Here's What the 2021 Music Festival Season Looks Like Right Now

·9 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

As the vaccination roll-out continues, many of us have begun making mental bucket lists of the activities and places we’re eager to return to once it’s safe to do so. For some, that might mean hitting your favorite dive bar with friends you haven’t seen since last year. For others, it might be a long-awaited visit to family members. And, for a select few, it might just be standing in an open field in the hot, beating sun for the entirety of the day before paying $10 for a water bottle, losing your friends, and realizing your phone is dead in the middle of a mosh pit of strangers.

If the latter sounds like a dream to you … the good news is that music festivals are slowly on the comeback. And, as the music industry reels from the serious hit it took this past year, lineups are filling up quickly with artists who are eager to get back on stage.

Still, many major festivals like Coachella have cancelled their 2021 plans, while others like Lollapalooza have yet to announce any dates—and the vast majority of festivals are very much “subject to change” based upon public health concerns.

As of March, the CDC advises people avoid large public gatherings. And while it does not have a specific limit for number of attendees at events, it "encourages event organizers to focus on ways to limit people’s contact with each other."

For now, though, some festival organizers are moving forward with plans for limited 2021 events later in the summer. Others have decided to go for virtual events this year. Whether you’re looking to plan ahead for a potentially responsible rage in the fall, or just eager to see the lineups, here is your guide to 2021 music festivals. In the meantime, get vaccinated, remain masked up and social distanced, and stay posted on public health updates.

*All virtual festivals are listed with an asterisk.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Dates: June 11-13 & 17-2, 2020

Telluride, CO

Headliners: Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, Watchhouse (Formerly Mandolin Orange)

According to local reports, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival will continue in-person with limited capacity. Attendees will be split into two weekends. The resulting festival format will be seven days of music with its typical outdoor, camping-friendly culture, though social distancing looks like it will be encouraged. The organizers have yet to announce a lineup.

Essence Festival of Culture*

Dates: June 25-27, July 2-4

Virtual

Headliners: TBA

Essence Festival of Culture, led by the Black-owned media, technology, and commerce company ESSENCE, typically takes place July 4th weekend in New Orleans and hosts over half a million attendees. This year, however, the entertainment and empowerment-driven festival will take place virtually, including “powerful daytime interactive sessions and star-studded evening concerts.” Lineups have yet to be announced.

FiLo Fest*

Dates: July 10

Hybrid (See website for more details)

Headliners: Bob Weir, David Crosby, Stephen Marley, Questlove, Lee Brice, Fritz and the Tantrums, Sammy Hagar

FiLo Fest, short for “First in, last out,” is a hybrid festival to benefit music industry staffers whose work and income has been impacted by the pandemic. Admission is donation based, with each increasing monetary interval opening a new tier of benefits for attendees. “100% of the Net Proceeds from this show will be granted to the independent contractors and people that work on demand to bring live entertainment to life,” the website reads.

HARD Summer

Dates: July 31 - Aug 1, 2021

Location: San Bernardino, CA

Headliners: Future, KAYTRANADA, DJ Snake, Dillon Francis, 2 Chainz

Now relocated to San Bernardino, the alt and electronic-heavy HARD Summer Festival will welcome guests for two days of performances. HARD’s website says organizers “will be working closely with local officials to implement necessary safety precautions and will follow state and local health guidelines in place at the time of the event.”

WonderBus

Dates: August 28-29

Columbus, OH

Headliners: Kesha, Wilco, Grouplove, Black Pumas, AJR

Ohio music and arts festival returns for another year of music, food, and artisan goods this August with an array of indie and alternative artists. Their site states that organizers will take “enhanced health and safety measures” regarding COVID-19.

Summerfest

Dates: Sept. 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18, 2021

Milwaukee, WI

Headliners: Justin Bieber, Dave Matthews Band, Blink 182, Guns n’ Roses

Since canceling their 2020 event, the 53-year-old Milwaukee Summerfest has shifted its 2020 lineup to September 2021—though it’s lost a few headliners to scheduling conflicts. The festival is set to take place across three weekends with hopes that its September timing will give ample time for the vaccination roll-out and proper public health precautions to be in place.

BottleRock

Dates: Sep. 3-5, 2021

Napa, CA

Headliners: TBA

True to its Napa Valley roots, BottleRock prides itself upon its “Music, Food, Wine, Brew,” range of attractions, even including a “culinary stage” and spa. Now rescheduled to Labor Day weekend, organizers have yet to announce a lineup or any vendors.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival


Dates: Sept. 2-5, 2021

Manchester, TN, U.S.A.

Headliners: Foo Fighters, Megan thee Stallion, Lizzo, Tame Impala, Tyler the Creator, Lana del Rey, Phoebe Bridgers, Lil Baby

One of the few major festivals to have already confirmed its dates and lineup, Bonnaroo is set to take place Labor Day Weekend 2021. According to its site, organizers are remaining in close contact with public health officials to ensure proper protocol is in order, though its Covid-19 warning clarifies that “an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public space where people are present.”

Electric Zoo

Dates: Sept. 3-5, 2021

New York, NY

Headliners: Alesso, Fisher, Tiesto, Duke Dumont, Galantis

Yet another festival scheduled over Labor Day Weekend, this Randall’s Island electronic music festival will take place with a “Supernaturals” theme. As of right now, it’s not clear what Covid-19 precautions will be in place at the outdoor venue.

Riot Fest

Dates: Sept. 16-19, 2021

Chicago, IL

Headliners: The Smashing Pumpkins, Run the Jewels, Pixies

The Chicago-based festival, including rock, hip-hop, and alternative acts, is set to take place in September. Like Electric Zoo, there are no clear Covid-19 precautions detailed for the festival.

Firefly Festival

Dates: Sept. 23-26, 2021

Dover, DE

Headliners: Billie Eilish, Megan thee Stallion, The Killers, Tame Impala, Lizzo

This open-air, camping-friendly festival in the Woodlands of Dove, Delaware has released its dates. However, organizers have yet to confirm a lineup or much information beyond its dates.

The Governors Ball

Dates: Sept. 24-26, 2021

New York, NY

Headliners: Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky, Post Malone, Megan thee Stallion, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief

Another Randall’s Island festival, The Governors Ball has confirmed it will shift its typical early-summer dates to early fall. Organizers have yet to confirm a lineup. They also say Covid-19 safety precautions are a “moving target" as of late, though the festival’s site ensures that the event will comply with all public health recommendations advised by City and State officials.

Lockn’

Dates: Oct. 1-3, 2021

Arrington, VA

Headliners: TBA

Virginia’s camping-friendly, jam band-driven festival Lockn’ will take place in early October. Lineup is yet to be announced.

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Dates: Oct. 1-3 & 8-10, 2021

Austin, TX

Headliners: TBA

Like many fall festivals, most of the details about Austin City Limits, aside from dates, are up in the air. The event typically includes a multi-stage format hosting artists from a variety of genres.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Dates: Oct. 8-17, 2021

New Orleans, LA

Headliners: TBA

New Orleans’s iconic “Jazz Fest" has rescheduled from its typical April dates to October 2021. The lineup has yet to be announced, though in the meantime local radio station WWOZ will host a “Jazz Festing in Place” broadcast, airing sets from throughout Jazz Fest’s history on the festival’s original dates.

Outside Lands

Dates: Oct. 29-31, 2021

San Francisco, CA

Headliners: Tame Impala, Lizzo, The Strokes, Tyler, the Creator, Vampire Weekend, J Balvin, Rufus Du Sol, Kehlani, Glass Animals, Zhu, Young Thug

The largest independently owned music festival in the United States (and the first to offer cannabis to attendees) will return to Golden Gate Park for Halloween weekend 2021. The open- air event has ensured that safety measures will be taken accordingly regarding Covid-19, though it also acknowledges the inherent risk of gathering in large groups.

Burning Man

Dates: TBA

Black Rock City, NV

Headliners: TBA

The radically formatted Burning Man Festival has not yet to announce any details regarding its desert-based arts festivals. “Look, We Just Don’t Know Yet,” its website reads.

Hot 97 Summer Jam

Dates: TBA

East Rutherford, NJ

Headliners: TBA

It appears that Hot 97 has yet to announce any details regarding 2021 plans.

Lollapalooza

Dates: TBA

Chicago, IL

Headliners: TBA

Since canceling its 2020 plans, the majorly popular Chicago festival Lollapalooza has yet to release any details regarding 2021. Typically, the festival takes place in the summer.

Pitchfork Fest

Dates: TBA

Chicago, IL

Headliners: TBA

As of right now, the site for Pitchfork, hosted by none other than the musical litmus test that is Pitchfork Media, has no details about 2021. The media company has ensured an array of livestream offerings in the meantime, adding that Pitchfork Fest 2021 may be feasible “if the public health situation allows for it.”

Coachella

CANCELLED

Indio, CA

Both Indio-based festivals Coachella and its country/folk counterpart Stagecoach have been canceled for 2021. After canceling their April 2021 dates, neither festival has released further plans for 2022.

Stagecoach

CANCELLED

Indio, CA

Both Indio-based festivals Coachella and its country/folk counterpart Stagecoach have been canceled for 2021. After canceling their April 2021 dates, neither festival has released further plans for 2022.

Electric Forest

CANCELLED

Rothbury, MI

After much deliberation, the Electric Forest HQ recently released a statement that the electronic and jam band-centric music festival will be postponed until 2022

Burning Man

CANCELLED

Black Rock City, NV

The radically formatted Burning Man Festival has cancelled its desert-based arts festival due to COVID-19 concerns.

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