They say separation makes the heart grow fonder, and being separated from the warmth and shenanigans of our dear friend summer has made our hearts crave the sun-filled season. Although it may be hard to think beyond the stressful days spent at the library, we’re looking forward to one of summer’s best activities: music festivals. Here’s our list of some great festivals to check out in the Midwest, which appeals to a wide range of music tastes. So Badgers, remember; just on the other side of finals lies sun, crafts, food and great music in the form of summer music festivals.
Shakopee, Minn., May 25
Soundset, a hip-hop music festival in Minnesota, will take over one day on Memorial Day weekend. This full-day, outdoor festival packs a significant punch for a ticket price of around $50. The lineup features nationally-renowned acts such as Atmosphere, Wiz Khalifa, Nas (on the 20th anniversary of debut album Illmatic), 2 Chainz, Cypress Hill, Earlwolf (Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt), Pusha T, Chance the Rapper, Prof, Grieves, G-Eazy and many more. Hosts include Brother Ali, Sway Calloway and J. Pratt. Since 2008, Soundset has been one of the hugest U.S. celebrations of hip-hop. This year, the event will take place at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., rain or shine. According to the event website the grassy location “will be hippie and rap cypher friendly and more comforting for your feet and butt when you sit down.” The festival also boasts free tap water, cool tents for cooling off, b-boy/b-girl battles, rap battles and medical staff on-site in case of emergency.
Milwaukee, June 25 – July 6
Summerfest debuted in 1968 as a result of Mayor Henry Maier’s hopes to enliven downtown Milwaukee much like the Oktoberfest celebrations he witnessed in Munich, Germany. Since its infancy, Summerfest has grown to be one of the largest music festivals in the United States. With nearly 1 million attendees in recent years and close to 1,000 performances, the festival has become a major player in the summer concert scene. Running from June 25 to July 6, this year’s installment of the concert series features a wide variety of artists that span across nearly every genre. Some of the main headliners include Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Outkast and Usher. On top of the slew of live music, the festival touts great food, cold beer, marketplaces and interactive exhibits, all with the shores of Lake Michigan serving as a gorgeous backdrop. Summerfest is an experience that can’t be missed.
Electric Forest Festival
Rothbury, Mich., June 26 – 29
Electric Forest is something of a legend among summer music festivals. If you’re from the Midwest, you may have heard of its general vibes. Or maybe you’ve seen the pictures: rows of trees illuminated by neon lights, creating a lush canopy of psychedelic deliciousness. The festival blends EDM, hip-hop and jam band acts into a four-day festival in a small little village called Rothbury, Mich., which, according to Wikipedia, has a population of 432. It’s a haven for anyone who likes to dance and do drugs. It’s also the only summer music festival you’ll find in which The String Cheese Incident plays three nights in a row. This year’s lineup, while not fully announced, looks — in a word — hyphy: Zedd, Zeds Dead, Flying Lotus, The Glitch Mob, Lauryn Hill, Moby (in a DJ set), Schoolboy Q, Cut Copy and many more. The festival runs June 26 – 29. If you want to rage face, get your ass to Rothbury.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Chicago, July 18 – 20
In a world of Coachellas and Lollapaloozas and $250 three-day passes and crowds so large you can’t see anything, there are still music festivals like Pitchfork, that boast great lineups for reasonable prices. Pitchfork is one of the most underrated festivals in the U.S. summer festival roster, and this year’s fest offers one of its best lineups yet. With Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel and Kendrick Lamar as headliners, Pitchfork also boasts a variety of veteran and up-and-coming indie acts: Grimes, St. Vincent, Slowdive, Giorgio Moroder, Death Grips, tUnE-yArDs, Pusha T, Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q and Earl Sweatshirt, among many others. The festival lies in the middle of Chicago in the spacious Union Park. The food is delicious and reasonably-priced. The beer is Goose Island. The people are all somehow very attractive and fashionable. It runs July 18 – 20. If you can’t make it out to Bonnaroo, you owe it to yourself to shell out the $50 for a one-day pass.
Chicago, Aug. 1 – 3
In 2003, Lollapalooza was revamped, changing itself from a musical tour to a single, weekend-long festival rooted in Chicago’s Grant Park. Despite technical alterations, the festival stays true to its primary intended goals: composing a show that spans across genres, exposing fans to new types of music and promoting lesser-known, independent acts. These goals are conveyed in this year’s line-up, which includes big names such as Eminem, Kings of Leon, Skrillex, Lorde, Zedd, OutKast, Calvin Harris and Foster the People, in addition to indie artists, such as the 1975, Kate Nash, Rocky Business, Typhoon and Cardiknox. The festival draws from hip-hop, rap, EDM, singer-songwriter, alternative rock and everything in between to offer something that will appeal to everyone. Aside from a weekend’s worth of musical acts, Lollapalooza features an environment rich in features that render the event a true cultural and artist experience. The festival presents a multitude of fresh food options, including a local farmers market and “Chow Town,” which features rows of stands for Chicago-based restaurants. It also features a platform for local, national and world-recognized artists to sell environmentally friendly goods, called “Green Street.” Defined as “something outstanding of its kind,” the name “Lollapalooza” speaks for itself in communicating just how special the music fest is.
Somerset, Aug. 15 – 17
Get ready to end the summer on a high note. Wisconsin’s own Summer Set Music and Camping Festival rounds out a packed summer festival season with a promising lineup of electronic and hip-hop artists, headed by drum and bass maestro Bassnectar. The festival takes over pastoral Somerset from Aug. 15 to 17 for a weekend offering opportunities for both hardcore raging and chilled-out vibes. As the name implies, camping on the grounds is definitely recommended for a true festival experience, and there are several different options for doing so surrounding the stages. Also appearing at Summer Set are Wu-Tang, Chance the Rapper, Flying Lotus, Big Gigantic and a host of smaller acts, spread out across three stages and a brand-new dance tent. With early bird three-day tickets starting at $90 and camping passes for a six-person site running $225 or more, snagging your tickets now is a good idea.