12 U.S. Music Festivals to Attend in 2016

Article by: Scott Sterling|@ststerling

Tue January 26, 2016 | 00:00 AM

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival - Indio, CA 

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Photo by: Galen Oakes

Coachella is the reigning king of American festivals, and for good reason. The annual January lineup announcement sets the pace for the rest of the fests to follow for the rest of the year, from high-profile band reunions (including 2016 headliners Guns ‘n Roses and LCD Soundsystem) to emerging buzz artists like Grimes and Vince Staples. With a gorgeous desert setting and bona fide industry that springs up around it, Coachella is a music mecca well worth the pilgrimage.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - New Orleans, LA

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2014 Art Gimbel   09

Photo by: Art Gimbel

This massive, seven-day festival celebrates the long, rich legacy of music in New Orleans, featuring an incredibly diverse lineup that covers a diverse range of sounds (the 2016 lineup includes Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam and Van Morrison). Spread out over a dozen stages, the event highlights the city’s wealth of food and culture as much as the music, creating an immersive event with something for everyone.

Fun Fun Fun Fest - Austin, Texas

Fun Ways To Hydrate Camelbak Eamon Arm Strong

Photo by: Eamon Armstrong

While Austin City Limits is still the big boy in town, Fun Fun Fun has rolled out a more indie-leaning and eclectically curated music festival in Austin, Texas. With a 2015 lineup that boasted rock legacies Cheap Trick and Venom alongside emerging stars like Future Islands and ODESZA, FFF has quietly grown from 11,000 attendees over the two-day weekend in 2009 to more than 50,000 over last year’s expanded three-day event. Situated in downtown Austin, FFF’s traditional position towards the end of the year gives music lovers something to look forward to long after the summer has ended.

Outside Lands Festival - San Francisco, CA

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Photo by: Adrian Spinelli

This jewel of a festival set in the cool confines of Golden Gate Park, encapsulates San Francisco’s eclectic cultural and musical legacies to create one of America’s most attractive and welcoming concert events. OSL boasts marquee headliners (Radiohead is unofficially confirmed) and a wide-ranging undercard of hip-hop, EDM and indie rock over five stages set in Golden Gate parks natural landscape. Any downtime can be used to indulge in a host of amenities, including food from SF's buzziest local eateries, as well as the self-explanatory Wine, Cheese and Choco Lands areas.

FYF Fest - Los Angeles, CA 

Fyf Festival 2015 Adrian Spinelli   09

Photo by: Adrian Spinelli

Indie rock rules at this two-day fest in downtown L.A. Packed with the latest and greatest in cutting-edge indie acts, FYF has heightened its profile considerably by scoring bigger and bigger headliners over recent years, including Morrissey and Kanye West (who stepped in after a last-minute Frank Ocean cancellation) in 2015. Set across the sprawling Exposition Park on the campus of University of Southern California, FYF has established itself as one of SoCal’s premiere music fests for those concerned with what’s now and what’s next.

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival - Manchester, TN


The ‘Roo is something of a throwback festival, ensconced deep in Tennessee not far from the border of Alabama. Massive in scale, this down and dirty four-day event caters almost exclusively to campers who turn the grounds into a veritable city that never sleeps with an attendance that regularly hovers in the range of 90,000-100,000 fans. Expanding beyond its initial reputation for jam bands, the fest regularly rolls out an impressively diverse lineup that ranges from Radiohead to Phish to Kenny Rogers, without losing any of its down-home appeal.

Firefly Music Festival - Dover, DE

Firefly 2015 Danilo Lewis Night Crowd

Photo by: Danilo Lewis

Delaware dove into the music festival game in a big way with the 2012 debut of Firefly, adding a new wrinkle to the East Coast scene with a show that now spans four days, with a youthful lineup targeting the heart of the Millennial generation. Set on the expansive Dover International Speedway, bands perform across seven stages with enough space for fans to chill out away from the action, including the popular Hammock Hangout area.

Pitchfork Music Festival - Chicago, IL

Pitchfork Festival 2014 Jessica Lehrman 1

Photo by: Jessica Lehrman

Built on the back of the influential Pitchfork website, the namesake festival in the site’s home base of Chicago, expands the brand by showcasing artists reflective of the editorial vision. Young, new and decidedly now is the directive, with a nod to the artists who laid the groundwork for the current indie scene (the 2015 bill included pioneering acts Sleater-Kinney and Wilco among the headliners). 

Hangout Music Festival - Gulf Shores, AL 

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Photo by: Josh Rhinehart

Situated on the white sand beach of Gulf Shores, AL, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, the setting for this Southern festival simply can’t be beat. Fans can frolic in the water while artists like The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine and Flume perform nearby. It’s a well-rounded experience, with carnival rides, craft beer garden, a dedicated Hammock Beach and even a wedding chapel onsite.

Austin City Limits - Austin, Texas 

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Photo by: Natalia Gonzalez

ACL is an expansive three-day event that’s grown to encompass two consecutive weekends in south Austin. Covering an impressive range of music across eight stages, ACL has mass appeal for cutting-edge cool kids and old-school traditionalists alike. It’s one of the few music fests that are decidedly family friendly, with free admission for kids under the age of ten. The city’s legendary food scene is well represented with the onsite Austin Eats area, while local artists are showcased at the ACL Art Market.

Sasquatch! - George, WA

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Photo by: Sasquatch!

Indie rock fans of the great Northwest no longer have to travel out of state for their festival fix thanks to the emergence of Sasquatch! Set in the gorgeous natural amphitheater venue The Gorge, a capacity cap of 20,000 maintains a boutique fest festival feel even with A-list headliners such as Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey and The Cure. Camping is included in the ticket price, making it a bargain for fans ready to rough it over the three-day Memorial Day weekend show. Comedians are also prominent in the lineup, blending laughs between the riffs and beats.

Shaky Knees Festival - Atlanta, GA 

Another relative newcomer to the American music festival scene, Shaky Knees sets up shop in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park & International Park for three music-filled days. The location makes it easy for attendees to soak up the city when not onsite taking in the rock-leaning lineup across the show’s five stages (2016 headliners include Jane Addiction performing the Ritual de lo Habitual album and My Morning Jacket).