Festival season preview 2016

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We only have two weeks left until the semester is over, which means festival season is officially right around the corner. I can safely say that attending music festivals is one of the most magical experiences a person can have and should be a staple of everyone’s summer. Not only are festivals a way to see seemingly countless artists in a weekend’s time, they are a way to meet people from all different backgrounds, eat exquisite food from the top vendors from the festivals’ cities, and most importantly, be a part of an atmosphere that is nothing short of magical. With all that being said, here are some festivals close enough to St. Louis to warrant packing up your car, grabbing some friends and having a life-changing experience.

In just over a month, the Midwest festival season will kick off on May 27 in Chillicothe, Illinois at Summer Camp Music Festival. Summer Camp, or “Scamp” as its attendees call it, is not as large as some other festivals, and yet has more than a healthy dose of jam, electronic and hip-hop to offer to those who venture to central Illinois for Memorial Day weekend. Some of the best offerings on the bill are Big Grizmatik, a collaboration between Big Gigantic, GRiZ, and Gramatik, who are three of the greatest producers in the EDM scene. This set is guaranteed to have saxophones and guitars galore, and is guaranteed to be the dance party of the weekend. Another elusive snag who will be performing is Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s ‘other’ band that is not the Heartbreakers. Fans shouldn’t go in expecting “Free Fallin’,” but instead a rawer and heavy southern sound. Regardless of what the specifics are, going to Summer Camp ensures that you get to see Tom Petty perform in the flesh, and that will be magical regardless of what he plays. With such great artists all throughout the lineup, and a ticket that runs just over $200, Summer Camp is both economical and a guaranteed great time.

The biggest festival within road-trip distance of St. Louis is Bonnaroo, the gritty, dirtier version of Coachella that takes place in Manchester, Tennessee on June 9-12. Four days of camping, music that goes until sunrise, and 90,000 of your closest friends make for the quintessential American music festival. With Bonnaroo, you are getting so much more than just the run-of-the-mill performances. There are silent discos; the Kalliope stage, which bumps EDM until sunrise while also mesmerizing the crowd with pyrotechnics and lasers galore; and the famed SuperJams, in which you see once-in-a-lifetime collaborations between artists of all genres (last year brought us an ‘80s-themed collaboration between Chance the Rapper, Bleachers, and Robert Trujillo of Metallica, to name a few). Few things in the world can match the magic that “The Farm” of Bonnaroo creates, and if you are searching for one spot in which you can see the John Mayer-fronted Dead & Company, the synth-tinged sounds of Chvrches and the tripped-out jams of Tame Impala, look no further than Bonnaroo.

And if you are trying to squeeze in one last excursion before school starts again, pack up your Camelbak and sunscreen and head to Chicago for Lollapalooza on July 28. Expanding to four days for its twenty-fifth anniversary brought some skeptics and a hefty rise in prices, but the lineup silences any doubters and shows why the festival is already sold out (tickets are available on Stubhub and other resale sites, but be ready to pay a pretty penny). Radiohead, who are making their triumphant return after a four-year silence, will have a new album by the time August rolls around and will no doubt showcase new material during their headline performance. In addition, Lollapalooza brings us the first Chicago performance from LCD Soundsystem since their breakup and subsequent reunion, the raucous South African raps and wicked live performance of Die Antwoord, and a hefty amount of fantastic hip-hop that includes local favorite Vic Mensa, Danny Brown and Vince Staples. Though the festival’s undercard does not contain too many surprises, it does have a few pop-punk acts who are going to be given a whole new demographic to win over. The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball will both be bringing their phenomenal live shows to the heat-stroke-inducing late-summer-Chicago weather, but will no doubt bring the energy nonetheless. The crowd will probably give back just as much energy, and these shows will no doubt be two highlights of the weekend. Not to mention that any show with the Chicago skyline as the backdrop is already a phenomenal one.

Regardless of which festival you make it out to this summer, I would encourage you to go to as many as you can. Few things can compare to singing along to your favorite song of an artist with a field full of people who are just as in the moment as you are. And once you reach the end of your festival journey come Sunday night, you will already be searching for the next one you can make it to.