Spring brings with it an air of anticipation in the US. Not for pretty flowers and Easter chicks, but the roll call of confirmed artists who'll be headlining at some of the country's most celebrated annual rock music events. It all started on glorious summer's day in 1969 when half a million people congregated on dairy farm in Bethel, New York, for the legendary Woodstock Festival. That weekend of August 15-18 was pivotal moment in rock music history, and paved the way for some of the biggest rock music festivals we know and love today. Whether you're a lover of folksy rock and blues, or a complete metal-head, our guide to the top 5 rock music festivals in the US has every sub-genre covered!
Grant Park, Chicago
Conceived in 1991 by iconic frontman Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza was originally intended to be a last farewell tour event for his fabled band Jane's Addiction. The travelling summer road-show showcased alternative bands such as Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails at a time when grunge and alternative music were still in early infancy. Lollapalooza had a successful run of seven years before its cancellation in 1997. After years of speculation, the event was revived as a travelling tour in 2003, before it was established as a static event at leafy Grant Park, Chicago. Today, the event attracts in excess of 160,000 people each August, and hosts 130 headlining acts across multiple stages. Recent editions have included: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The White Stripes, Black Sabbath, Florence and the Machine and Sigur Ros. With a dedicated shopping precinct, farmers market and arts and crafts fair, Lollapalooza is as close to Woodstock as you can get in the 21st Century!
Hailed as the “World's Largest Music Festival” by its creators, the 11-day June Summerfest shows little sign of slowing down as it enters its fourth decade. Set within the leafy grounds of Henry Maier Festival Park beside picturesque Lake Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the festival encompasses a huge 30 hectares, comprising 11 stages, a shopping pavilion, fair and crafts market. Noted for its eclectic variety of alternative headliners, Summerfest has showcased some of the biggest names in contemporary music down the years, including the Steve Miller Band, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Tim McGraw. With the installation of the Harley Davidson stage and BMO Harris Pavilion in 2008 and 2012 respectively, Summerfest has since diversified its entertainment offerings to include acts from both the indie and metal genres.
Coachella's rock 'n' roll beginnings are perhaps one of the reasons it continues to dominate the exhaustive list of summer music events in the US. The roots of the festival were sewn back in November 1993 when prog rockers Pearl Jam earmarked the location for a one-off rock show in a sensational attempt to boycott their former organisers Ticketmaster. Six years later in 1999 the heavily anticipated inaugural event was held, hosting 10,000 revellers and over 30 well known acts, including indie marvel Beck, Rage Against the Machine and Morrissey. Fast forward almost a decade on and Coachella still garners praise for being one of America's flagship music festivals, boasting 125,000 revellers at its 2012 event. Despite well documented reports of iconic duets between hip hop artists (Snoop Dogg and the 'hologram' of iconic rapper Tupac Shakur), the event remains a largely rock 'n' roll festival, attracting some of the biggest Indie bands from around the globe.
Rock on the Range
Now in it's 7th year, Rock on the Range commands global attention for its headlining acts, notably being the place where Stone Temple Pilots announced their comeback in 2008, and where punk metallers Avenged Sevenfold last performed, prior to the death of their drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan in December 2009. Situated at the Columbus Crew Stadium, Ohio, The Range doesn't have quite the same ground space as some of its larger contemporaries, yet still manages to pack in a whopping 30,000 people between its three main stages. Revellers can expect a heady mix of both mainstream and underground bands, with past headliners having included Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Mötley Crüe and Halestorm. Following on from its success, a second weekender has since been unveiled at Winnipeg, Mannisota, with its own unique line-ups.
The Woodstock of the 21st Century; America's first environmentally conscious music festival started life as little more than a rent-a-field event in 2001, however, has since grown to become one of the most eclectic rock festivals anywhere in the world. It's founders, AC Entertainment, cite Bonnaroo as being “An escape into Excitement. Music. Art. Discoveries. Trees,” owing to the beauty of its surroundings and sheer wealth of entertainment on offer. Where else could you catch the Temper Trap after a morning of meditation and yoga? Some refer to Bonnaroo as a hippie revival of Woodstock, albeit far more eco-friendly. Bonnaroovians, as attendees are called, are encouraged to do their bit for environment by recycling plastic and glass bottles in exchange for cool prizes, which range from free passes to the Cinema Tent, to backstage meet and greets with headlining bands. Line-ups run the gamut of rock offerings, ranging from the dulcet tones of Folk singer EMA, to cheerful indie, á la The Lonely Forest. If you're looking for a festival that showcases the best of up and coming bands, Bonnaroo is the place to be!