Best Music Festival (2015)


As temperatures begin to creep up, music festival season is fast approaching. For the last four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites, and the winners have been announced.

  • Riot Fest

    Riot Fest

    Riot Fest is a multi-destination music festival, taking place each year in Denver, Chicago and Toronto. It began in 2005 as a weekend of punk and rock in Chicago and continued to expand to other venues and ultimately other cities. And it added carnival rides. Yup. “Corndogs. Ferris wheels. Your Music.” That’s the short description. Fans at Riot Fest have watched bands like the Misfits and Dead Kennedys. The goal is simple and pure: to throw unforgettable shows.
    Photo courtesy of David T. Kindler

  • Electric Forest Festival

    Electric Forest Festival
    Rothbury, Mich.

    The Electric Forest Festival, formerly the Rothbury Festival, is held every June in Michigan. The four-day event, set in the magical forest backdrop at the Double JJ Resort, highlights electronic and jam bands. The fest is known for its surreal audiovisual effects, dreamy decor, art and, of course, live music. The location sets this festival apart. Attendees enjoy camping, trails, lakes and bars, and a unique artistic vibe permeates every detail of Electric Forest.
    Photo courtesy of Electric Forest Festival

  • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

    New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

    The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell is a long-standing annual festival every spring that celebrates the culture and music of Louisiana. Attendees listen to jazz and gospel hymn, watch a parade and see live musicians from around the world. The past lineup has encompassed the biggest names in jazz: B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Al Green – you name it. Other genres are also represented. The festival was inspired by Mahalia Jackson and the Eureka Brass Band in the 1970s.
    Photo courtesy of Douglas Mason

  • Shaky Knees Music Festival

    Shaky Knees Music Festival

    It’s a relatively new festival, but Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta has already gained a loyal following. This young fest aims to stay true to the indie-rock genre, without a huge budget or flashy sponsorships. Just good rock music in Midtown every spring. Look for the likes of the Pixies, Social Distortion and Avett Brothers. There’s no camping (you’ll have to retreat to a nearby hotel), but there are plenty of food trucks and vendors.
    Photo courtesy of Taylor Wallace

  • Firefly

    Dover, Del.

    The Firefly Music Festival transforms the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. into a mecca of musical excitement every June. Festival goers can watch popular and emerging musicians perform in the Delaware woodlands. Although Firefly is relatively new – it started in 2012 – it draws more than 80,000 attendees. Like some of the other most popular festivals in other regions, Firefly also offers camping and multiple stages. Past highlights include the Black Keys, Jack White, John Legend – the list goes on.
    Photo courtesy of Firefly Music Festival

  • Newport Folk Festival

    Newport Folk Festival
    Newport, R.I.

    Newport Folk Festival is one of the originals. In fact, its the self-proclaimed “grandparents of the modern-day festival.” Started in 1959, the festival has earned a reputation over the years for showcasing musicians and launching their successful career – perhaps most notably, Bob Dylan. The Newport festival spotlights folk, blues, country and bluegrass musicians in Newport, R.I., every summer. It aims to preserve the history of folk music, while continuing to honor it and help develop it in the modern age.
    Photo courtesy of Brian Lima

  • Bonnaroo

    Manchester, Tenn.

    Bonnaroo brings 85,000 attendees to hundreds of acres in Tennessee for more than 150 performances on 10 different stages. This four-day festival in June features a variety of music, from rock to jazz and everything in between (a few from the past: Allman Brothers, White Stripes, Tom Petty, Jay-Z), with shows running late into the night. Visitors can also catch live comedy, a small film fest and other events, all while enjoying Mother Nature. Bonnaroo has earned some important accolades, too, including being called one of the 50 moments that changed rock and roll by Rolling Stone magazine.
    Photo courtesy of Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

    Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
    San Francisco

    Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is three days of live music in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Since its inception in 2001, this festival has featured non-commercial music – originally just bluegrass, but it has opened up to other genres over the years, hence the “hardly” in the name. The outdoor fest (but no camping) now draws about 750,000 people. Best of all: it's free; no tickets needed. Catch it in October every year. Music lovers who can’t make it in person can still enjoy the music on the webcast.
    Photo courtesy of Ken Friedman

  • Wakarusa Music Festival

    Wakarusa Music Festival
    Ozark, Ark.

    For a “never corporate” music and camping festival, many concert-goers head to Mulberry Mountain in Arkansas for Wakarusa, a four-day event held every summer. Wakarusa is quirky and eclectic, having presented a variety of popular artists, such as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. But the experience is more than than 150-plus acts. Attendees can do yoga, go hiking, swim the river, play disc golf and meet new people. It’s where “music meets Mother Nature,” the website says.
    Photo courtesy of Travis Johnson / Flickr

  • Sasquatch!

    Quincy, Wash.

    Sasquatch started in 2002 as a one-day festival, but it has since expanded to four days over Memorial Day weekend at the outdoor Gorge Ampitheatre in Washington, located near the Columbia River. This remote and visually stunning fest centers around camping and indie rock bands, although it features other music styles as well. The lineup has included Mumford and Sons, Beck, MIA, Kongos, Hozier and many other well-known musicians.
    Photo courtesy of Matthew Lamb

Riot Fest, a multi-destination festival in Chicago, Denver and Toronto, won the most reader votes, thanks to its stellar annual lineup of unforgettable punk and rock performances, with carnival rides to boot!

The top 10 winners in the category Best Music Festival are as follows:

  1. Riot Fest - Chicago
  2. Electric Forest Festival - Rothbury, Mich.
  3. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
  4. Shaky Knees Music Festival - Atlanta
  5. Firefly - Dover, Del.
  6. Newport Folk Festival - Newport, R.I.
  7. Bonnaroo - Manchester, Tenn.
  8. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass - San Francisco
  9. Wakarusa Music Festival - Ozark, Ark.
  10. Sasquatch! - Quincy, Wash.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Alex Young (Consequences of Sound), Vito Valentinetti (Music Festival Junkies) and Chip Conley (Fest300) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of the music festival scene in the U.S.

Other nominees included Chicago's Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Fun Fun Fun Fest (also in Austin), Governors Ball in New York, Coachella in Indio, Calif., Outside Lands in San Francisco, South by Southwest in Austin, Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle in Bradley, Calif. and FYF Fest in Los Angeles.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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AlertThe Experts

Alex Young

Alex Young

Alex Young

Vito Valentinetti

Vito Valentinetti

Vito Valentinetti

Chip Conley

Chip Conley

Chip Conley