The thunderous onset of COVID-19 last year forced the cancellation of many events, including music festivals. Fortunately, the worst of the pandemic now seems to be behind us. Monthly cases have been dropping and vaccination rates are gradually increasing. Of course, every state has its own laws and guidelines regarding masks and crowd sizes. However, music festivals are typically held at outdoor venues, where the risk of infection is inherently lower. Each festival also has its own types of ticket packages and special offers, as well as its list of allowed and prohibited items.
With this in mind, here are the top 15 music festivals to look out for this year and their respective event organizers’ plans.
- Austin City Limits: October 1-3, 8-10, 2021
One of the most famous music festivals in the country, this event deep in the heart of Texas was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic but will take place as planned in October this year. It features eight stages of different sizes, a variety of food and drinks, an art market, and a family zone. Since 2013, it has expanded from one weekend to two. There are two ACL Live shows from 2020 that were postponed due to COVID-19, however. The Jason Isbell and 400 Unit shows from August 2020 have now shifted to August 7 and 8, 2021.
The 2019 ACL lineup included big names like Billie Eilish, Guns ‘N Roses, and Childish Gambino. Whether you like alternative, hip-hop, or electronic music, Austin City Limits is the event to attend this year if you want to have a great experience. This year’s festival will also include vegan food options, a mini-fest for children, sponsored giveaways, and premium experiences that include VIP and Platinum lounges, complimentary spa treatments, and other special perks. Austin City Limits organizers have issued a warning to attendees on the festival’s website about the risk of contracting COVID-19. Nevertheless, the premium experiences will be available as they would be in any other year.
2. Electric Zoo: September 3-5, 2021; Randall’s Island, New York
This festival at Randall’s Island Park, which is the ultimate destination for electronic music fans, also never happened in 2020. However, it will go on as scheduled this September. It’s organized by the same individuals who gave us Sensation, Mysteryland, and Tomorrowland. This is the perfect event to dance the night away on Labor Day weekend this year, especially considering New York City’s full reopening on July 1 is now official. Two years ago, the list of performers included Skrillex, Diplo, and Armin van Buuren. This year, the Electric Zoo lineup will feature Alesso, Kaskade, Tiesto, and Mason Maynard.
3. Burning Man: August 22-September 7, 2021; Virtual
Just like last year’s edition, the Burning Man 2021 live experience — which was set to take place at its usual location in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert — has been canceled due to COVID-19. However, there will be a virtual experience called Virtual Burn 2021 that will run from August 22 to September 7 (early bird tickets at a discounted rate are on sale now!). This experience will allow you to connect with “Burners” all across the globe and feature 3D art and immersive discussions and performances. All you need is an internet connection, and a computer, smartphone, or VR headset to participate!
Since it began in 1986, Burning Man has become a phenomenon in the world of music, art, and culture. It’s unique in the sense that attendees drive the main showcases. Many other festivals across the world (including music festivals) have attempted to replicate the Burning Man experience, but few have succeeded. Many people return from Burning Man claiming to have experienced a major spiritual or emotional revelation, and this year’s festival should help attendees fulfill that same goal.
4. Afropunk Fest: TBA August 2021; Brooklyn, New York/ TBA October 2021; Atlanta, Georgia
This festival normally takes place in late August in New York, and it appears this will stay unchanged in 2021. Organizers have yet to confirm the exact dates due to safety precautions taken due to the pandemic. Afropunk originally began as a movement led by people who were looking for new ways to celebrate black culture in the U.S. Today, it features a powerful blend of music and activism and draws tens of thousands of attendees. Given the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement over the last year and the recent introduction of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, Afropunk is shaping up to be an even more meaningful event this year. In fact, this may be one of the most culturally impactful music festivals on this list. The 2019 lineup included FKA Twigs, Leon Bridges, and EarthGang.
5. HARD Summer: July 31-August 1, 2021; San Bernardino, California
This year, HARD Summer will take place during its usual dates in late July. Previously held in Los Angeles, this annual festival is all about alternative and electronic music. Attendees can purchase many different types of cool HARD merch, including t-shirts, hats, and headbands. HARD Summer 2021 will occur at the NOS Events Center and will happen rain or shine. This year’s lineup of performers includes Future, DJ Snake, 2 Chainz, A-Trak, and Joyryde. According to the festival’s website, HARD organizers will be “working closely with local officials” to ensure they take all necessary safety measures.
6. BottleRock: September 3-5, 2021; Napa, California
Originally, BottleRock was scheduled to take place on May 22-24, 2020 but has since been postponed three times. First, it was rescheduled to October 2020, then to May 28-30, 2021 (Memorial Day Weekend) before finally settling on Labor Day Weekend. This festival in wine country features a vivid array of music, food, and alcohol. You can also enjoy a spa, a “silent disco,” and a “culinary stage.” This year’s lineup will feature Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, G-Eazy, Maren Morris, and Cage the Elephant.
7. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival: September 2-5, 2021; Manchester, Tennessee
In September 2020, it was announced that Bonnaroo 2021 would be rescheduled from June to Labor Day Weekend. The 2021 lineup features the Foo Fighters, Tame Impala, Lizzo, Lana del Rey, and Tyler the Creator. New improvements to the Bonnaroo experience this year include faster entrance to The Farm with Daily Entry, air-conditioned darkroom tents, and free rides from the campgrounds to the Centeroo via JamTrak.
8. Riot Fest: September 16-19, 2021; Chicago, Illinois
Riot Fest will go on as planned this September in the Windy City, despite some artists like My Chemical Romance postponing their scheduled performances to 2022. This festival features a wide variety of music styles, including alternative, hip-hop, and rock. This year’s headliners include Pixies, Run the Jewels, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Other expected performers include Motherfolk, Essenger, and Brendan Kelly. To adhere to local and state health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19, entry to Riot Fest may be subject to proof of vaccination or a negative test. Extensive cleaning and sanitation measures will also be taken, including the installment of several hand-washing stations throughout the grounds.
9. The Governors Ball: September 24-26, 2021; New York City
This festival will go on as planned in late September. Aside from Electric Zoo, The Governors Ball is the other annual major music festival at NYC’s Randall’s Island. However, there are two major changes to this year’s edition: it will take place at the beginning of the fall instead of its traditional early-summer dates and its new venue is Citi Field in Queens. Confirmed headliners include Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Big Thief, and A$AP Rocky.
As part of the new Governors Ball experience, all stages for this year’s festival will be in the middle of the complex to create a 360-degree layout. This will help avoid sound bleeding and unnecessarily long walks between stages. Additionally, organizers have added astroturf to asphalt areas to provide greater comfort and color. Citi Field is also easily accessible via several different types of transportation (Long Island Rail Road, subway, bus, etc.). This will also make it easier for organizers to adjust the festival’s setup accordingly in the event of inclement weather.
10. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: October 8-17, 2021
Not all music festivals need to feature contemporary music to provide a memorable experience. New Orleans’ famous jazz festival is normally held in April but has been moved to October for this year due to COVID-19. The lineup has not yet been confirmed, although attendees can expect an explosion of jazz music and associated culture, as always. You can also buy merchandise such as posters and apparel specifically designed for spending time in the Bayou.
11. Coachella: April 15-17 & 22-24, 2022; Indio, California
Ok, you got us: there is no Coachella 2021. Coachella was canceled both in 2020 and this year, but after several postponements, it was definitively rescheduled to next spring. Many types of music genres can be enjoyed at this iconic festival, from electronic to pop and hip-hop. The 2022 lineup has yet to be announced, but past headliners have included Beyonce and Rage Against The Machine. Tickets went on sale on June 4 and passes for all of the canceled 2020 and 2021 festival dates will be honored at next year’s Coachella. No restrictions or modifications due to COVID have been announced as of now.
12. Stagecoach: April 29-May 1, 2022; Indio, California
Similar to Coachella, Indio’s other major music festival was canceled earlier this year and rescheduled to April 2022 due to the pandemic. Stagecoach, of course, celebrates country music and has previously featured well-known artists such as Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, and Kenny Chesney. There has been no official announcement for the 2022 lineup yet. However, it could include some of the 2020 scheduled performers such as Thomas Rhett, Lil Nas X, and Brett Young. California is famous for celebrating many different types of art, and the diversity of its music festivals reflects that.
13. Lollapalooza: July 29-August 1, 2021; Chicago, Illinois
Although Lollapalooza 2020 organizers canceled this event because of the pandemic, this year’s festival will take place at its usual time of year at Chicago’s Grant Park, at the end of July. The Lollapalooza 2021 lineup includes Miley Cyrus, Tyler the Creator, Post Malone, and the Foo Fighters. Both four-day and single-day tickets for general admission, GA+, VIP, and Platinum admission are now on sale. Organizers have said that they will require attendees to show either proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 24 hours.
14. South by Southwest (SXSW): March 11-20, 2022; Austin, Texas
Next year’s SXSW festival will take place during its typical dates in March. This event is a showcase of brilliant new types of music, film, and technology, among other things. This year, SXSW organizers decided to host a virtual event to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Next year’s festival will, as of now, take place live at the Austin Convention Center. No major health precautions have been announced as of yet for the 2022 festival. Past performers include Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, J Balvin, and Phoebe Bridgers.
15. Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC): October 22-24, 2021; Las Vegas
This festival was originally going to take place in October 2020 but has since changed dates twice: first to May and now to October 2021. As its name suggests, EDC — which will be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — features a wide array of electronic dance music (EDM). This year’s EDC lineup includes Alesso, 12th Planet, and Afrojack. Health and safety measures that organizers have taken this year include free water refill stations and medical staff who can take care of anyone who feels nauseous or lightheaded.
16. RiSE Lantern Festival: October 1 & 2, 2021; Las Vegas
The RiSe Lantern Festival is an annual event that takes place in many different countries, although the U.S. edition of the festival will take place at the Jean Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert, which is around 25 miles from Las Vegas. This festival, which had an original event date of October 2020, involves a large number of people releasing biodegradable lanterns into the sky with written messages. The lanterns are first released to the music of British DJ duo the ASCENSION DJs and then to the live music of indie electronica musician Emmit Fenn (a California native) later in the evening. Organizers have said they plan to work with public safety officials as the festival nears in order to ensure that attendees follow COVID-19 guidelines.
17. Wonderfront Festival: November 19-21, 2021; San Diego
The 2020 Wonderfront Festival moved from November of last year to this November in May 2020 due to COVID-19. The 2021 Wonderfront lineup includes CNCO, Jonas Blue, MGMT, and Michael Franti & Spearhead. Whether you like EDM, hip-hop, or indie rock, you can likely enjoy your preferred music style at this festival. Early bird tickets are now on sale for this famous event that incorporates several different aspects of local culture.
Visit Events.com For More Event News
Be sure to check out Events.com for more details on upcoming music festivals near you. Events.com is always staying up-to-date on the latest event news and has proudly partnered with several organizations and event organizers to deliver meaningful experiences for attendees of both in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.