Single Day – $75
3-Day VIP: $365
Purchase Tickets Here

Every year, Pitchfork Music Festival arrives from the Music Festival Heavens and graces Chicago with its presence.  There’s a reason we gave it the subtitle above: Cooler-than-thou festival crowds flock to Union Park for three days of great food, even better beer, and of course, some of the best music performances a festival can offer. But it never feels over-whelming; the crowds are generally very well-mannered, and eventually space themselves out at a point where you can still have great sight lines… unless you’re at The Blue Stage, in which case we recommended staying stage left.

We’ve seen most of what other festivals in Chicago and Wisconsin have to offer, and it always seems that Pitchfork Music Festival remains the highlight of the summer. This year marks P4K’s eleventh year in Chicago, and every year when the lineup rolls out, you can expect greatness – 2017 is no different. Check it:

Friday, July 14
LCD Soundsystem

Dirty Projectors
Danny Brown
Thurston Moore Group
Vince Staples
Arca & Jesse Kanda
Frankie Cosmos
Hiss Golden Messenger
William Tyler
Madame Gandhi
Saturday, July 15
A Tribe Called Quest

PJ Harvey
Angel Olsen
The Feelies
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
Arab Strap
Francis & The Lights
Weyes Blood
Jeff Rosenstock
Cherry Glazerr
Sunday, July 16

Nicolas Jaar
The Avalanches
American Football
Isaiah Rashad
Hamilton Leithauser
Jamila Woods
Colin Stetson
Derrick Carter
Joey Purp
Kilo Kish

This is a major lineup, with each day being headlined by a monumental musical influence from the 90s (ATCQ), 00s (LCD), all the way up to just last year (Solange, whose A Seat At The Table was named Best Album of 2016 by Pitchfork).

Pitchfork truly outdid themselves this year, even the undercard is insanity, boasting Danny Brown, Nicolas Jaar, The Avalanches, PJ Harvey, et al. Do yourself a favor and get your tickets soon, and be sure to stay tuned to Needle & Thread for a more in-depth look at our perennial favorite all-around festival.

Lollapalooza – Grant Park, Chicago, IL – August 3-6

The Most Fun You’ll Have Watching Live Music With 300,000 People 

Tickets: 4-Day GA – $335 ($83.75/day) | Single Day – $120
4-Day VIP: $2200-$4200 | Single Day VIP: $650-$2800
Purchase Tickets Here

Lollapalooza has become the staple for the best-possible-outcome for music festival lineups, at least in the Midwestern region. No other festival comes close to putting up a quality lineup on a year-to-year basis like Lollapalooza has, and every year a ton of people swarm to the gorgeous festival grounds in Chicago’s Grant Park.

However, Lolla does have it’s drawbacks for some: giant crowds (last year’s Flume show was estimated to have roughly 80,000 people in attendance) and sprawling grounds can cause you to forego some anticipated acts. Just last year, we had to pass up Local Natives and Haim to make sure we had good spots for LCD Soundsystem. But the good generally outweighs the bad: the ground’s size allows plenty of space to relax and cool off under shaded trees, and well, the lineups are ridiculous every year, so even if your expected can’t miss headliner is left off the card (ahem, where ya at Frank Ocean?), the team at Lollapalooza will make up for it by giving you an extra special performance from someone unexpected. This year is no different, and Lolla has decided to stick with its four day affair after it found massive success last year.

Check out the headliners and some of our choice highlights of each day from this year’s lineup below, and check out the entire lineup here. By the way, hope you were woke on ticket sales, as all four days’ GA passes are now sold out. VIP packages are still available, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Thursday, August 3
Muse | Lorde | Cage The Elephant | Wiz Khalifa
Our Picks:
The Drums
Friday, August 4
The Killers | Blink-182 | DJ Snake | Run The Jewels
Our Picks:
Ryan Adams
Little Dragon
Crystal Castles
Mura Masa
The Districts

Saturday, August 5
Chance The Rapper | The xx | Alt-J | The Head and the Heart
Our Picks:
Mac DeMarco
Sylvan Esso
21 Savage
Zara Larsson
Sunday, August 6
Arcade Fire | Justice | Big Sean | The Shins | Zeds Dead
Our Picks:
Rae Sremmurd
Lil Yachty
London Grammar
Car Seat Headrest

Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival – Eau Claire, WI – June 16-17

The Midwest Indie Lover’s Best Possible Camping Festival Experience 

Tickets: 2-Day GA – $169 ($84.50/day) | Single Day Tickets – $90
2-Day VIP (“Chippewa”): $350 | Single Day VIP (“Chippewa”): $199
Camping Fees: $165/Campsite + $35/Camping Pass
Purchase Tickets Here

Before last year, I had sworn off camping festivals (after a terrible experience at SummerSet in 2013). After some bad “luck” last summer, I found myself needing a little respite and time in the wilderness. Enter: the second edition Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires music festival last year, held in a remote section of northwestern Wisconsin near his hometown of Eau Claire. All in all, it was a positive experience, aside from minor rain (especially compared to the fabled monsoon of Eaux Claires’ inaugural year), tired feet, and about 2,000 people referring to Vernon by “Justin,” as if he were Moses, come to lead his masses from the tyranny of city life and into a world of crunchy grooves.

All joking aside, Eaux Claires knows what it wants to do, and does it extremely well. An ostensibly beautiful mix of curated art displays and exhibits goes extremely well with the musical selections, and the festival experience is catered to the attendees almost too well. There are plenty of interactive elements to the festival, and with 2017 marking its third year, one would expect things to continue to get better.

Last year’s lineup was eccentric enough, but I’m glad to see this year’s lineup boasting a little more curiosity in its selection. Vince Staples stood out as a high point last year, mainly due to the lack of big hip hop acts gracing the stages. This year features Danny Brown and Chance the Rapper as top or near the top of the bill, and the rare chance to witness Paul Simon and Feist is a huge draw as well. Check out the full lineup below (daily lineups to be announced).

Chance The Rapper
Danny Brown
Perfume Genius
Francis & The Lights
The Autumn Defense
Big Red Machine
Happy Apple
Bon Iver Presents John Prine & The American Songbook
Spank Rock
S. Carey & Glenn Kotche
Julieta Venegas
Mountain Man
Zebulon Pike
Paul Simon w/ yMusic
Collections of Colonies of Bees
Sylvan Esso
Mouse on Mars
Music for the Long Emergency
This is The Kit
Velvet Negroni

Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI – June 28-July 3; July 4-July 9

“The World’s Largest Music Festival” Perfect For Those Who Need To Make An Excuse To Go On An Eleven Day Bender

Tickets: 11-Day GA – $90 ($8.19/day) | 3-Day Pass – $48 | Single Day – $13 / $20
Amphitheater Headliner Tickets Vary
Purchase Tickets Here

You’d have to be absolutely crazy to attend all eleven days of Summerfest, and maniacal to do it two years in a row. We’ll be going for year three in 2017, celebrating MKE’s Summerfest and its 50th anniversary.

We’re still awaiting the full lineup, including the two Amphitheater headliners yet to be announced at the time of this posting. You can check out the main headliners announced thus far below, but it is important to note that after some initially lackluster offerings for 2017, Summerfest really nailed the headliners for July 8, when Migos, Future, and Big Sean are slated to perform at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. All three could headline a night on their own, so the triple-header is a huge win and a must-see performance.

Tuesday, Summerfest announced another whopper of a headliner: The Outlaw Music Festival. That’s right a “festival” within a festival. The final night will be headlined by Willie Nelson & Family, Bob Dylan & His Band, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, Margo Price, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Bet you can’t say all that in one breath.

The remainder of the headliners are somewhat lackluster as far as indie music goes, but that’s to be expected, and is more than made up for with the ground stage headliners, which were announced this week. Check out the full Amphitheater headliners and a few of our selections for can’t miss acts spanning the eleven day fest. Head over to Summerfest’s webpage to view the full lineup.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Headliners
Wednesday, June 28 – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Thursday, June 29 – Luke Bryan
Friday, June 30 – TBA
Saturday, July 1 – Zac Brown Band
Sunday, July 2 – P!NK
Monday, July 3 – Closed
Tuesday, July 4 – The Chainsmokers
Wednesday, July 5 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Night 1)
Thursday, July 6 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Night 2)
Friday, July 7 – Dierks Bentley
Saturday, July 8 – Big Sean, Future, Migos
Sunday, July 9 – The Outlaw Music Festival (Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Nathaniel Rateliff, & more)
Ground Stage Headliners – Our Picks
Miike Snow
Bebe Rexha
Car Seat Headrest
Third Eye Blind
Death from Above 1979
Tegan & Sara
BJ The Chicago Kid
The Shins
& Plenty More…

FYF Fest –  Exposition Park, Los Angeles, CA – July 21-23

The Festival Lineup So Good, You Just Have to Travel for It

Tickets: 3-Day GA – $299 ($99.67/day) | Single Day – $109 / $125
3-Day VIP – $549
Purchase Tickets Here

FYF Fest’s lineup is absolute insanity, rivaling perennial great lineups across the globe, and might still take the prize for best lineup of 2017. We just couldn’t resist bringing your attention to this bill, because a collection of this amount of quality talent deserves as much acclaim as it can get.

Keeping in mind we haven’t actually been to any of the previous thirteen iterations of FYF, but here’s what we know: the festival is held in LA’s Exposition Park, outside of the Los Angeles Sports Coliseum (home to USC’s football team and temporary home to the LA Rams), so expect a distant skyline that rival’s Lollapalooza’s Chicago backdrop. After hearing from previous recaps of FYF, beers and food are top-notch, but can get pricey. That’s to be expected from a festival whose bigger brother is Coachella (both booked/represented by Goldenvoice), so while the prices might not be on Pitchfork’s level, you’d at least expect the quality to be. The incredible lineup is spread across just four stages, so while conflicts of musical taste interest are to be expected, at least you won’t be expected to hoof it a mile back and forth between stages.

Previously held in August, this year’s Fuck Yeah Fest is moving up to July, exactly one week after Pitchfork hits Chicago. That means, if you’re as crazy as we are, you could go straight from P4K to LA’s FYF, take a week off, and then hit Lolla. That sounds exhausting, but these lineups are all worth the hit to your stamina (and wallet). Check out the lineup below, which boasts many once-in-a-lifetime performances, including Nine Inch Nails, Björk, Frank Ocean (!!) and Missy Elliot’s only scheduled performance for 2017 (!!!).

Friday, July 21
Missy Elliot
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
Flying Lotus
Majid Jordan
Angel Olsen
John Talabot
Thee Oh Sees
Beach Fossils
Horse Meat Disco
Hundred Waters
Royal Headache
Helena Hauff
Kirk Knight
Paranoid London
Kelly Lee Owens
Saturday, July 22
Frank Ocean

A Tribe Called Quest
Erykah Badu
Nicolas Jaar
King Krule
The Drums
The Black Madonna
Motor City Drum Ensemble
Cap’n Jazz
The Faint
Arca & Jesse Kanda
Jonathan Richman
Perfume Genius
Daniel Avery
Seun Kuti & Egyptian 80
Princess Nokia
Fatima Yamaha
Young Marco
Avalon Emerson
Big Thief
Sunday, July 16
Nine Inch Nails
Iggy Pop
Run The Jewels
Little Dragon
Hannibal Buress
Chicano Batman
Mura Masa
Ty Segall
Blonde Redhead
DJ Harvey
Moses Sumney
Omar S
Andy Shauf
Joey Purp
Honey Soundsystem
Cherry Glazerr
Nadia Rose
Julia Jacklin

And there you have it – our top five festivals for the Midwestern music fan. Check back with us throughout the summer as we get closer to festival dates, and we’ll be sure to keep you up to date with as many full festival previews that we all can handle.